Painting on location (en plein air) helps me remember to bring nature into my studio when I use photo references for my southwestern landscape paintings.
To translate terrain to canvas, I need to know how a place smells, how crisp or how heavy the air feels, the direction of the wind coming over the mountains of the high desert.
"We enjoyed meeting and visiting with you and Jim this past weekend. We are going to enjoy our “starter set” of your work and look forward to collecting more in the future. "
PAINTING WITH WORDS
I love writing, so my Outlaw Pastelist blog shares painting tips and techniques, plus thoughts on being an artist.
Art Collectors, Tourists, Fans of the Western tradition--and also Friends, curious about how I spend my time-- can learn the stories behind my paintings by reading Wanderings of An Artist, BigBendArtistBlog.com
I have a BA in English (Texas Tech 1972), a degree earned after tossing my original studio art major into a bonfire of failed art classes. (Still sorry about that semester, Daddy.) Ultimately, English/Biology studies served me better. With precious little formal art training, I now paint full-time and teach painting workshops at a museum. Life does have a sense of humor.
My roots run deep... I'm a native Texan from pioneer stock. My Texian ancestors harken back to Republic of Texas days.
Two of my many-times-great granddads arrived on the Mayflower. Had they known about Texas sooner, I suspect the first Thanksgiving would've been celebrated in Big Bend instead of Plymouth.
Frontiers are in my genes, and Texas dust is in my blood.
Both my parents graduated from Rice and became educators, so learning was an important part of my early life. Mom spent hours drawing with the preschool me, while Daddy, Coach Dave Cook led Lubbock High's basketball team to a state championship. I loved both the gym and the drawing table equally. When Mom became art director for the NBC affiliate station in Lubbock, I'd often accompany her to her studio, a creative wonderland for a budding young artist. I'm the product of both Nature and Nurture.
OUR GREAT ESCAPE
Call us crazy. (Mom does.) One fine day, adventure beckoned.
We wanted more from life than stability. We bought a big RV, sold the lovely, custom-built estate we'd landscaped, pecan tree by pecan tree over twenty-six years. We stored what we couldn't part with, doled heirlooms out to siblings, donated stuff to charities. We quit our jobs. And then, we drove away and never looked back.
I like to think of it as running away to join the circus. It worked for us: Had we not jumped off the secure edge of our known world, I couldn't have painted the landscapes I've painted.
And yet, we remain the sum of our experiences. As I paint towering cumulus building over the high desert, my mind weaves and banks around jet-seared clouds. I mentally skirt dark, turbulent chasms in the sky as I pick up a brush to paint a thunderstorm. My fingers smudge wispy feathers of cirrus across my canvas and I feel the summer sky again. So, I select paints, rich colors to express how it feels to burst out of a cloud bank and into the deeply ultramarine blue sky at 41,000 feet.
It feels fantastic.
I try to share that joy.
ALWAYS AN ARTIST
Now, I enjoy the luxury of painting full time.
Before moving to the Davis Mountains, I painted the Rockies, portraits and wildlife, old adobes. While I still paint other subjects, I now focus on southwestern landscapes, especially Far West Texas and Big Bend National Park. (Paint what you know, right?)
We live on a ranch twenty miles from the nearest town -- if you count tiny Fort Davis Texas as a town. I can set my easel up in places inaccessible to most people. (Every wild place doesn't have to be accessible to everyone, and the wilderness doesn't need to be tamed. That doesn't mean it doesn't need to be painted!)
The high desert is a land of extremes, a world where blossoms hide thorns and parched earth hides blossoms. In my art, I share those contrasts. I especially love to paint unruly skies, clouds that haven't quite decided what they want to be when they grow up.
KICKS AND PUNCHES
I hold a 4th degree black belt in taekwondo. Seriously. I do!
I taught martial arts for two decades, and we co-owned a family-oriented taekwondo studio in Lubbock, Texas. The mind/body/spirit connection of martial arts made me a stronger painter. The perseverance required to earn my black belt made me rather thick-skinned for a creative soul. And, after years of blocking kicks to my head, I'm not afraid to take risks with my art -- or perhaps it's because of all those kicks that landed on my head that I'm so bold a painter! (Don't ask me to demonstrate my fighting prowess: I have one jump spin sidekick left in me, and I'm saving it for a special moment.)
Fort Davis, Texas
ABOUT JIM SEVERNS, ARTIST GO-FER
My husband Jim DOES NOT paint, yet bravely hangs out with an artist. He is totally left-brained. I possess a left brain as well as a creative one, so we flew well together. We now travel the fine art world together.
I know a painting is on track when Jim enters the studio and says I wouldn't have used blue there. He's adept a hauling easels up mountains and terrific at hanging large art.
Having a partner who understands that sometimes an artist is incapable of logical speech is helpful. Having a mate who cheerfully cooks, then delivers a glass of wine to the studio and reminds one it's time to eat: Priceless!
Go-Fer Jim is my best critic, my strongest supporter. He attempts to keep me honest to the details of my work, same as I kept him steady on the glide slope of an instrument approach. We approach art as a crew, and it is a good journey we're on.
WINGS TO FLY
After college, the skies began defining me as much as art did. I packed away my diploma, sold most of my sparse belongings and learned to fly. This led to meeting Awesome Jet Pilot Jim, World's Greatest Guy, and in a whirlwind, we married.
Three months into marriage, I promptly (and quite inadvertently) piloted a small plane through unmarked power lines at an uncontrolled airport. This totaled a new single engine Piper. Nor was it a great experience for a starry-eyed young newlywed.
This near-fatal plane crash broke my back, concussed me, and in a shatter of glass, put my smiling 25-year-old face through the thick-glassed altimeter. Took awhile to heal, and I spent my time homemaking and gardening. Jim fondly refers to those first few years as my "domestic phase". Always, I painted. I also I did free-lance ad art long enough to know that's not my passion. Five years after the crash, Jim and I enrolled in our first martial arts class, and my paintings began selling in galleries.
Then one day, Jim needed a copilot. Incredibly, our marriage survived flying a corporate jet together for almost two decades. Finally, in 2005, we hung up our wings. A good pilot plans her last flight.
I'm Lindy Severns, the person behind the paintings.
A spirited elderly friend who devoted much energy into mentoring me once labeled me a "Renaissance woman". This was my friend's tactful way of saying Won't you ever decide what you want to be when you grow up?
My answer: Why grow up? I'm an artist.
Also, I have a parrot.
Here's my story, a tale about the roads I've traveled and the detours I've made enroute to painting Big Bend country.
photo by Jim Severns 2013
Artist Lindy Cook Severns with parrot friend near Study Butte, TX photo by Jim Severns 2014
SUNWASHED AFTERNOON 10" x 20" plein air pastel
the Davis Mountains ranch we call home