Category Archives: New Painting Post

Blog Posts by Larry Eifert

A Vibrant Pueblo at Aztec Ruins New Mexico

Click the image to enlarge it.

Quite an interesting project here.  This is one of the half dozen paintings for the National Park Service at Aztec Ruins, New Mexico. Photos I took like the one below of the real ruins today were about all I had to go by – that and Google Earth. The task was to paint this place 1000 years ago when the Indians had migrated from Chaco Canyon and set up a real economy on the banks of the Animas River. I asked the Chief of Interpretation at the park just how much of the land would have been under cultivation: “all of it, every foot”. That sketch didn’t make the grade ‘too jumbled’, and I couldn’t put the many irrigation ditches in because ‘we don’t know where they were’. So, I just made it all up! And tossed in a red-tailed hawk to keep my heart alive.

Here’s a section view of the pueblo painting, today a World Heritage Site. Yes, there are tiny people down there; yes, it’s pretty much the same layout as today but the photo below shows how much it’s changed.  I really love working out these challenges. I was surprised the NPS really doesn’t have a good grasp of what it was really like. Yes, COULD be, yes, it might have been like that – but in the end it was just a big cloud of not much to go on.

Probably the best set of reference photos I took were of the native plant garden just outside the ruins. It had the same native species that would have been in all those gardens, and how they think it was grown. Flooded occasionally, it’s all grown on mounds.

This painting will be made into an outdoor wayside exhibit with some text added. The original art will hang in the visitor center with the others I’m doing. Only one more big one to go. Thanks to Rosene Creative in Jasper Georgia for putting up with me on this one. It’s been fun.

Again, here’s the link to the NEW new puzzle I talked about last 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.

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.

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.

Maynard Beach habitat restoration painting

These all enlarge in your browser with a click. This is a half-way mark in the painting as it’ll look in the outdoor wayside installation.

And here’s the second sketch for the four wayside panels for North Olympic Salmon Coalition. Since the sketch completion, I went ahead with this painting and, as you can see, things have changed here and there. I’ve placed it in the design mockup to see how things fit – saves time so later I don’t have to repaint objects that are covered by text or other photos. It’s sort of a dance between the art and the words.

And here’s the real scene. Not the same, for sure, but I like the way the painting has a sort of pastel and soft feeling about it.

For Olympic Peninsula locals, if you park your vehicle opposite the Snug Harbor Cafe and walk towards Discovery Bay, you can see all this restoration. While  you’re there, imagine this as it was, a rocky railroad grade complete with bridges, culverts and creosote pilings and you’ll get the idea how amazingly better this is now. Two panel installations will be along here.

And if you’re still with me, in 1973, I came to this area for the first time. Right here I found an old abandoned mill stuck out over the water. It was still together, mostly, and I inquired about renting it for a gallery space. On Hwy 101, Olympic NP nearby, seemed right. I eventually ended up in Ferndale, CA for awhile, but this could have been my home. Instead, I now live 15 minutes away in what has become one of the most interesting towns in America! I believe we envision our paths as we go, and I was right – even if the result was in the future.

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.

My 48 North Story for December

I admit there’s something fun in driving up to the mailbox and getting a magazine with my own stuff in it. Such it’s been now for a bunch of years with this project. Richard at the magazine, now Joe who has moved into Richard’s desk, and I’m still at it. In this current series I think I’m up to about 5 years of stories:

Here’s the story that went with it:

Harbor Porpoises – Can we think of this smart, inquisitive marine mammal as the mermaid of the Salish Sea? I’d like to think so. Appropriately, harbor porpoises are about the size of a woman, 5 feet and 120 lbs. – the smallest of the six species of porpoises. This little beauty is probably the most common cetacean in the Salish Sea and Phocoena phocoena is only found here in the inland waters of the Northwest. They live among us as if they were our neighbors, and, I guess they are! Once common here, harbor porpoises almost disappeared in the 1970’s, probably because of gill nets that drowned them and polluted harbors. More northerly populations survived, and now they’re back – big time. I’d like to think that, for a change, it’s something good we’ve done.

So where do we see these guys? Harbor porpoises generally tend to be solitary foragers, so a fin may appear, then vanish for a bit, then resurface in a graceful and fluid up-and-down arc. If two fins appear, suspect a mom and young – they can have one offspring a year throughout a 15-20-year lifespan, being pregnant and lactating at the same time. Occasionally a group can ‘herd’ fish into position for a meal, but that’s not common. Look for color differences in body parts. The flippers, dorsal fin, tail and back are dark. The question might be asked why are harbor porpoises back? It appears their increases are more than what the locals could naturally produce themselves, and given that they are “harbor” mammals, not an offshore species, they must be coming in from the north. Whatever the reason, it’s good news for nature-watching sailors.

Larry Eifert paints and writes about wild places. His work is in many national parks across America – and at larryeifert.com.

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.