Dancing in Pinon


Hummingbirds begin arriving in the Davis Mountains of Far West Texas in early spring, after their annual winterfest down south. These early birds are often solo acts, so we get excited when we spot one. The feeder gets streaked with algae and mold long before these scattered travelers empty the sugar water my husband so thoughtfully provides them. Jim obediently cleans their feeder for them, so they hang around, delighting us with their energetic flights.

A few more appear in June. Jim grumbles, but hangs a second feeder for them. Come July, we’ll watch three or four hummers politely dining together while others hover in a holding pattern, waiting their turn at their favorite feeder.

In late July, all hell breaks loose around here. The Rufous clan arrives in a colorful frenzy, and there goes the neighborhood. Rufous hummingbirds are feisty, athletic fliers who don’t believe sharing nor, in waiting in line. Our African Grey parrot delights in watching their antics outside his window. (While he’s a bit offended when they buzz around his red tail feathers, he forgives his tiny avian cousins enough to go into mourning when they migrate back to Central America each autumn.)

One August morning, with assorted species of happy hummers practicing their aerobatic maneuvers through pine branches overhead, I grabbed my camera, squeezed against the tree trunk and started snapping shots. Most weren’t very good shots. (I’m an artist, not a photographer.) Out of a hundred photos, less than a third even had a hummer visible. (Thank goodness for digital photography!) But by pretending to be a tree trunk while holding down the shutter button, I got a pretty good sense of what it is to be a hummingbird, swooping and soaring, looping and diving through velvety green pine boughs on a lovely summer morning, on a lovely mountainside.

The lovely thing about being an artist is, I can create something out of not much. So, while my photo of these little creatures is a color-smudged blur, in my painting, the hummers are dancing their rapidly beating hearts out, celebrating another splendid summer here in the Texas mountains. As am I.

Be a hummingbird today: Dance like nobody’s watching, then sip as much sweetness as you dare.


DANCING IN PINON   5″ x 7″ pastel by Lindy Cook Severns 2016

To see more of my paintings from the Davis Mountains and beyond, visit my website http://LindyCSeverns.com






Sunset’s Mountain Majesty

Visual familiarity breeds complacency in artists, as well as in “normal” people. We see, we appreciate, then we go forth in search of something new to see. I’m often as guilty of doing that as anyone else. I have a chronic case of wanderlust.

The difference, in my case, is that I live in a scenic canyon in one of the most stunningly dramatic parts of America. (People travel from foreign countries to spend their precious vacation time driving the 20 mile route we take to the post office.) I enjoy 360 degree beauty every single day, yet I don’t always paint those days. Artists love experiencing a novel, unanticipated new view of life, and I’m no exception. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence for me, as well as for all the constantly wandering cattle hereabouts.

And yet…I never go a day without a quiet gasp of delight when I see a patch of morning light illuminate just one rock cliff on the mountain we call “home”, or watch the midday sun wash the deep, rowdy reds of the volcanic boulders tumbling down its face a gentle salmon color. I don’t jump up and down and scream or anything–I simply stop what I’m doing, thinking, feeling for a heartbeat or two and savor the amazing beauty of the world around me.  But do I paint it?

Perhaps to apologize to Brown Mountain for the neglect it must feel, having an artist around who has painted Blue Mountain, Sawtooth, Livermore…Big Bend National Park…Hill Country…even western Canada more than she’s painted big Brown, one day in late spring I ordered the biggest Gessobord panel I could fit into our truck after framing. (See the science behind my artistic choices at work here?) And, while waiting for said archival board to arrive, I started courting Brown Mountain. Artist seeking a serious painting relationship. Loves big canvases. Will paint in oils. Adores splashy sunsets on volcanic mountains. No smoking, please.

Before FedEx dropped my board off the truck (and I mean Literally Dropped) Brown Mountain responded. Without any modesty, the mountain stood there, naked under one of our big West Texas sunsets waiting for me to snap some glamour shots. Which I did.

I went back and ordered a few more pricey tubes of Holbein’s professional oil paints, luminous colors worthy of my summer love, Brown Mountain, which is actually red most of the time. And I started painting the mountain I see every day from my “driveway”, our road to anywhere.

Oils drive me a bit crazy because I generally use a traditional technique of applying a layer of paint, letting it dry, then applying a thin glaze (a wash) of transparent color over that. Again and again. While the actual time at my easel is about the same for an oil or a pastel, the drying cycles of an oil pretty much take forever. A big oil takes a little longer than that. I found myself finally finishing this oil landscape painting Sunday afternoon, July 3rd, and had an appointment in Midland with my framer on Tuesday, so after church, I pulled a six or seven hour final session at my easel, applying glazes and teensy details like stems of grass. It’s the most fun stage for me, other maybe than starting a painting.

As I painted, I mulled over titles. Sometimes I have the title before I begin, but not on this one with its intimately familiar subject. I like my title to give the viewer not only a path to enter a painting on, but also, a tiny insight into my soul, into my inspiration. I lose sleep thinking up titles. Humming “America The Beautiful”, the rousing patriotic poem we’d sung as our closing hymn at First Presbyterian Church in Marfa that morning in honor of the Fourth of July,  I painted one more stem of grass. And suddenly, my painting was complete and I had my title: “Sunset’s Mountain Majesty”

Wanderlust aside, if you are lucky enough to be an artist living on a red volcanic mountain in Far West Texas, land of fiery sunsets who really needs to travel just to see some purple mountain’s majesty? Not me.

Thanks, Brown Mountain. This may be the start of something big.




30″ x 40″ oil on archival panel by Lindy Cook Severns 2016


Old Spanish Trail Gallery and Museum, Fort Davis, Texas

This original oil painting was custom framed by Ramon Gonzales, Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, Texas




The Earth, The Sky and the Mountain Between


THE EARTH, THE SKY AND THE MOUNTAIN BETWEEN  12″ x 16″ pastel Lindy Cook Severns 2016



Mitre Peak rises from semi-arid ranchland outside Alpine, Texas. The landmark mountain, which is shaped more than less like a child’s drawing of a mountain, gives its name to the popular  camp beneath it. My sister attended Mitre Peak Girl Scout Camp every summer from the time she was six. Kat completed her scouting years in the high desert of Far West Texas a counselor, then went on to attend Rice, a verdant green campus but with no horses grazing the grounds. She’s traveled the world, lives in the mountains above Calgary now, and if you ask her for her short list of favorite places on earth, “Mitre Peak” will spring from her lips right in there with “Paris”. To those who know it, the mountain holds magic.

That mystical pull of the mountain is what I wanted to share in this pastel landscape painting. The sky, as if auditioning to be a backdrop for a Hollywood blockbuster, wears the colors of the setting sun; wildflowers and Indian summer grasses flash like jewels displayed on brown velvet earth. But it is the mountain, Mitre Peak, with its simple, stereotypical mountain silhouette that lures you into this painting. The bishop’s hat of a mountain, with its vow of silent mystery, unites the earth and the sky into a place we call “Far West Texas.”

And I call Far West Texas, “home”.

The least I can do is paint it.

See this painting and other Big Bend country and Far West Texas landscapes on my website, Old Spanish Trail Studio, and at the Museum of the Big Bend on the Sul Ross campus in Alpine, TX during the 30th Trappings of Texas Invitational Fine Western Art and Gear Exhibit mid-April thru mid-May 2016. (During the exhibit, contact head curator Mary Bones for more information about this original pastel painting.) {SOLD!}







An Untold Story


AN UNTOLD STORY      7″ x 14″ pastel landscape painting copyright Lindy Cook Severns | on this winter morning in the Texas desert we explored adobe ruins and watched fog creep across the Chisos Mountains


On a foggy winter morning years ago, we came upon adobe ruins outside Big Bend National Park. As ruins go, they weren’t the Parthenon. Even back then, not much remained of the weather-worn homestead. Sand banked into the corners of low, crumbled walls; the skeletons of interior bricks suggested a narrow second room. A break in the earthen walls marked where the single door once opened, a trailing of low brick suggested a modest courtyard or perhaps, a room that was never completed. Crumbling adobe brick framing the bare, wind-swept floor were the only indications that this ruin had ever been any different than the hard-packed desert soil surrounding it.

Yet, it was different. You could just sense that. It once was a home. A refuge scratched from the desert, each brick shaped by someone’s hand. (There are no home improvement stores in the wilds of the Chihuahuan Desert.) Most likely the man–or man and woman–whoever built the modest dwelling had also crafted the brick for it out of the very dirt it rests on.

It’s isolated, remote, even by desert standards. No other structures within miles. “They” certainly would’ve had to haul in water, and haul it a very long way over very difficult terrain. There’s a trickle of a spring a few miles away, but to reach that, you temporarily surrender your life to fate and hike a narrow trail above a deep, rocky draw. They would’ve lived without heat in the winter, and with little local fuel to feed a fire. They certainly would’ve worked under the blazing Texas sun without as much as a fan in the brutal desert summer. If they had children, they would’ve warned them to beware of rattlers, cougars, coyotes and falling to their death from those treacherous cliffs. Heaven only knows how they scraped out a living, even back in the days before overgrazing destroyed the tall grasses. It was a hard, hard life for whoever lived there.

Grey on adobe ruins Jan 2016

African Grey Parrots are not indigenous to the Chihuahuan Desert, but even our resident animals sense the mystery of Place.

A friend who joined us there this year asked if we knew “story”. We don’t. Perhaps someone knows it, but as far as we tourists are concerned, the story is untold.

Who built it? Whoever he/she/ they were, they had the soul of an artist. The vanishing ruins rest beneath awe-inspiring cliffs; the adobe foundation overlooks the mystical Chisos Mountains. Stand inside that foundation, and you can catch a sunrise that will steal your breath. Stand there long enough, and sunset will stop your heart. Stand silently, and the desert speaks to you. Whoever the story belongs to would’ve heard it. Would’ve appreciated the stark, lonely beauty of that place. Was that beauty enough compensation for the struggle to survive in the desert?

I believe life is so interconnected, not only do we absorb the spirit of places, but places absorb the life force of those who walk that ground. Places speak without words, share their stories, share them with little encouragement to those who will listen. You may not be able to decipher the history being recounted. You can’t even get a good photo of those ruins anymore. Each wet spell in the desert dissolves yet another row of adobe. Earth to earth… even in the desert, nothing lasts forever. But their story remains, in every crumbling adobe brick, every echo off those high rock cliffs, every wisp of fog floating from the distant mountains. And so, I return, year after year, to hear it, and to whisper “Vaya con Dios, mi amigo… and thank you for your hospitality…whoever you were…”


In painting “An Untold Story”, a miniature pastel on a 7″ x 14″ archival board, I chose the long narrow format so I could hint at the vast sweep of sky and Chisos mountains that the residents of these crumbling adobe ruins would’ve seen each morning when they stepped out the now non-existent doorway into the desert.

To check the availability of this pastel painting, or to see more of my Big Bend landscape paintings from Far West Texas, visit Old Spanish Trail Studio, my website.

Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland, TX does the exquisite custom framing I use on my original landscape paintings.

The Rusty Rabbit, Alpine TX currently hangs this one! (Jan. 20, 2016) Contact the gallery, or contact me for more information.


Lighting the Desert Night


“Lighting the Desert Night” is a soft pastel on archival sanded paper measures a whopping 5.5″ x 10″ of pure color from a genuine Terlingua, Texas sunset. Lindy Cook Severns 2016, inspired artist and happy traveler.

Color has always been a sidekick of mine. As a preschooler, the most splendid gift I could receive was a box of crayons, and the bigger the assortment, the better. No wonder I’m now a painter. I still own that same passion for color, but these days, I use significantly pricier paints. I buy only the highest quality of pigments and papers and canvases.

Yet owning good  art supplies doesn’t assure good art. Good art, like good anything, comes from practice. Good, thoughtful, quality practice. Painting only becomes effortless when you paint all the time. Even then, there are days where every blessed stroke that goes onto a canvas is a smear of hard-won color. Happily, I’ve never been one to anguish over my art. (It is what it is. And then, on to my next painting.) I have very few frustrating creative moments. Life is too short to get all moody and upset over creating something.

Practice yields painting proficiency, but fine art, art that connects with the  viewer and elicits emotion that can’t be expressed in words is about more than proficient technique. I think of any creation that pulls the viewer in and holds them there as “soul-filling art”.

To fill someone else’s soul, an artist must first fill her own. That’s where inspiration comes in. I don’t wait for inspiration. Day after day, I hike down to my studio, mount a piece of paper to my drawing board and I start painting. Something. Anything. I go there to create, not to sit and ponder inspiration for a few precious hours that could be spent creating, so I carry inspiration with me.

Owning the right supplies is useful to the creative process. Owning inspiration is essential to it. I store inspiration like a squirrel stores nuts.

We spend several inspirational winter weeks in and around Big Bend National Park, where the weather is milder than back on our lovely but chilly Davis Mountains mountainside in a canyon where sunset happens at four in the afternoon. Living in our (large and cozy!) fifth-wheel allows us to slow down, to savor a place.


Lindy and Jim Severns, with feathered and furry family Christmas Eve 2015 outside Big Bend National Park, a good place to soak up inspiration.

One of our joys when parked in Terlingua is sitting in lawn chairs outside the RV, sipping wine (each of us with an animal in our lap) and watching the sun set on the desert. I’ll snap a few photos, but I don’t paint during our “family time” : I savor it. I absorb the light and color and the silence of the stark Chihuahuan Desert as night approaches. I feel the instant chill that seeps into my bones the moment the sun disappears. I feel the contentment of being with my husband in a lovely place. I add all that to my hoard of inspirational nuts.


Small dog, big desert.

I painted “Lighting the Desert Night” at our small dining table inside the  RV parked on hard-packed earth so crusted with alkaline mineral deposits, you’d swear the ground was covered with an inch of snow. I used a scrap of Kitty Wallis museum grade pastel paper I found in my plein air easel. (Hence the odd size — 5 1/2″ x 10″ is not a standard size canvas, but what a perfect format for a panoramic sunset in miniature!) The new color-rich Terry Ludwig set of 60 sunrise/sunset pastel sticks I’d ordered and just picked up (c/o General Delivery, Terlingua, Texas) at the local Post Office was sitting on the table, the safest place for it until I return to my studio and organize the fragile, precious sticks in the protective boxes I keep set up on a long table by my easel.

Pastel Sticks lined up in my studio

Pastel Sticks lined up in my studio, each in their assigned foam-lined slot

Pastels are horribly messy to work on when done flat, but I didn’t set up my wonderfully useful Soltek travel easel, because it was stored in our “basement” and I didn’t want to step outside in the uncharacteristically dreary damp cold that January morning to get it. (I can be lazy.) Itching to create something, I simply got on with painting, using what I had on hand–an odd scrap of really good paper, a new box of luscious but limited color, a photo on my phone, and a soul filled with inspiration.



Thank you, Jim, Chert, Greystoke, companions in my travels; thank you, Nature, Beauty, God. Thank you, viewers, readers, collectors.

And Happy New Year!


Buy Lindy Cook Severns Original Art at OldSpanishTrailStudio.com






At My Easel Before Artwalk Alpine 2015

Most days this fall, I’ve stood at my easel, painting, painting. Painting!

Lindy Cook Severns at easel 2015

I spend much of my time alone at my easel. Exhibits like Artwalk afford me a chance to share the stories behind my paintings and to hear how viewers relate to my art.

I paint steadily year ’round, but as the year winds down, I always feel compelled to finish just one more painting, to create one more piece to round out my year’s body of work. That compulsion is, in part psychological– I catalog every original in chronological order for each calendar year, and I’m never content to call a painting the last for the year.  Plus, autumn is a delightful time to paint. Diffused light fills my studio, the temperature is balmy and the mountains are at their finest.  As days grow short and the cottonwoods grow golden, life as an artist is sweet.


My painting “theme” for 2015 has been “different strokes”. I’ve stepped out of my usual landscapes to paint wildflowers, green meadows, animals. And I’ve alternated a few oils with my pastel paintings. Fun for me, and I hope, fun for you.

My fall painting frenzy is also a necessity. For over two decades, on the weekend before Thanksgiving the West Texas village of Alpine, Texas becomes one large art gallery and music stage. This is my tenth Artwalk Alpine.  Artwalk allows me to personally show new work to friends and strangers, some of whom will become friends as Jim and I visit with them beside my paintings.

The Open Range Fine Art in Alpine features Lindy Cook Severns

The Open Range Fine Western, Southwestern and Wildlife Art features my paintings year ’round and during Alpine Artwalk each fall

This year, I’m privileged to be a featured artist in two local galleries. (And yes, that means I had to work twice as hard!) My uncommon dual representation came about when a Marathon gallery, The Rusty Rabbit, moved to Alpine, where The Open Range Fine Western, Southwestern and Wildlife Art has hung my originals for the past five years.  Both gallery owners are top notch folks who play well with others. So, now I have original paintings in two places, not only during Artwalk but all year long.  I’m one lucky, busy artist.

Lindy Cook Severns paintings at The Rusty Rabbit Alpine TX

My Big Bend, Davis Mountains and Far West Texas landscape paintings hang at The Rusty Rabbit in Alpine. 2015 marks the Rabbit’s first Artwalk!

My art at The Open Range is peppered with windmills, ranch scenes, wildlife, with a few southwestern landscapes filling out the walls. The Rusty Rabbit hangs landscape paintings of Big Bend, the Davis Mountains and Far West Texas.  Both galleries offer a small collection of my remarques, unique hand-repainted fine art prints. (Also, Front Street Books, across the street from The Rusty Rabbit there on East Holland, stocks my Big Bend Artist Notecards and bookmarks and a handful of affordable mini-prints.)

If you’re in the area, stop in and see us, one place or the other. Jim and I will be out at The Open Range on Thursday for their annual invitational preview party (email me for information on that) .  We’ll be at The Rusty Rabbit both Friday and Saturday nights. We’ll drift in and out of both locations throughout the day on Friday and Saturday. If you miss us, ask the gallery owner to track us down for you.


Jim woke me one Davis Mountain morning shouting “You have to see this sunrise!”. That’s how new paintings are born.

This your chance to see my new art. While my galleries, and my husband are forever grateful for all sales of fine art originals, you don’t have to buy a thing. This is MY chance to step away from the seclusion of my easel to share my art with you. Hope you can make it!

THE OPEN RANGE FINE ART     2707 E Hwy 90  (across from McCoy’s) 

THE RUSTY RABBIT   201 E Holland Ave. (across from Front Street Books)


Friday, November 20 & Saturday, November 21

10:00 a.m. til 9:00 p.m. each day

  • Contact me  about the Preview Reception at The Open Range Thursday, November 19

Blatant advertising:  Art makes a lasting gift, and Christmas is coming soon! (Jim and the two galleries will appreciate me mentioning this fact.)

Fort Davis, Texas in Days Gone By

Fort Davis is a tiny, unincorporated town tucked beneath a small, remote chain of mountains deep in Far West Texas. Most Texans don’t even know where Fort Davis is. That’s how small it is, how remote. That’s one of the things that makes it a special place.

Also, it’s quaint. The bank has bars on the windows, kids play on the courthouse lawn, and it isn’t uncommon to see someone moseying down Front Street on a horse. There’s this special, dent-defying traffic pattern for pulling into the pantry-sized grocery store (usually works fine, but you must be comfortable facing on-coming vehicles). The vintage bookstore sometimes gives away fruit from local trees, whether you purchase anything or not. Each afternoon, the library resonates with the laughter of children bouncing between the shelves. The post office is where you visit with folks, and hopefully, remember to check your box for mail once a week. As one old rancher put it, “Around here, we’ve chosen to live pretty much like our grandparents did, just with a few modern conveniences.”

Mule slowdowns in downtown Fort Davis, Texas are much more common than traffic jams. Photo by Lindy Cook Severns.

Mule slowdowns in downtown Fort Davis, Texas are much more common than traffic jams. Photo by Lindy Cook Severns.

There’s hiking, and wildlife, and a real fort, a lovingly preserved and skillfully restored frontier army post. On holidays and special occasions, authentically clad volunteer “soldiers” fire the cannon beneath the American flag that waves in the wind blowing down off the mountains.

Davis Mountains State Park adjoins Fort Davis National Historic Site at the top of one of those mountains. There’s a overlook where you can stand in shockingly unpolluted air and look down on the fort and the town that built up around it. Look past that and you’ll see Mitre Peak, Alpine, the last frontier. (Wow.) The first time I stood there, I was barely in my teens. I never imagined that one day, I’d call this wild place “home”.

Fort Davis National Historic Site in Jeff Davis County, Texas offers a glimpse into life on a frontier outpost. Photo by Lindy Cook Severns.

Fort Davis National Historic Site in Jeff Davis County, Texas offers a glimpse into life on a frontier outpost. Photo by Lindy Cook Severns.

When I started painting this particular bird’s eye view of my vast backyard, I was mainly concerned with showing the sense of distance you feel when you walk out on the overlook and look down on town. That was a challenge, because I was looking down at the landscape, as well as across it. (Challenges are what make painting fun.)

The fort, the few scattered buildings of town were specks amid the rolling mountains and volcanic rock palisades. Not much of a painting challenge for those, just a few dabs of color here and there to suggest the architecture of civilization.

As I painted, I realized those two boulders would have to go… they distracted from the composition. (what self-respecting artist would put two big blobs of rock at the bottom of a canvas?)

Then, just for an instant, I felt the wind whipping my hair as I stood on one of those twin boulders in the foreground. I remembered effortlessly hopping across rocks with my little sister while trying to keep my toddler brother from rolling too far downhill. I heard Daddy calling us over to picnic on the quilt Mom had spread on the ground. (I hoped she hadn’t put mayo on my bologna sandwich this time…)

Fort Davis is a tiny, unincorporated town so deep in the mountains of Far West Texas, most Texans don't even know where it is. Jim Severns looks down on town and the old frontier fort from a favorite vantage point in Davis Mountains State Park.  Photo by Lindy C Severns.

Fort Davis is a tiny, unincorporated town so deep in the mountains of Far West Texas, most Texans don’t even know where it is. Jim Severns looks down on town and the old frontier fort from a favorite vantage point in Davis Mountains State Park. Photo by Lindy C Severns.

The boulders had to be in the painting, composition be damned. The boulders EXIST. They are integral to this landscape. Place Holders.

The world needs more placeholders. This is a timeless view for anyone who has found their way to the mountains above Fort Davis.

In almost the same breath, I realized this was a landmark view long before there was a fort, or a town, or picnicking tourists. I let my imagination take over, and I painted the landscape as it must’ve been in days gone by, before there was a fort, or a town, or inspired artists roaming these mountains. No buildings. No people.

Just land. And sky.

If a mountaintop rises over West Texas and there’s no one to see it, does it still create memories?

You bet it does. As long as there’s a mountain, tomorrow’s memories will be there, waiting.

FORT DAVIS in DAYS GONE BY is a 10" x 20" pastel landscape painting showing the view from an overlook high in the Davis Mountains State Park in Far West Texas by Texas artist Lindy Cook Severns

FORT DAVIS in DAYS GONE BY is a 10″ x 20″ pastel landscape painting showing the view from an overlook high in the Davis Mountains State Park in Far West Texas by Texas artist Lindy Cook Severns

“Fort Davis, Texas in Days Gone By” Lindy Cook Severns 2015

10″ x 20″ pastel on archival Premier #340 paper

To see more of my Davis Mountains landscapes and other paintings, visit my website for my Jeff Davis county fine art studio and gallery, Old Spanish Trail Studio


Snowy Peaks on the Rio Grande

“Snowy Peaks on the Rio Grande” by Lindy Cook Severns 2015, 14″ x 20″ pastel on archival paper. This landscape painting of winter along the lower Rio Grande is a studio painting inspired by being there and being cold.

West Texans brag “If you don’t like the weather, just stick around awhile—it’ll change.” That’s especially true of the borderlands, where every crevasse, every peak, every riverbank enjoys a personal microclimate. The Chihuahuan Desert means “river” as much as it defines the flats and mountain peaks. The varied Big Bend landscape that makes Big Bend National Park a treat to visit also makes it fun to photograph and delightful to paint.

Usually, I can set up and paint on location in Big Bend most every January day. This year, though, a series of cold fronts brought rain, snow, ice to the desert. Being a painter addicted to comfort, unwilling to stand at my easel and lose my toes to frostbite, I photographed more than I painted.

Photography is serious business for me. My landscapes are authentic places, so I keep meticulous photo files, each folder a location I’ve visited: “Burro Mesa Pour-Off”, “Lost Mine Trail”, “Terlingua Ghost Town”. Most of my photos aren’t anything special, but I save them anyway, because even mediocre shots remind me what surrounds the scene I choose to paint. These folders allow me to revisit a locale—sometimes, years later—to regain a sense of that place.

These trips aren’t all work. Jim and I love to pack up the “kids” (two rescued terriers and one spoiled African Grey parrot) for long, destination-free drives. One frigid dawn, Jim pointed the truck toward Lajitas, where the mountains were still obscured by somber clouds. While I didn’t anticipate getting any photographs, the Thermos sloshed with hot coffee as our little family set out for adventure. And in the serendipitous way nature has of accommodating artists and photographers, the pale sun broke through the clouds.

On either side of the River Road between Lajitas and Presidio, mountains wore caps of snow, while the Rio Grande, untouched by winter, flowed lazily through golden cottonwoods, green-shooted willows, clumps of wildflowers. Jim inched our big truck onto narrow, muddy shoulders so I could roll down the window and snap yet another shot. More often, I got out, a curious parrot clutching my wrist as I hiked to photograph the landscape from a better vantage point. (If I did this too frequently, the bird would mutter, “Brrrr!”. He’s quite weather hardy, but does complain a lot.)

It wasn’t as if we’d never seen snow before, but the unexpected contrast, the patchwork of seasons, the soft cloak of snow on the rugged desert mountains, the unexpected weave of color gripped our souls that morning.

Our African Grey parrot appreciates beauty, and loves surprises too. He was on my wrist as I photographed the River Road through Big Bend Ranch State Park. I don't necessarily recommend having a large bird on your wrist when you take pics with a big digital SLR camera, but it's what we do!

Our African Grey parrot appreciates beauty, and loves surprises too. He was on my wrist as I photographed the River Road through Big Bend Ranch State Park. I don’t necessarily recommend having a large bird on your wrist when you take pics with a big digital SLR camera, but it’s what we do!

Artists zero in on the unexpected. A splash of surprise can render the ordinary extraordinary. I never tire of painting the River Road, but this winter’s drive inspired new connections to the landscape. Back in my studio (with warm feet) I mapped in mountains, then delightfully made snow fall into their rocky crannies.

For my winter on the Rio Grande landscapes this year, even my tools were different. For snow, I ordered new paints (30 soft pastels in colors called Terry Ludwig True Lights; they all look white, but each is actually a pale pale color, fun for me and tons more interesting to the viewer than pure white snow). To paint the rugged mountains and create cracks which I could later fill with snow, I used pastel paper so rough, my iPad and iPhone refused to recognize my thumbprint for a week or two.

As of this writing, I’ve already revisited the River Road from my studio twice, creating two new pastel landscape paintings from that morning’s family adventure.

Security is what allows me to spend my time painting. The fellowship of family, the comfort of a warm studio, the anticipation of a familiar view out my window bring joy to my days. But the unexpected—stepping from a warm truck into icy air; sneezing as pollen floats from budding trees along the river, then looking up and seeing rocky peaks softly sprinkled with snow—the things that don’t quite fit are the things that inspire me to paint them.

May the surprises of today be good ones.

“Snowy Peaks on the Rio Grande” 14” x 20” pastel landscape painting by Lindy Cook Severns 2015

$3700 custom framed under non-reflective museum glass

Snowy Peaks on the Rio Grande framed pastel painting at Midland Framing and Fine Arts Midland TX

“Snowy Peaks on the Rio Grande” is a 14″ x 20″ image, an original pastel landscape painting by Texas artist Lindy Cook Severns. Here it is custom framed under non-reflective museum glass at Midland Framing and Fine Arts, Midland TX. (Gallery and framer Ramon Gonzales does all my custom framing.)

The original landscape painting is represented by Ramon Gonzales, Midland Framing and Fine Arts

1028 Andrews Highway Suite A, Midland TX , 79701

To see more of my Big Bend landscape paintings and others, visit my website, OldSpanishTrailStudio.com

Scents of the Desert

A sense of place implies knowing a landscape so intimately, you can see through its skin and into its bones.

Creatives feel compelled share this sense of place with others. (Why? I have no idea. It’s just what we do. ) Great photographers (Jim Bones comes to mind when I think of Big Bend National Park and the Rio Grande; Marathon’s Carol Townsend , Terlingua’s Tim McKenna all capture this essence of place through a lens.) Skillful writers pen word pictures that transport the reader into worlds earthy enough to lose oneself in. (William Faulkner’s words soak you in the sticky heat of the deep south; Elizabeth Garcia puts you on the clean, arid, cactus-pocked mesas of the Chihuahuan Desert.) We landscape painters use shapes and colors to direct the eye deep into the heart of a place, to help you forgive its faults and see its bones, as we who love that place see it.

I paint from life, and from reference photos. My photos aren’t always good ones, but I only use pictures I’ve snapped myself, or ones my husband has taken. Doesn’t really matter how good my photos are, because when I start painting, I already know the landscape. I’ve been there.

Photographing the Texas desert ( Lindy Cook Severns and companion African Grey parrot). I often paint from reference photos, but only ones that I take myself, after spending time exploring a landscape.

Photographing the Texas desert ( Lindy Cook Severns and companion African Grey parrot). I often paint from reference photos, but only ones that I take myself, after spending time exploring a landscape. Photo courtesy of Jim Severns, 2015

(Don’t actually know the place? You can take lovely photos, write entertaining locales into your novel, paint colorful pictures to match your couch—all minus the magic that comes with possessing a connection to the land you’re recreating. )

What’s the difference? Where does that magical sense of place come from? Here’s how it works:

  • When I thumb through a travel magazine, I SEE what snow-capped mountains in Colorado look like from the air. They look very pretty.
  • When I fly over snow-capped mountains, I see what they look like from the air. I also feel turbulence rock the jet’s wings as I shiver in the never-quite-warm-enough cockpit air. Each breath contributes to my Rocky Mountain high. Wispy white clouds, icy strands of cotton slip past me. I hear a world silent but for radio transmissions and the drone of jet engines. Hot coffee from my Styrofoam cup splashes up, scalding my tongue; I watch the liquid’s dark surface ripple. Snowy crevasses housing microcosms of life speed past; I watch mountain winds whip ice pellets that polish the faces of jagged rock. The Rockies seem so close, I want to reach out and touch them. Instead, I take a photo.
  • When I look at my photo, I remember flying over those snow-capped mountain peaks. Maybe I’ll ask Jim, “Remember when we couldn’t get into Aspen that day, and we had to divert into Eagle {Vail’s airport}? That morning we broke out, then flew right over the snow-capped Rockies a minute?” I’ll smile, remembering. Jim, scowling, will say, “The time the jet was stuck in Vail for four days? And we kept driving back and forth from Aspen on icy roads, trying to get it out of there?” (Ah, my dear, left-brained husband…We all have our memories.)
  • When I paint snow-capped peaks from that photo, I AM THERE again, sipping coffee in the cockpit, rocking in bumpy air, skimming the Rockies. Once more, I’m flying through cottony clouds destined to blanket Colorado, grounding air traffic at the height of ski season. The rock faces I paint are the ones I wanted to reach through the windshield and touch. I paint what I know. I’m not remembering—I AM THERE again, almost shivering in that cockpit.
  • I paint to TAKE YOU THERE, too.
Painting on location, en plein air, means weathering whatever comes your way. Here, I've hurriedly moved my easel and supplies beneath a nearby shelter as the storm I was painting  started pelleting me with hailstones! Lindy Cook Severns, Fort Davis, TX

Painting on location, en plein air, means weathering whatever comes your way. Here, I’ve hurriedly moved my easel and supplies beneath a nearby shelter as the storm I was painting started pelleting me with hailstones! Lindy Cook Severns, Fort Davis, TX Photo courtesy of Jim Severns, 2013

These days, I mainly paint the desert southwest, the high desert of Far West Texas being home to my daily experience now. I’ve painted storms, painted drought, painted wildfire. I’ve found beauty in whatever colors the desert chooses to wear. Colorful lightning storms set fire to the mountains as often as the towering cumulonimbus—those clouds that make such dramatic paintings—bring us rain. Yet wildfires also germinate long-dormant wildflower seed. Last summer brought good rains, and this winter was a wet one.

With that moisture, Big Bend National Park has blossomed into an enchanted garden. The borderlands are currently so blanketed in fragrant wildflowers, in places, you must tiptoe, balancing precariously to avoid crushing something beautiful beneath your hiking boot. I’ve painted with brown so long, I hope I have enough green tucked away in my soul to do the desert I love the justice it deserves.

For years to come, whenever I pull out photo references to paint the explosion of color we’ve experienced this exuberant spring, I will BE THERE, tiptoeing through blossoms steeped in the scents of the desert.

Join me?

"Scents of the Desert" 8" x 10" pastel by Lindy Cook Severns 2015. I painted this landscape from along the River Road through Big Bend Ranch State Park immediately after we spent time there, while the fragrance of the flowering desert still permeated my senses.

“Scents of the Desert” 8″ x 10″ pastel by Lindy Cook Severns 2015. I painted this landscape from along the River Road through Big Bend Ranch State Park immediately after we spent time there, while the fragrance of the flowering desert still permeated my senses.

To see more paintings of the desert, hopefully all revealing its lovely bones, visit my website http://LindyCSeverns.com