In my previous blog (posted 1/25/2023), I wrote about a different kind of painting that I was commissioned to create late last year. At the end of the post, I mentioned that I had another unique project to share, so here it is.
Back in September 2022, I had an email from husband-and-wife collectors in Chicago asking if I could complete a painting on a cow statue. They sent photos of the unpainted cow, along with the dimensions, and I immediately recognized her. She was one of the Chicago Cows, only a smaller prototype version.
So what's a Chicago Cow, you ask. Well back in 1999 Chicago did a Cows on Parade outdoor art exhibit featuring 300 life-size fiberglass cows. This was one of the first of its kind. Oversize or life-size animals or objects are reproduced and then painted and/or decorated by local artists to turn an entire town into an outdoor sculpture museum. Over the last couple of decades, the concept has spread. At first other cities, both US and around the world, did their own cow parades. And then towns and cities began to create images that better represented them, ranging from dophins in the Florida Keys to guitars in Austin. And, of course, Wimberley has its own version, Bootiful Wimberley, which features 50 giant creatively painted and decorated boots on display around town.
Back to the commission...
So we emailed and texted and then followed up with phone calls. While the cow was nowhere near life size, (more like a foot wide, two feet long and a foot and half or so tall), my first concern was how to safely transport it to and fro. Turns out they had that covered. They owned a moving company and one of their trucks came to Texas about once a month. The cow would be brought to me and, when completed, would be picked up and taken back to Chicago. We agreed on all the specifics and I waited for her to show up. Several weeks passed when I got a call from the driver. He let me know that he had left Chicago and was heading to San Francisco and would then come back through Texas. Next time I heard from him, he was in El Paso and he let me know about he'd be in Wimberley by Saturday. On the afternoon of Oct. 8, a huge moving truck pulled up and nearly filled the parking lot. Two men opened the side door of what looked like an empty trailer and pulled out one little box.
She made it!
I set Cow, as I decided to call her, on a back table in the studio where I could pass by and see her daily. For the next month or so, I stewed on it until I came up with a plan. First, I had to prep the surface for the paint and let it dry. They wanted me to paint something in my sunrise/sunset/wildflower series so I had been thinking about how I would create that look on a 3-d surface. Finally, I began painting, starting with the sky, as I almost always do, and worked down from there.
As I worked on Cow, I sent a few progress photos to the collectors. I finished painting the statue in late January, let it cure for a few weeks, then applied a high-gloss finish, which also needed a few more weeks to cure. On March 9, the truck came and picked her up and she made her way back to Chicago. Yes, that was one well-traveled cow!
As you no doubt can tell as you've read this blog, I truly enjoyed doing this project. While I never saw the Cows on Parade in person, I do remember the event and the spin-off they did of small porcelain cow figurines, that were popular collectors' items for many years. The cow that I painted was authentic to the collection; a signed and number prototype. What an honor for this South-Texas-born-and-raised farm girl to get to paint a Chicago Cow!
In late 2022, I received two special commissions within a few weeks of each other. One is finished and in the collector's home so I'm ready to share the story behind it. The other is still in the works but I should be ready to post about it next month.
The first of the two commissions was for Jini, a local Wimberley collector and friend, who asked me to create a large painting for her living room that would add a pop of color. She already has several of my original paintings in her collection, ranging from spring wildflowers and fall scenes to mountain road trips. For this most recent project, she challenged me to come up with something bold, abstract and different.
After an in-home consultation, we decided on a good size for the space, going with a 24x36 canvas, and an overall color scheme of almost "anything goes." Over the next few weeks, I stewed on it and decided that I really wanted to create something that would be meaningful to her but that I would not only enjoy creating but also find challenging.
I kept thinking about a series of paintings I did some 20 years ago that were inspired by aerial photos of the "big flood" of Canyon Lake in 2002, when a severe and prolonged rain event filled the lake to well over capacity. Luckily, the Corps of Engineers, who dammed up the Guadalupe River in the 1960s to create the reservoir, AKA Canyon Lake, designed a spillway to accommodate just such an event — should it ever happen. On July 4, 2002, the water breached the spillway, and over the next several days created a deep gorge as the flood waters made their way back to the Guadalupe River. Hundreds, if not thousands of photos were taken by amateurs and professionals alike to document the historic event. One particularly interesting set of images were taken from helicopter by the Comal County Engineer as he surveyed the damage. Those photos became the inspiration for my "Flood Series" of paintings.
Fast forward 20+ years and we now have Google Earth as well as drone video and images posted to YouTube to offer a plethora of images for inspiration. I began looking for aerial scenes of the Wimberley Valley and found several to create a composite for Jini's painting. As with the "Flood Series," I let my mind run wild with colors and creative interpretations of the river and creeks, trees, rolling hills and mountains, as well as major roads and even a few "landmarks." As I worked on the painting, I would show it to Jini and get her feedback until we were both satisfied with the result. It is now hanging in her home.
"Wimberley Valley" ©2022 Linda Calvert Jacobson. Acrylic on 24x36 canvas. Private Collection.
The second commission came from some 1200 miles away and involved a cow. Yes, I said cow. I hope you'll check back next month for the full story!
While I am constantly painting to add new works to my portfolio, sometimes what's on hand just doesn't fit what a client is looking for. Maybe the painting they like isn't large enough for the space. Or perhaps there's a color of a particular wildflower that clashes with the room's color scheme. Or the client really loves something that has already sold. When that's the case, we can consider a commission. I can never, nor would I try, to recreate an exact piece for another client. However, I am open to working up something "similar" that the collector would be happy with. When we enter into a commission agreement, I try to make it easy on both of us. I'll do what I can and if the buyer isn't happy with it, there's no obligation to take it. I'll just add into my inventory. I've worked with several collectors over the years and I have to admit that I do enjoy the challenge and the gratification of working on commission.
A FEW EXAMPLES...
Below are some recent commissions along with testimonials from the collectors.
"After purchasing my first piece of Linda’s art from her gallery in Wimberley, I knew that I wanted a larger, custom piece when I was redecorating my master bedroom. Through conversations with Linda via phone and email, we selected the color palette I wanted in the painting to compliment my new bedroom colors. Linda's painting, "Nature's Whimsy,” is not only beautiful and met all my expectations but will be a painting to be passed on to my children."
Elaine B., Richmond, Texas
"I found Linda Calvert Jacobson's artwork online and loved how colorful and it was. In July we drove down to her gallery in Wimberley to see some pieces in person. They were just as shown on-line only better because now I could see the texture. We chose one we really liked and had her make one similar but in a larger size. Within a few weeks she sent pictures of two for me to choose from. Once I made my selection it arrived at my door within a few days. The entire process was very easy and quick. I absolutely love my new painting highly recommend purchasing a commissioned piece of artwork from her!"
Kathryn S., McKinney, Texas
"I have loved Linda’s work for a long time and I had a specific idea in mind that was sort of a combination of multiple paintings she had done. She was able to guide me through the right questions to really understand what I wanted. When I saw the finished product it was exactly what I wanted and I was thrilled!"
Kate W., Houston, Texas
"When is saw Linda’s painting "Bluebonnet Surprise" on Facebook, I knew immediately that was the painting I wanted. I messaged Linda that I wanted that painting in a different size. She told me she never paints the same painting twice, but she could do something similar in the size I wanted. I emailed her pictures of the wall space, the blue furniture and the multi-blue rug so she could see the colors in my family room. She told me she would paint two and I could pick one. A couple weeks later she messaged me both paintings and put them up on my wall [using a digital mock up] so I could see what each one would look like. I then went down to Wimberley to meet Linda and her husband and see both paintings. They were both delightful. I picked the one I wanted and Linda packed it for shipping so I could transport it safely home to Allen in the car. She was delightful to work with and I am still elated with the painting!"
Melodie R., Allen, Texas
I received an interesting email and request from a "old" client last month. The collector, Michael, had purchased a painting, titled "Wildflower Rapture" from me back in 2013 that happily hung in his dining room for many years. That is, until about two years ago when it was damaged beyond repair during some renovation work in his home. He never could find just the right piece to replace it and then it dawned on him to contact me to see if I could "replicate" it.
My first response to his email was that I didn't think I could ever duplicate a painting since each one is unique. This particular piece was an early work, mostly palette knife and painted in about 2007. But I told him I was up for the challenge and I'd see what I could do. As with any commission I accept, I let him know that once it was done, if he loved it, it was his. If not, I would add it to my inventory/portfolio.
We emailed back and forth for the next week, nailed down the size and discussed framing options. Once I completed the painting and sent photos for first approval, Michael made a trip to my studio in Wimberley to see it in person. He loved it. I worked with a local framing shop and we were able to pick out a "floater" frame that would enhance the work without distracting from the overall power and abstract feel of the painting.
I varnished the painting the next week and, once dry, took it over to the frame shop for framing. David and I delivered and installed the painting yesterday.
This turned out to be an amazingly satisfying project and Michael was such a pleasure to work with. The first two photos here are of the original "Wildflower Rapture." The other four are of the new painting.
Four states (if you count Texas)...19 days...4,558 miles...more than 900 photos...these are some of the numbers that sum up how my husband, David, and I spent most of July 2021. The trip was partly business, gathering reference material and inspiration for future paintings as well as visiting galleries; partly a postponed celebration from this past spring of 25+ years since saying our "we dos"; partly a gathering of David's family for a pandemic-interrupted memorial to honor their dad who passes away in early 2020; and finally some R&R for both of us.
If you've followed my blogs over the years, you know that I try to follow up trips with a "reflections" post of thoughts, memories and a few photos. If you haven't seen any previous posts and want to, just scroll down or go into the "Recent Posts" sidebar. Much of this trip was revisiting areas we've been before but we were also able to work in some new drives along the way.
This summer's trip began the day after Independence Day. Anyone who lives in or has visited Central Texas or the Texas Hill Country knows that any out-of-state road trip involves spending almost a day just getting out of Texas. We dropped the fur-babies at the kennel the day before and got an early start Monday morning so we were in Ruidoso, well before night fall. We spent two days in the area, enjoying drives around nearby Cloudcroft and our first visit to Sunspot Observatory, as well as a trip to Alamogordo, home to "the world's largest pistachio," which we've seen before but's always worth a stop when in the area.
Wednesday morning we packed up and started making our way northward with the next stop being Albuquerque for one night and then Ohkay Owengeh, about half way between Santa Fe and Taos. The location gave us an excuse to drive the Turquoise Trail with a couple of side trips that included visiting with a colorful character who runs his own equally colorful roadside attraction, and a drive up switchbacks of Sandia Crest Road to the top of the mountain.
One of the best known towns along Turquoise Trail is Madrid, made famous by the movie "Wild Hogs." As expected, it was packed with tourists so we passed through to the next town, Los Cerrillos. Located north of Madrid and off the main road, it was much quieter and more "authentic". We enjoyed exploring the beautiful 100-year-old St. Joseph's Catholic Church there.
After our stop over in Ohkay, we head west and northwest through the Santa Fe National Forest with Durango, Colo as our next layover. The drive from Española to and through Los Alamos was really special on several levels including the thrill of being stopped by armed security in order to pass through the Los Alamos National Lab. Yes, that's where they built the atomic bomb.
After passing through the forest, finding a cute pottery shop along the way in Jemez Springs, and then heading northward we made it across the border to Pagosa Springs and then to our stop for the night in Durango. The next morning we hit the Million Dollar Highway to make our way to Ouray.
I have to say it again: The Million Dollar Highway. What a drive! Heart-stopping in some areas (with no guardrails) oh but what spectacular views. After checking in at our hotel in Ouray, we still had time to explore the area both south, retracting some of the drive up, and north, with a visit to Ridgway where, we learned, the original True Grit was filmed.
From Ouray we drove north and then east and then north and, well you get the idea, with the goal of eventually getting to Glenwood Springs, our next stop for the night. A highlight and new experience was driving through the Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park only to be outdone by our first time on Kebler Pass, a 31-mile high-mountain pass that we picked up outside of Crested Butte.
Winding roads. Mountains. Aspens. Wildflowers. Oh. My. Goodness.
Back to the story. Spent one night in Glenwood Springs then we continued zig-zagging across and up, with a drive to Estes and then eastward following the Big Thompson River, which, by the way, is another awesome drive and one of our favorites. One more stop in Fort Collins for the next night 's stay before crossing the boarder into Wyoming.
Once we arrived in Casper, the next week would be spent there. David met up with his siblings (total of 7) for family time and to gather for their father's memorial. The Jacobsons lived in Casper for many years and still have extended family there. It was a time of solemn remembrance for both his mom and dad, and a time of celebration spent with his brothers, sisters and their families.
While I bowed out of many of the gatherings to give David time with his family, I did find something creative to keep myself busy. I found a coffee shop/art supply store in downtown Casper where I picked up some watercolor supplies and spent a few days painting from photos taken on the first part of the trip.
Since this was only our second time as a couple to be in the area (the first was 24 years ago), David shared with me many of his favorite parts of Casper including the nearby Casper Mountain and Garden Creek Falls, as well as Alcova Lake where his family spent many summer days. We also took a drive to Thermopolis, which is known for it's hot springs. We didn't do the springs this time but did get to see the herd of buffalo that live in the area.
At the end of nearly a week together, everyone said their goodbyes and we all began to make our way back home.
David and I headed southward having set aside 4 days to make the trip back to Texas. It would be a bit quicker and more focused than our trip up so most of the sightseeing was limited to the drives to get from point A to point B. After 2 more nights in Colorado (the second one being in Creede, one of favorite areas), one night in northern New Mexico and at last, a stop over in Lubbock to get us that much closer to home for the final drive, we were back in the Texas Hill Country by the end of the week. Here are a few random pic from the trip...
Yes, I sometimes paint trees.
I know. I've spent almost 2 decades building my reputation as the "Texas Wildflower Artist." But several years back when this native Texan finally got to travel and see something beyond our beloved oak trees, annoying-yet-pretty cedar trees, and those scrubby mesquite trees that I grew up with in South Texas, I fell in love with something completely different: Those trees with stark white trunks with the black markings.
First were the Birch trees of New England. Shortly after a trip to Vermont back in 2012, I began thinking of ways to capture on canvas some of the emotion I felt from seeing the white-and-black trees in their fall glory. But it was really a few years later, after getting to see the Aspens found in our travels through the mountains of New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana, that my creative juices really began to stir. The Aspens are amazing in every season, but especially dramatic in the fall when covered in golden yellow. Even parts of northern Arizona are home to these magical trees and my breath was taken away when I got to see them right after a snow fall while they still had their golden foilage.
In my naivety, I originally thought that the Birch and Aspens were related. Not satisfied with not knowing for sure, I began researching and learned that they two entirely different species of trees. They just look similar, especially from a distance. As explained on one of the National Park websites:
"Quaking Aspens are often confused with birch trees. Although aspen are somewhat similar in appearance to some species of birch, birch trees belong to an entirely different family of trees. Birch are famous for having bark that peels back like paper; aspen bark does not peel. Whereas aspen leaves are perfectly flat, birch leaves are slightly "V" shaped and more elongated than Quaking Aspen leaves."
And so I began to paint what I call my own interpretation of Aspen trees (but if they look more like Birch to a prospective collector, that's fine too). Several of these Aspen paintings have found homes over the years. A few months back, my largest painting of the trees to date, a 36x60 canvas titled "The Aspens are Calling" found its perfect home with new collectors from Austin. Then last month I received a commission for a 24x48 canvas from a Houston collector, who picked it up last week. I love happy clients!
So while I paint a wide range of wildflower-themed paintings and always will, every so often I have to paint more of those Aspen Trees! During a trip last fall, I began looking up to the tops of the trees and imagining them painted on a tall, skinny canvas. I took numerous photos for reference and finally had a chance recently to complete the first of what I hope will be several in a series. This canvas is 5 feet tall and 20 inches wide. In my mind, I can see it placed on wall with the lower third of the painting at eye level. A tall ceiling will be required as the trees almost disappear in the distance above. This painting is titled "Sky High Spendor."
To view all of the paintings currently available in this series, CLICK HERE for my "Aspens and Fall Landscapes" page.
"True Bliss," 12x12 acrylic © 2021 Linda Calvert Jacobson, shown unframed and then in mock-ups with wooden and golden frames.
"The Aspens are Calling," 36x60 acrylic © Linda Calvert Jacobson. A "floater" frame like this gives a large painting a contemporary, finished look without distracting from the art itself.
A question I often hear when someone is considering a purchase of my art is whether or not they should have it framed. Generally, my answer is that since the paintings are on on gallery wrap canvas with the colors continuing around the edges, they do not require framing. However, I'm quick to add, it is entirely up to the collector! For larger paintings, I often suggest that they consider a "floater" frame, which is how I have framed "The Aspens are Calling" shown here. It adds a finished look but has some space between the canvas and frame so you can still see the painted edges. Not only is it very contemporary in style, it creates the illusion of the painting "floating" in the frame.
Most buyers do not frame my paintings but I love seeing how it looks when they do. I've posted some photos below that collectors have been kind enough to send me. As you can see, the framing changes not only the look of the art but also the impact it has has on the wall. For these settings, it gives the paintings more of a prominence while creating unity with the other objects in the room. Not knowing where one of my paintings would end makes it nearly impossible for me to choose a frame before it is sold. Which is why I leave it up to the collector so they can match not only their decor, but also their own personal taste.
With that said, here are a few tips I would suggest you consider when you looking at framing any of my paintings.
First, look at other furnishings in the room. If you tend to have a lot of dark, natural wood then you may want to pick something similar for the painting. A good example of this are the first two photos here, "Bluebonnet Delight" and "Butterscotch Haze."
Another consideration is the color of the wall. If you want the painting to stand out more, setting it off with a frame can make that happen. "Amarillo Sky" in the third photo is a great example of using a frame with a fillet, a section of molding that fits between the frame and the painting, to help make the painting pop.
Of course, you need to consider what other art you have in the room and how to create a cohesive look. The collector of my "Don't Fence Me In" and "Prickly Poppy Paradise" chose to frame both paintings, which created both balance and unity for her display. As you see in the final two photos, framing "Crimson Tapestry" (top center of the photos) was necessary for it to fit with the wildflower-themed gallery wall of various framed paintings by different artists that this client has created in her home.
Finally, try different frames on the painting to see how it looks. If you have the ability to do so, you can even create a mock-up with photo-editing software like I've done with "True Bliss" one of my poppy paintings at the top of this blog. If that's something you can't do but you're interested, I might be able to help you out! Let me know which painting you are considering and we can go from there.
So, to frame or not to frame? Like the selecting art itself, is a personal decision that only you can make.
Like the wildflowers of spring, the fall colors come but once a year and I knew that if I wanted to soak them up, I'd have to hit the road again. A few weeks back my husband and I took a trip into Northern New Mexico and Southern Colorado in search of Aspens and Cottonwoods turning shades of gold. I blogged about that trip so if you scroll down to the previous post you'll see photos and can read about it.
Today's blog is about another trip that I took with my sister. We left on Oct. 16 with the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina as our destination. After putting more than 3,000 miles on the car and driving through a total of 6 states going and coming, we are back home. Mission accomplished! We were greeted with mild weather and a vast variety of colors as we drove the byways and back roads of the Blue Ridge Mountains. We were a bit early as the greens were still dominate in many areas, but that contrasted nicely with the reds, rusts, yellows and oranges that were peaking here and there. The scenery was so very different from the out west trip earlier in the month!
Heading toward the mountains, we took a few side trips, including a stop to see Elvis's boyhood home in Tupelo, Miss. We had stayed the night there and couldn't pass up the chance to see where the King's birthplace. Very humbling.
While there was something memorable around every corner and down every road, one of the most special discoveries was the Lake Lure Flowering Bridge. Located near the village of Chimney Rock, what was at one time a bridge to drive over, it had been converted into a long garden landscaped with flower beds and quirky outdoor art. I loved it!
As with all my travels, I return home with tons of ideas for future projects...paintings (of course), craft projects, and decorative elements for my patio.
Here are a few photos for you to enjoy!
I'm the painter of wildflowers but that doesn't mean that I don't love other seasons as well. Next to spring my favorite time of year is fall. I love the colors of fall! With that in mind, David and I took a week off in early October to travel up to northern New Mexico and southern Colorado in search of some fall inspiration. And we found it! We put in nearly 2400 miles, of course some 900 miles of that was in Texas going and coming. The rest was a mix of highways and back roads, both paved and gravel.
Our primary destination was past Wolf Creek Pass, north of Pagosa Springs, where we were booked for a few nights at Wolf Creek Ski Ranch. We were in the eastern San Juan Mountains and crossed over the Continental Divided several times during our day trips in the area.
From our base, we headed in different directions and explored the area. One of the most memorable trips was up to Creede, an old mining town that's transformed into lovely little artsy village that's very walk-able and fun to explore. Many shops and restaurants here and throughout the area were already closed for the season and would be reopening in 2021. But still we found plenty to enjoy, including the Quiller Gallery where I got to meet the artist, Stephen Quiller. What a treat!
As we left Creede, David decided to drive up the road toward the old mining area and we ended up taking the Bachelor Loop, a 17-mile drive through the mountains and past several old mine shafts. The bumpy, gravel road was a bit scary especially at the start where David had to get around some major ditches, washed out areas and random big rocks in the road. At one point we mulled whether we should continue or turn around. We knew what was behind us and decided to take a chance on what was to come. And we were glad we did.
Another awesome drive was up Beaver Creek Reservoir, which started out as a paved road but became gravel as we climbed the mountain. Not far from where we were staying it was a treat and the views and the golden aspens were amazing.
Wanting to explore a little further north, we set out for Gunnison about the third day into our trip. Again, the drive was pretty amazing but when we arrived, we ran into a bit of a problem.
When we drove into Gunnison, we had no phone service. We had ran into this when we were "out in the middle of nowhere" but when we got into towns it had not been a problem. Later I would find out that AT&T had been having problems that day so it wasn't just us. Like just about everyone else these days, we have become dependent on our devices to map our trips, find places to eat and book rooms for the night. In this case, none of that was an option. As we drove around a bit getting a sense of the town, David looked over at me and asked the question "Did you hear that?" He pressed on the brakes and there is was...a grinding noise. Between the challenging mountain roads and the number of miles on the vehicle, we were due, perhaps overdue, for some brake work. With no way of "looking up" a brake repair in the area, we drove toward the main drag in hopes of finding someone to ask. The next block over I saw some sort of shop looking place. As we got closer I read the words "tires" on the sign and then under that "brake repair." What are the odds? A very nice mechanic, likely the owner, did a test drive and yes, they were grinding and it was bad enough that we needed to get them fixed. We were OK to drive around town a bit but no more than that. He had to order the parts and they would not be in until the next morning. He was kind enough to let me use his wifi password so I could find a motel for the night, which ended up being about a quarter of a mile from the shop. Our Guardian Angels were certainly working over time to keep us safe and comfortable!
David delivered the vehicle the next morning and walk back over the motel. AT&T was back so I was able to call Wolf Creek and let them know what happened and that we would need a late check out. Within a few hours the brakes were done and we were back on the road by noon. Praise the Lord!
We were past the mid-point of our trip and it was time to start heading back toward Texas. We stayed the next night in Pagosa Springs. While we didn't get to soak in the hot springs, we did get to drive and walk around and enjoy them. That will be on a future to-do list!
As we headed back into New Mexico, I was was amazed at the color of the Cottonwoods changing for fall. I told David that they needed better PR. Aspens were getting all the publicity but the Cottonwoods are just as spectacular.
On the way to Abiquiu, we drove past the entrance into Ghost Ranch. Another place on my future to-do list. Yes, we were in the heart of Georgia O'Keeffe land! After a few photo stops and brunch, we head for Taos and then Santa Fe for our last night of the vacation (and a little fun at the casinos there) before heading back into Texas and then home again.
As I always do with these posts, I'm sharing a few of the photos, some just for the fun and others that I will be using for inspiration for future paintings. I never know what comes from the memories and experiences of trips like this but I'm looking forward to getting back into the studio to see what develops!
Near Wolf Creek Pass, South Fork and Creede, Colorado...
Creede, Lake City, Slumgullion Pass (on the way to Gunnison)....
Georgia's New Mexico...
In late July 2020, David and I found a way to escape the heat and humidity of Central Texas as well as some of the realities of the on-going pandemic to spend a few days in the "cool" mountains of Colorado and northern New Mexico. Once again, traveling fed the spirit and provided inspiration. We made our way to Amarillo for the first night's layover. Having gotten an early start, we arrived in time to take our first drive through Palo Duro Canyon. Had to secure a day pass online in advance and I was glad I could and did! It really is Texas' own little "grand canyon" and worth a visit! Unfortunately, the lighting was not great for getting photos but I have my memories. Got an early start again the next morning so we could make it Estes Park by nightfall. There, we stayed in a cabin just a mile from the entrance into Rocky Mountain National Park. Day passes into the park were limited and difficult to get but we soon found out that if we entered before 6 a.m. when the kiosks opened, we could drive in and spend the day, which we did -- twice. It was a first-time visit for both of us. What a spectacular place...as you can see from the photos I'm posting! A few days later, we packed up and sadly said goodbye to Estes and began to make our way southward. After a couple more nights in Colorado, including a memorable and artsy stopover in Alamosa (check out the public sculpture project in the photos I'm posting), we took a scenic trip to Chama, New Mexico, and then headed east through Carson National Forest, making it to our next stop: Taos. The next morning, we checked out, took a drive up to Taos Ski Valley, soaking up the mountains, pines and aspens along with the cooler temperatures one last time. Spent most of the day in area, doing much of the Enchanted Circle before leaving the mountains to head toward Texas again. Once back in Texas, I put myself under a self-imposed 14-day quarantine before starting back to teaching. But I did spend some of that time in the studio, inspired from my travels to paint.