the dust never settles – Montana October, 2010


a Montana Sunset…with a story…
50 some miles to Miles City; 40 some to Ashland; 45 to Forsyth



Strawberry Hills Rec Area in the Pine Hills of SE Montana near Miles City


 

near the Tongue river south and west of Miles City




the Tongue River

Any time I can get a chance to go to Montana, I do.  It means I get to see family and once again experience the “Big Sky Country for a few days!  I had sent a couple of paintings to the annual art auction for the Custer County Art and Heritage Center show/auction the end of September and wanted to go to the auction event the latter part of September.  It worked out and Les and I were able to go.  The art center in Miles City is just one of the best around.  They have an incredible gallery space that was developed in part of the old water holding tanks along the
Yellowstone River.  These thick concrete walls provide a wonderfully climate controlled, unique space for this venue that holds a great permanent collection of work as well as shows that are changed out regularly.  The team of employees and volunteers always seem to tip the scales with quality in their events as well.  It was a pleasure to attend and to donate one painting to the cause and share the commission on another.  The “River in December” topped the bidding for the auction which was a happy note for me!  I had lots of good comments on the pieces that I submitted and that brings a good feeling to one’s heart as well!  This event is another one that gets attention from several well known western artists and it is a pleasure to be part of that.


Earlier in September John from the Discovery Pond and Loft Gallery downtown Miles City had contacted Chris and asked him if his mother would want to hang a show there.  Chris asked me if I was interested and I said I was, but didn’t know that I had enough work in Miles City to be considered a “show.”  He assured me that he, himself had plenty.  Apparently my kid has been hording some work, because he was able to accommodate the gallery space well!!  John set up a very nice reception and artist opening while I was there and we got to visit with quite a few folks.  He also submitted an article to the local paper about my work from excerpts from the blog and website.  I was very appreciative of his warm hospitality and attention to details in how he hung the art show and the reception.  What a pleasure to work with people like John!   One of the highlights of the reception was a visit from  native American artist Joyce Lahn a longtime SE Montana native.  She was interested in talking about pastels because she hadn’t done much with them.  The comment that she made about my work was great affirmation to me…she said “you do the best skies and they are MONTANA skies.  I knew you were from here when I saw how you painted skies.”    She told me as a child, she moved to SE Washington with her mother and lived near the Columbia River in the town on Wallula.  Her step father had worked a river project at the time.  She told me about one scene that she said she has never painted but had thought she might was a scene one night as she walked home with a full moon and when she crossed the numerous railroad tracks of this town the moon’s glow shimmered blue over the tracks and they were almost iridescent in the light of the moon on the dark night.  Painted quite the picture in my mind, so much that the next full moon and I going to head out to some tracks and see if I see that effect!  She was a delight to talk with.  She paints a lot of landscapes and Native Americans with very nice effects. 
Another day while we were visiting and our kids were at work, Les and I took a drive heading south of Miles City toward Broadus, then turned on the Tongue River Road and headed south and west.  We followed the river for some 30 -40 miles through pastures, along the river  and buttes, cedar, pine and juniper growth before we came to a fork in the road – dirt roads this far out.  A sign said it was 53 miles back to Miles City, 45 to  Forsyth to the north and 30 something to Ashland to the south.  We had long been off the paved road and a sign indicated that if there was snow or rain these roads were impassable.  I understand this growing up in “gumbo” country of north central Montana.  But a day with blue sky and 80 degree temperature, it is beautiful carefree drive through some very interesting country with the buttes and sandstone cliffs,  sort of rugged country with a beauty of it’s own. The photo above of the road is near the fork in the road and gives you a sense of the tranquil trail through the hill sides; but in a rainstorm would be impassable as the gumbo would collect on the tires and the road would become so soft and muddy you couldn’t move.


So the sunset photo was one that Les took at Chris’s house to the east.  When I saw it, I said, “wow! that is my sky in one of the paintings that I had sent to the auction!”  And when you look at the painting and then the photo, you can see the similarity of that red/pink Montana evening sky that lets you know there will most likely be wind in the morning! 

I did this little painting while I was in Montana.  It isn’t a MT scene, but is an OR one instead.  The weather was so warm (80-90 degrees) while we were there that I didn’t do any fall paintings….it seemed more appropriate to paint spring and summer!!   We managed a couple of other treks out with the camera and the dogs as well as visiting my all time favorite coffee and pastry shop Cafe Utza, downtown Miles City.  I had the pleasure to meet Cara who is one of the owners and who had shown some of the series of 100 this spring.  She indicated she wanted more work for another show, so will have to put something together for this this very cool venue.  And the coffee!!  A flavor of it’s own…almost buttery.  Love this place.
We also hung some work in a new establishment – The Main Street Grind – a new bakery and sandwich shop on Main just across from Stockman Bank where Chris and Michelle work.  Some great sandwiches and baked goods there and regarding the art… the golden ochre walls show off some of the wheat field paintings well!
Another highlight was my sister and husband driving down for the weekend and spending time with us.  We had a good time visiting and checking out a few establishments of Miles City.
When we left, we decided to drive the two-lane roads back to Missoula since the weather was good and for a change of scenery.  We headed north from Miles City toward Jordan where, for 80 some miles there is nothing but range land and the remnants of some old towns that have ceased to exist.  When you are on this road, and the day is clear, I think you can easily see a radius of about 150 miles…you are on the plains and this is the “big sky country”!


Now that I have returned, it’s time to get back to some serious painting…and you???  happy painting!




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About bonnie griffith

I am a landscape artist who works in pastels, oils and acrylics. My work focuses on representational studies of the western US. I am basically self taught with lots of workshops and studies with several landscape artists such as Bruce Haughey and Clark Elster. I live in southwestern Idaho, am a native Montanan with a strong connection to the land. I spend as much time as I can in MT painting as well other parts of the northwest. I appreciate getting out in the field and working plein air because there is nothing like completing a painting in the true light of day and visually not being compromised by the use of a photo. In my work, my goal is to produce a piece of work that draws the viewer into the painting and challenges them to explore the scene; get a sense of the time of day, the temperature, the light or lack of. If I have gotten that viewer to step out of their reality and into that painting and enjoy it, then my work was accomplished as I wished. View all posts by bonnie griffith

3 responses to “the dust never settles – Montana October, 2010

  • The Idaho Beauty

    Oh, yeah, definitely time to get serious! I've been savoring too much the good fall weather when it graces us, but I have also renewed my creative spirit. ID flora & fauna calleth!Sounds like you had a marvelous trip/vacation – lots for the senses to soak up. Yes, I know those big Montana skies!

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  • Ida M. Glazier

    Wow, Bonnie—you are so busy in your life!!! You make Miles City sound just like a must, a real destination, and I can't wait to go!! Love yor blog, and all you have to say in general! Would like to see your pastel sunset painting, is it here somewhere?

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  • Bonnie

    hi Ida…the paintings that went to the auction and one of them was the one I commented on about the sky looked like the one I painted are on the July 29th blog. My sunset sky isn't quite as pink but sort of the sameformation of clouds. I have not been painting for the last couple of weeks…a lot of other stuff keeping me out of my pastel box! That's about to change tho and I will be getting back at it. I am formulating a plan of a new series…something different than the 100 small works all being the same composition; but will be smaller studies. I might paint scenes all along a specific road…Hope you are painting a lot.Miles City is a really interesting place…very western in a working sense of the term…not a Jackson Hole type of western. Very friendly people. The landscape is so diverse there. Winters are usually harsh…There seems to be a lot of community pride and involvement with the art events, of course the Bucking Horse Sale which draws bunches of visitors from all over. My son and family like it there a lot. There is some interesting little stores and of course the Miles City Saddlery which is an icon much like Hamley's In Pendleton, OR.Keep on painting! I am going to post a blog probably this week and get back on a schedule!My best…B

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