If there is one place in the West that captured my Floridian imagination, it was Yellowstone. I dreamt of prismatic springs, gushing geysers, bison roaming. It is a completely magical place and I am spell bound every time we visit.
At 2.2 million acres, Yellowstone offers more than enough roaming room for the body and mind. And in the Fall, when cooler temperatures and unpredictable weather keeps the crowds at bay, it is easy to feel completely alone in its wilderness.
The drama of the soaring mountains of nearby Grand Teton give way to rolling hills and prairies that seem to go one forever.
Those famous thermals are an attraction in themselves ( and I’ll share more about my obsession with them in a later post! ), tending to draw the crowds away from lesser traversed areas. Which is just fine by me. It’s on those quiet hikes that I really lean into a place. Finding what others are too busy to see.
One particular night, when the air was cold and crisp, we fell asleep to the sound of elk bugling in the river valley below. It was the most beautiful lullaby.
Oh before I forget, Happy Birthday, Yellowstone! The park was established on this day in 1872. One hundred forty years young!
favorite trail | garnet hill loop trail
There is so much to see from just a short walk, that though we’ve hiked quite a bit in YNP, I’m not sure we’ve found our absolute favorite trail yet. But the gentle Garnet Hill loop trail up in the Northeast section of the park provides breathtaking views and plenty of opportunity for wildlife sightings without a lot of physical effort.
don’t forget | your binoculars
You’ll need them if you want to spot wolves! There are several locations in the park where the wolves can often be seen at dusk– just ask a ranger to point you in the right direction. We spent hours watching them, transfixed as three wolves crossed the Yellowstone River to hunt a herd of bison grazing on the opposite side.
what i love most | the wildlife
Just driving through Yellowstone is akin to going on an American safari. From the car alone we’ve seen bears, elk, pronghorn, deer, trumpeter swans, birds of prey and more bison than I can count.
Sometimes the love we discover for a place comes unexpectedly. We had visited Grand Teton National Park for a few hours on our way from Yellowstone to Jackson one summer morning a few years ago. While I thought it was a beautiful mountain range, I didn’t see the magic. Yet.
Fast forward to late August 2015 when a work contract for hubby landed us in Idaho Falls, ID, less than two hours drive from the Grand Tetons. We were only in the area for ten weeks and split our weekends between Yellowstone and the Tetons. As the landscape transitioned from the lush green of late summer to Fall and on to the beginnings of winter, I was transfixed not just by the enormity of the landscape but the variety of color and texture all around.
As the temperatures fell into Fall and parts of the park began to shut down for winter, the number of people we shared the park with dwindled. After six months in the overpopulated Bay Area, we relished the peace and quiet of sharing a hiking trail only with each other. And the occasional moose.
Getting deep into the Tetons and seeing those iconic peaks from different vantages was an amazing experience. But this places isn’t just about the mountains– there are calm, clear lakes in abundance, waterfalls and rocky streams to be heard before they can be seen.
In the Tetons, we found a peace and way of beauty we’d lost during the stress and sadness of the summer. We experienced our own “rewilding”, reconnecting with the wildness in this place and within ourselves.
favorite trail | granite canyon trail
Taking the Granite Canyon Trail was a last minute decision as the return route on our Grand Tetons backpacking weekend. In Fall, the trail was bursting with color and sweeping views were to be had in all directions.
don’t forget | comfy hiking boots
To really see the Tetons at their best, you need to get some miles under your feet. And the terrain is rocky and can be slick in the rainier months, so good hiking boots are a must. I wear Vasque boots and hubby wears Asolos. Little tip– forget fashion when shopping for hiking boots. Comfort and fit are much more important!
what I love most | changing Fall color
I was amazed by the colors of the Tetons in Fall! The aspens begin their transition in soft yellows and oranges, then burst with saturated hues as the temperatures drop. The prairie grasses go from jeweled mustards and burgundies to faded straw and lavenders. And of course, the entire scene changes as the light shifts through each day and season.
Follow the hashtag #findinglatitude on Instagram to see more of the places that have inspired the LATITUDE show and series. PLUS, share your own inspiring places by tagging #latitudefound!
Back when we spent a year on the Northern California coast, one thing ( besides snow in winter ) we found ourselves really missing– big mountains. The coastal mountains have their own drama and magnificence but we really missed those high mountain peaks and valleys. So we made sure to carve out a week to mark a must-see national park off our bucket list– Yosemite.
We spent a week in late August of 2014 camping in Yosemite’s grandeur. The months leading up to our trip had been stressful– hubby hadn’t had any time off in nearly a year, my mom had been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and we had dealt with my own health scare, which turned out to be nothing but was very frightening nonetheless. We were in serious need of quiet time together in the wild.
If you’ve been to Yosemite in late summer, you can attest that time alone is a bit hard to come by. The park had over 4 million visitors in 2014 and I swear the majority of that number were there at the same time we were! To avoid crowds, we tried to get out early and stay out late, and chose to avoid the more popular trails in favor of the paths less traveled.
The California Sierras have such a unique look to them– the tall pines and cedars intermixed with granite peaks and rocky river beds. In places like these, it’s easy to understand why California holds such a mythical, magical allure. Our early morning and late evenings gave me a glimpse of the magnificent way the light moves among the peaks and through the valleys. Sunrise at Tunnel View is a mind blowing experience! As is driving the park road after dark, the car lights your only illumination as the trees rise above.
favorite trail | glacier point to nevada falls Glacier Point was only about a 15 minute drive from our campground, so we spent more time exploring there than other areas of the park. Our last full day in Yosemite, we awoke before dawn and hiked from Glacier Point out to Nevada Falls ( you can take the trail all the way to the Valley floor or up to Half Dome but we wanted a nice, quiet hike, not a death march ). Starting so early meant that we were treated to not only a spectacular, misty sunrise over Half Dome but we had the trail to ourselves for most of the morning. It was the first time in the whole week were were there that we really felt at peace and were able to soak in Yosemite’s wilderness.
don’t forget | astronomy app
The weather was so perfect while we were there that we slept without the rain fly on our tent every night, so we were treated to looking up into the star-filled night sky while drifting off to dreamland. Unlike so many areas of California, ambient light is kept at bay in Yosemite and the darkness allows the starry sky to truly shine.
what I love most | sunrise
So we are normally very far from morning people. But something happens when we are camping– we can’t wait to get up and see what the day will hold. The days we rose before the sun in Yosemite we drank in the way the light poured in, not many people yet stirring, we were able to watch the wilderness come alive. Get up early in Yosemite. You won’t regret it.
To see more of the places that have inspired the LATITUDE show and series, follow the #findinglatitude hashtag on Instagram!
When lamenting my delay in beginning to paint seriously again, an artist friend told me– you needed time to fill up. Looking back on the experiences of the last five years, I realized how very right she was. Florida has its own beauties and is inspirational in its own right, but it wasn’t until we began traveling the Northwest that something long buried was awakened in me.
My first job in the art and design world post-college was as a photo researcher for a stock image licensing company. I worked in the editorial department, selecting images for publishers of books and magazines. I distinctly remember being especially enthralled by images from the Northwest, specifically Olympic National Park. I was particularly taken with the images from the Hoh Rainforest— a rainforest? In the US? I knew I wanted to see it.
We’ve been lucky enough to live a close distance to the Olympics twice now, the first time being our very first travel gig. We made our way to ONP as much as we could during those first thirteen weeks, we hiked and backpacked, taken in by the cool, lush, fern covered forests, turquoise Hoh River, and towering Olympic Mountains.
I had my first from-the-trail bear sighting in the Olympics. The feeling there is of a primeval wilderness, something out of another time. Driving into the park, you lose cell service and don’t miss it. You are transported to a different century.
Not being a “major” national park, there is a peace and a sense of quiet in the Olympics that can be hard to find in the more popular parks like Yosemite and Yellowstone. What you hear is only the rush of a waterfall, the rustle of the wind through the forest, your breath as your climb.
The Olympics continue to inspire and inform my work, the lushness and sense of quiet, its coolness and mystery.
favorite trail | Staircase Trail
There may be more dramatic and challenging hikes in ONP but this one holds a special place in my heart. We took to this hike on a sprinkly Fall morning and after a hectic summer in Seattle, the quiet and peace we found was exactly what was needed. The trail leads past enormous felled cedars, fern covered forest floors, rocky riverbeds.
don’t forget your | Layers and rain gear
The weather in ONP can be variable and unpredictable, temperatures range depending on the area of the park and elevation. The Hoh Rainforest gets an average of 144″ of rain per year, so definitely make sure you have your rain gear when venturing into the Hoh.
what i love most | What the water brings
The wet atmosphere of the Olympics provides the ideal conditions for a lush, incredibly green forest. The ferns and mosses make my heart happy, especially when sunlight streams through amidst the misty rain.
Have you been to Olympic National Park? What was your impression? Favorite area? I’m always on the lookout for tips because I never know when we’ll be back on the Olympic Peninsula!
To see more images of the places that have inspired the LATITUDE show and series, follow the #findinglatitude hashtag on Instagram!
1 | the angular distance north or south from the equator of a point onthe earth’s surface, measured on the meridian of the point.
2 | freedom, room to move
Before I was approached by Teresa Roche at Art & Light last Fall to present a solo show of work in March of this year, I had already been working on nature based abstracts and abstract landscapes. Exploring wild and scenic places is a big part of our life and travels, so it has been a natural well of inspiration.
When beginning to think about the body of work I wanted to create for my first solo show, I knew I would be seeking to capture not just a place on a map but the feelings of freedom, peace, and beauty in the experience of a particular moment in that place– LATITUDE.
mr. f on the rocks in trinidad, california
mt rainier, washington
Traveling the Northwest with my hubby provides me with endless artistic inspiration and with both of us endless moments of beauty to share. While many of the places that have inspired the LATITUDE show and series are incredibly beautiful, often the sense of specialness was not simply in the place itself, but perhaps in the way the light bounced off the water, the quietness of a morning beach all to ourselves, the way the landscape brought us peace, brought us joy.
friday harbor, san juan islands, washington
Over the coming weeks leading up to LATITUDE’s opening, I’ll be sharing more images, experiences, and inspiration from some of these very special places. You can see more of the places inspiring LATITUDE on Instagram, by searching #findinglatitude.
As any artist will tell you, having a studio space to call your own is a privilege, a luxury. Since Mr. F and I are moving from furnished rental to furnished rental as we travel, the options among rentals in our budget range can be slim. And to be able to have a studio space to boot? Such splendor!
I know what it is to work from the dining room table or a corner of a 500 square foot studio, right across from where we sleep each night. So imagine how spoiled I’ve felt in our Idaho Falls and Ashland rentals, where I’ve had actual studio spaces from which to work!
While we are traveling, Mr. F & I often debate how we want to live and work when we settle down for good. As my painting practice grows, the conversation around my eventual studio also increases. Do we want to try to incorporate a studio space within the walls of our home? Or a backyard building? Or how would renting a studio nearby work for me and our lifestyle?
Not everyone gets to try out their options before making such a monumental decision. But lucky me! I’ve had two separate studio spaces now and find myself comparing and weighing the pros & cons of each. Since you may be on the cusp of making a similar choice, I thought I’d share some photos and how each space does and doesn’t work for me as an artist.
IN HOME STUDIO
Finding a rental in Idaho Falls was more of a challenge than we expected, especially after coming off of renting in the Bay Area. The little apartment we settled on was in a 1920s Craftsman triplex near downtown, admittedly not the nicest or biggest rental we looked at but what sold me on it was the tiny extra room on the front flooded with light– perfect for my studio.
When I say tiny, I mean teeny tiny. I think the space was about 50 square feet, the size of a small walk in closet. But there was a desk and room for my portable easel and thanks to the west facing windows, tons of sunlight. And bonus– the historic nature of the building meant charming details like wide window casings and a coved ceiling.
What I loved–
Ease of work time. I could paint and sketch whenever I wanted to. Early morning ( not usual, not a morning person ), in between freelance work/emailing, while doing laundry, while beginning dinner, late at night.
Keeping the work close. Having my workspace in our living space keeps my mind in the work nearly all the time. It helps with the germination process, the thoughtful process that happens when you’re examining what you’ve done and where you want it to go. I like to take peeks at my work in different lights and times of day. I find myself gazing critically and lovingly while passing through to the bathroom in the middle of the night. That’s not weird or anything, right??
Proximity to the hubby. While we were in Idaho Falls, we were camping in Yellowstone or The Grand Tetons every weekend but one. But normally, I spend at least one weekend afternoon painting while Mr. F works on his CEUs or brews a batch of beer. It’s always nice to be in the same space, even when we’re engaged in separate activities. Lovey-doveyness and all that.
What I didn’t love–
Lack of separation between freelance work & studio work. Because I used that tiny space as both my office and studio, it made it a bit too easy to continuously check work emails while waiting for paint layers to dry. So instead of being totally in a creative headspace, my mind was often distracted.
Lack of space. The extra room was very, very small. There wasn’t much wall or floor space to speak of, which meant my work and supplies found themselves drifting out into our living space. Not really ideal, especially when trying to find a place to put unattractive things like shipping materials. Since the plan for our eventual home is a living space around 800-900 total square feet, studio space within such a small size would be minimal. So in the future, especially as I paint more and bigger work, we might be dealing with these same issues.
Westward facing windows. The west facing windows meant lots of light on overcast afternoons but on sunny days I was driven out of the studio around 3:30 due not only to the intensity of the light, but also how warm it got. Our apartment was on the 2nd floor and fully 10-15 degrees warmer than downstairs at all times. Sunny afternoons in the studio felt like being in a broiler. The position of your light is something it’s easy to overlook but can definitely cause headaches. Literally and figuratively.
I loved this little studio. It holds a special place in my heart, perhaps because it is where I started my work for LATITUDE and my work grew into something I began to be truly excited about. The architecture of the space felt very “me” and I loved keeping my work so close.
Every time we move, we head into the unknown, especially with our living space. I was very nervous to give up my tiny IF studio and go back to working from a corner of our rental. I never dreamed I would be gifted with access to a 400 square foot studio.
So when I told our Ashland landlord I was a painter and planned to put up Dexter-style sheeting in a corner of our rental’s bedroom as my studio, he met my idea with a surprising offer. Turns out the building next to our duplex housed his woodworking & blacksmithing workshop and upstairs he was finishing the building of– you guessed it– a painting studio. Which he offered me use of, free of charge. What??!!! Talk about a god send.
What I love–
Space, space, space! To go from the tiny studio in Idaho Falls to a space in which I could really spread out was a dream. I have the space to work on the larger pieces I had planned for the LATITUDE show at Art & Light and to be able to see all the pieces for the show as I’m working and allowing them to influence what’s on the easel.
Close but separate. The studio is next door to our rental, so I can pop over when I need to, but preserve the separation of living and work spaces. Mr. F doesn’t see as much of my process, so it leads to a fun “reveal” moment when I take him over to the studio to show a finished piece. I also leave the laptop at home, leaving with it the tendency to multi-task between freelance work and painting.
Freedom to work dirty. Even though the space was newly finished, my landlord assured me that it was OK to let the paint fly. So no putting up sheeting or worrying too much about drips and splats. It definitely helps keep my mind on the process when I don’t have to fret that I might be getting paint anywhere but the canvas.
What I don’t love–
Shared space. For an introvert like me it is hard for me to work in a freely creative way in a shared space. While I usually have my painting studio to myself, I have to walk through my landlord’s workspace to get there, which means– gasp!— small talk. He is perfectly nice and lovely and I do enjoy our interactions, but my little introverted brain just wants to go to my studio and work. For the first month, I had the space upstairs completely to myself, but part of the space is now being utilized three afternoons a week for music lessons. Which puts a kink in my schedule but also means that there are eyes on my work when I may not want them to be and I can’t spread out in the same way as before.
Less than ideal use of space. While the space is large, it isn’t totally mine and there are fixed furnishings whose placement wouldn’t make sense for a permanent studio, at least for me. In the middle of one wall is a giant flat screen over a gas heater/stove. While the stove makes things cozy, the placement of the tv and stove in the middle of a large wall limits the usable space. There is a separate utility sink and sink in the studio bathroom, the utility sink taking up usable space in the studio when it could have been placed in the bathroom. A space that’s not your own will always mean compromising your ideal way of working. A disadvantage to renting a studio away from home.
Separation from my work. I miss not being surrounded by my work. After finishing a painting, I go through this kind of honeymoon period where I want to gaze at it and analyze it. Not being able to see the work whenever I want to makes it a challenge to keep it dominating my headspace, important when working on a cohesive body of work for a show.
Separation from the hubby. As I mentioned above, Mr. F and I often spend a weekend afternoon engaging in separate pursuits. I do miss being close by while I paint. Yes, it’s just a few steps away, but it feels much farther because it isn’t our space, if that makes any sense.
I feel incredibly blessed by having access to this beautiful space. If it were my own, would I change some things? Absolutely. But do I pinch myself every day I use it? Definitely.
Would love to hear what type of studio you’re working from and how it works for you!
Artsy Forager is now Lesley Frenz! On social media, anyway. Here on the blog, you can still call me Artsy. Or Lesley. Or hey you with the paintbrush!
With the advent of a new year I decided it was time to retire the Artsy Forager handle on social media.
Obviously, I’m still blogging here at artsyforager.com, but with an increased focus on my personal studio practice, I need to be known as an artist who occasionally blogs rather than a blogger who sometimes paints. Know what I mean?
I still own the Artsy Forager handle on all the various social media platforms, so if you tag AF I will still see it, but I won’t be updating any of those feeds.
Let’s go, 2016!
It has been an amazing year despite the stress, the worrying, the painful loss. I am ready to get a new year underway as I prepare for my March show at Art & Light Gallery and can’t wait to see what else 2016 brings!