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my october: a mink, two moose and a baldy eagle

by | Nov 7, 2014 | Uncategorized

a pair of wyoming moose on the brush creek, photo by dawn chandler

a pair of wyoming moose on the brush creek, photo by dawn chandler


A mink, two moose and a baldy eagle.

That’s who I spent my October with.

They, and seven of the best creative minds  I could ever hope to meet.

We were living at the mouth of a small valley, where the open range-land ripples as it abuts the nearby mountains, and the valley narrows to a short rocky neck, before opening again to vast hidden fields. A large, wide and mellow trout stream courses along the base of pinon-studded hills, filling our days and nights with river-song, its water seeping into willow marshes, nurturing colonies of cottonwoods and drifts of aspen. Each day for twenty-four days, I meditated along this water, sketched under these golden canopies, explored up these arid draws, and stood in awe of these eery outcrops of rocks.

They climbed through the stony landscape, limestone beds eroded by wind into fantastic furniture, stale gnawed bread crusts, tumbled bones, stacks of dirty folded blankets, bleached crab claws and dog teeth
— Annie Proulx, The Half-Skinned Steer

If quiet and still, I might catch a glimmer — and be blessed by — a rare animal spirit. Mink. Moose. Eagle. Hawk.
Other times, I might ramble, or sit and share with new friends; their laughter and tales humoring and inspiring me.

Mostly though, I painted.
And painted.
And painted.

For I was an artist in residence at the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts.
Located on the west side of the Medicine Bow mountain range fifty-some miles west of Laramie and sixteen miles southeast of Saratoga, Brush Creek Ranch and the Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts sprawls across 30,000 of prime Wyoming range-land and hill country. A working cattle ranch as well as a luxury resort, Brush Creek Ranch established its artist residency program in 2007.

Home to four beautiful fine art studios, two writers studios, and two music studios — plus comfortable accommodations — “Artist Camp” is its own little ranch resort of creativity, with meals, lodging, and studios provided free of charge for its artist residents. Invited to stay for 2-, 4-, or 6-week sessions, we are each encouraged to live and breathe Wyoming; to hike and explore, read, dream and imagine, make new friends, and let our creativity soar.
With a network of trails coursing the ranch, we were welcome to explore by foot or bike. Most times when I did this — which was daily — I saw no one; not a soul. But for the trails and fences, I came to feel as though this place were mine:
My river.
My path.
My cottonwoods.

the mellow brush creek. photo by dawn chandler

the mellow brush creek, flowing through the brush creek ranch of wyoming

How to capture it? I spent 24 days trying to do just that, with some 2000 photos, 20 sketches and 30 paintings to show for it. Still, I’m perplexed and moved and haunted by this land of Wyoming. I’ll be sharing much of this in the coming days, but for now, here’s a little slideshow I’ve put together to try to convey a sense of  the Wyoming landscape I all too briefly got to call home.

THE cottonwood tree at the Brush Creek Ranch, Wyoming, photo by artist Dawn Chandler

a wyoming october — four weeks at the brush creek foundation for the arts

Heartfelt thanks to the staff and founders of Brush Creek Foundation for the Arts, who provides all of this for free to select artists.
And special thanks too, to my fellow residents:
Writers Helen Hooper and Ira Sukrungruang
Musicians/Composers Jonathan Kolm and David Dominique
Fine Artists Maren Jensen, Karrie Hovey and Susan Grinels

It’s been — truly — a pleasure.