All posts by eifert

Riparian Ecosystem Painting for Aztec Ruins National Monument

Click this and it should enlarge. Too big for small screens.

I’m painting some other installations for Aztec Ruins National Monument, a World Heritage Site in New Mexico, but this additional image just received funding to proceed – and I like how it’s looking and wanted to share. Aztec Ruins is in the town of Aztec, NM and straddles the Animas River, life blood of this green little valley. People 1000 years ago also thought this was a good place to live, so they build a massive pueblo with upwards of 500 room! The rooms are still here, the Indians not so much.

Here’s the Animas with cottonwoods and willows I used for reference in the sketch.  Amazingly, almost the entire original ecosystem is still in place, more than I can say for most places. Several additions such as saltcedar are here now, but they’re not goofing things up like so many other western desert rivers.

Here is a small section of the park with trails through the ruins. The river is just a few hundred yards south. I could really see how the river directed what went on here. The pueblo is close to it, but not close enough for flooding. When I asked the Chief of Interpretation how much land would have been dedicated to farming, he said “all of it, every inch”.  The people lived here on top of each other so as to not ruin their the very land feeding them. That’s NOT the way it is today!

They have a giant kiva that was restored many years ago, over 50 feet in diameter. I thought these big kivas were used mainly for religious events, but it was more, a communal place to hang out in winter or blisteringly hot summer days. My site visit highlight was a guided tour into a closed section of pueblo off-limits to visitors and not restored at all. Absolutely fascinating to see how these places looked before they were ‘cleaned up.’

Give me a project in a new park and I’m a happy painter! And if you, too, think our heritage is important, resist, I SAID RESIST ANY ATTEMPT to reduce or revoke national park designations. This is not who we are!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Mules and Horses – Old Santa Fe Trail painting for the National Trails System

This will enlarge by clicking it.

While the Hoh Visitor Center mural is proceeding, I did this “little” wayside painting for the Old Santa Fe Trail with the National Park Service. A fun and very different sort of project for me.

Last year I did this sketch for Aztec Ruins National Monument, but  it wasn’t used. They wanted something less ‘social’. This is Armijo’s Expedition in 1829, a group that went from Santa Fe to California and back, proving this route could be used for trade. In the painting, they’re crossing the Animas River in New Mexico. They’ve had a difficult day herding 150 horses and mules, and the group is setting up camp for the night, beans are in the pot, gear is being unloaded.

To do this painting, I went over to Olympic National  Park and photographed the two ladies that take care of the 34 mules the park uses for backcountry use. Amazing afternoon! Here are Heidi and Jill, seasonal drovers who push those big mules around like they were goats, and you can see I turned them into Spanish young men in the painting. Others models included my neighbor, Michael, who is the cook. Jill and Heidi are in other poses, as well as Henry the mule.

And this is what it’s all about for me. I learned a LOT on this project, had a great time figuring out how this might look, how the gear would look in 1829. It took over a year from field trip to Aztec Ruins to painting completion. It went from an installation at Aztec to several other installations along the Santa Fe Trail, and I really know about pack mules.

And here’s the Animas River at Aztec New Mexico where the scene is located. It looks exactly the same as it probably did 188 years ago.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center progress

I’ve come up for air just long enough to post this – sorry for the big blank spot in my blog. Click the images and they should expand.


When I was growing up, my babysitters at the Illinois State Museum were staff artists and curators, professionals that were the best in the business. They came to work in pristine studios and took months and months to paint stuff just like this. Me, decades later? I do this in a low-ceiling studio and only have 6 weeks. Don’t get me wrong, I’m just happy that I get to do this – a giant four walls with six paintings in one of my favorite places on Earth. And it’s pretty much a completely fictitious scene. There are 3-d branches and models of birds, moles and others that all have to be connected somehow to my paintings. It’s been interesting!

Nancy joined me early on with this and is now pushing paint as fast as I am. How wonderful to have someone to talk to in the studio. And she sounds like she’s maybe going to make this a habit, at which I’m thrilled.

The facts: this is going in a room at the visitor center with a big opening, so there are four sides. I’m painting it in acrylic on Yupo poly paper at 70% size – the reason is I can’t get it bigger and it speeds things up. It’ll be scanned and printed so when the place burns down, another copy can be put up. The bottom two sections, the dirt and forest floor, are being painted at 85% because eyeballs will be closer. The bottom dirt section will be printed on aluminum to withstand the three million people with six million hands that come here each year. I’ll have more soon!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Picnic table painting

Nice fire in the campground, our ancient folding chairs awaiting. The famous ant tablecloth, a real red-cedar old-growth table. Notice the details: painting, brush can, funky Richeson paint tray, artichoke can for water, tablet with reference photos, little pencil sharpener for those wonderful Dixon black wood pencils that feel like the carbon has oil in it – brae and crackers, glass of red. I only stopped because it was getting too dark to paint in this old forest. 

And then the painting that’s appearing. This one is part of the Hoh Rainforest Visitor Center project and is 12″ high and 330″ wide when it’s installed. It’s being painted on a roll of polypropylene Yupo tree-free paper that I can roll out to where I’m working on it. I don’t know, why go home until October?

And what are we doing the rest of the time? Section hiking on the Pacific Crest Trail is part of it. Avalanche lilies and bear grass in bloom and still some snow drifts to navigate. We just have to make sure they’re all okay.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Salmon Cascades wayside painting for Olympic National Park

Finally finished this nice little painting for Olympic NP. Spawning coho salmon are here and we’ve seen them several times milling around waiting to jump.

Lots going on here in the paint department, but this one was truly fun for me. Below is the concept sketch.

And here’s the real place. The wayside panel will be located just at the top of the cascades on an overlook. As I posted before, I dropped my GoPro camera into the water here and found out the bottom was full of colorful gem-like rocks, tainted organic sierra on the upstream side. Hummm?

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

 

A Pelagic Cormorant – my monthly story in 48 North

I always try to write these things from a recent personal experience. This one came from a site visit to Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands, and, while we were waiting for the ferry to shove off, we watched about a dozen pelagic cormorants on the pilings right outside our window. They had a playful look to their smallish heads, almost like they were having fun diving around the backwash of the prop keeping the boat against the ferry pier. Maybe they were – it looked like the fishing was easy.as the boat disoriented the fish. Seen close, I was amazed to see the variety of colors in the ‘black’ birds.

 

Three cormorant species live in the Salish Sea. A year ago, I wrote about the largest, the double-crested cormorant and now here’s number two. At first, the pelagic cormorant seems jet black, but that’s certainly not true. I like these birds very much because, as the light changes, their iridescent colors change from purple to red and green. The pelagic is smaller than the double-crested. It has a thinner neck, much smaller head and very thin bill. Almost snake-like might be a good descriptor. Two white flank patches and, during breeding, a red beard also help with identification. A third variety, the Brant’s cormorant sports a tan cheek patch.

 

Per-sketch before the painting.

I admire these birds for their fishing skills. Recently we were on one of the San Juan ferries and I watched a group fishing and occasionally fly to nearby pilings for rest. They were all very chatty with each other and seemed curious about us. Some were below at the base of the pilings and were diving in the turbulent backwash for disoriented pile perch. Almost every dive produced a fish, and as the birds surfaced, we could see some quickly toss the flapping fish upwards, then swallow it headfirst as it came back down. This way, the fish went down those skinny throats with scales backwards and fins retracted. Stomach juices did the rest. To help all this, cormorants ride low in the water thanks to solid bones that aid in long dives. A very successful bird!

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Mount Olympus painting for the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center

This is another piece of the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center project at Olympic National Park, a very complex bunch of paintings I’ve been working on. This painting is in progress but will really change soon that will be something unrecognizable to this – so, I thought I’d like to remember it here, like this. I like it, the park peeps – not so much.

You see, the view of Mount Olympus in the painting doesn’t really exist, so off I went to good ol’ Google Earth. This is a scene with pieces 20 miles apart, all compressed into one image. Above is an aerial GE view, but the angle I needed was down in the valley, 15 miles upstream from the visitor center but with a river somewhat like this view below. Good luck with that.

I drew 8, count’um EIGHT different sketches, all rejected – and then sort of forced the issue by just starting to paint. Of course, that didn’t work and that’s why I’ll be painting over most of it a gain.  And you know that schedule I talked about a few weeks ago? Nobody’s ever said this was fun or easy.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Salmon Cascades – A New Project in the Works

Salmon Cascades in Olympic National Park. Not a big drop, but always beautiful. Stuff goes on here!

Progress shot at the moment. More soon.

Olympic National Park has always been very supportive of my painting-mania, and this project has been years in the making. We both just had to wait for funding to appear, and it finally did.

I already have 24 of my paintings along the Sol Duc Road in various wayside exhibits and panels – drive along, pull over and see art! But this project required my GoPro underwater camera for references. I have always wondered what this place looks like to a salmon, so here it is:

And so the sketch shows the underwater stream bed just below the cascades and rocky walls, and of course, the painting will have a run of Sol Duc coho, females being herded by the big guys, all waiting for strength to attempt a jump in their upstream journey. We’ve seen this ourselves and I’ve stood just to the left watching them circle.

And then I put this into the same design template as some of the other panels up and down the road. Janet at the park will write the text and she’s always so brilliant at this. We both came up with the title completely independent of each other.

Stay tuned, more to come on this probably next week.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center – first painting

Click the image and it’ll enlarge in your browser. I recommend it!

Things are getting pretty crazy around here. Remember when I just painted nature and thought THAT was an interesting life? Well, THIS is now the normal ‘interesting’ – cramming the entire Hoh Rain Forest forest floor at Olympic National Park into an eight-foot tabletop. Actually, this is one of 15 paintings that I’m doing there right now, and certainly not the biggest – but I’m betting it’s the most complex.

The blank green circles and boxes will all have tactile objects like bark, or photos and text. It was a bit of a struggle to get the variety while looking straight down – after all, it’s just a made up scene, but it feels Okay, like it actually is the real thing.

This is the installation it goes on, 60 square feet of packed interpretive tabletop right in the middle of the Hoh Rain Forest Visitor Center. The painting goes on that white horizontal space in the foreground. Also on here are a ‘beach scene’ almost finished and the vertical green thingy is a painting of Mount Olympus (except you can’t see it from the V.C. so THAT’s causing a slight bit of consternation).

I’m just hoping this will give visitors a real eye-opening experience before they venture out to talk with the elk and slugs. With 14 feet of rain each  year, this forest is really a complex, dramatic and emotional place for me. Having spent most of my adult life in and around old-growth forests, I sure know this stuff. And if I can use art to infect a few people with the same passion I have for it, I will have wildly succeeded.

And what does this Hoh-place look like? Here’s the river, just a few minutes walk from the visitor center. Certainly one of the most famous rivers in the country, the pale blue color from glacial flour from the Hoh and Blue Glaciers, lowest glacial ice in the Lower 48, give it a glorious glow.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.

This Month in 48 North Magazine

Somehow, I managed to meld together two of my favorites into one article this month in 48North magazine – nature and sailing. Here’s the story:

I’ve watched marbled murrelets for decades, learned their recognizable upturned heads as they slipped past the boat. I also remember the “big mystery” over 40 years ago; no one knew where the murrelet nested. Sure, there were birds seen in the ocean from California to Alaska and throughout the Salish Sea, but no nests were ever found even after a reward was offered. Then in 1974, a tree trimmer stumbled on a downy chick high in an old-growth Douglas-fir. Loggers had seen them, called them ‘fog larks’, but loggers and ornithologists somehow never got together to talk about all this. It turned out the murrelet liked, no, required old-growth forests. They need giant trees with big branches and mossy limbs. So, this football-shaped small 10” seabird soon became center stage in a giant battle between the tree-cutting corporations and environmentalists who realized the bird was doomed if all the big legacy trees were cut. In 1992, the murrelet was Federally listed under the Endangered Species Act as a threatened species.

While most of the old trees are now either protected or gone forever, it appears the bird’s numbers are still declining. This may be because murrelets usually produce one chick every other year. Parents trade nest-sitting duties and adults take turns flying to and from the ocean with a single fish – mostly at dusk and dawn. Youngsters molt into juvenile feathers before leaving the nest, and when the time is right, they simply step off the nest and learn to fly on the way down. If successful, they make their way, unaided, to the ocean. Now, if there was ever a single moment where a species needed a reality check, I think it might be right here. Let’s say you are a little bird the size of a robin that’s never been anywhere. You’re sitting in a tree several hundred feet off the ground. You’re in Mount Rainier National Park and you can’t even SEE the ocean – and yet one day you jump off the nest into thin air. Just saying!

Larry Eifert paints and blogs about wild places at larryeifert.com. His art can be seen in many national parks across America.

And here’s the other ‘favorite’ in my life.

Thanks for reading this week.
Larry Eifert

Here’s the blog on the web. And here’s my Facebook fan page. I post lots of other stuff there.

Click here to go to our main website – with jigsaw puzzles, prints, interpretive portfolios and lots of other stuff.

Nancy’s web portfolio of stunning photography

And here to go to Virginia Eifert’s website. Her books are now becoming available as Amazon Kindle books.