Yosemite Falls

There are a couple of previously un-posted images on my watercolor page, including this one of Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park. There are more pieces in the works, but the good stuff takes time. Thanks for looking!

Yosemite Falls, ©Heidi Skiba

Yosemite Falls, ©Heidi Skiba

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New Post, New Pages

I’ve added some new pages to this blog to highlight some of the work I’ve done over the years.

The images are divided into three categories: block prints, pen and ink drawing, and watercolors.

I’d love to hear if you have any favorites, but here’s one of mine!

Wyoming Storm, ©Heidi Skiba

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Taking a Break

I have been silent on this blog for a while, mainly because I have not been working on much art lately. In the beginning of summer, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to try to do everything: work full time, get back into good physical shape after my ostomy surgery in November, seize every opportunity to go on outdoor adventures each weekend, and work on lots of art. On top of that, I got very excited about starting another blogging endeavor: a site to chronicle my return to outdoor adventures with my ileostomy. Through the blog, I hope to end some of the misconceptions and stigmas surrounding ostomies and show what is possible after surgery.

It only took a few weeks of living at mach speed to realize I was trying to do too much. I decided that this was the season to focus on returning to outdoor pursuits and helping  current or future ostomates with my new site, so I took a break from art for a while.

Of course, when I said take a break from art, I really mean from working on more formal pieces. As an artist, I never feel happy if I am not drawing and recording the world around me. On most every outdoor excursion I make, I bring my nature journal with me and fit in time for some sketching.

When the temperatures drop this fall and the snow begins to fall, I will head back into my studio. For now, it is off to the mountains for more adventure!

A journal entry done in the Flatirons of Boulder, CO using Prismacolor Premier markers and watercolors.

A sketch of Mt. Harvard done from camp in the Horn Fork Basin after a successful summit climb. This piece was done with water soluble Pilot Razorpoint pen and watercolor.

A simple pencil sketch done on a four-day backpacking trip to Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park.

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Weathering the Storms

I finally had a chance to work on some art today. I am almost done carving my American Basin linocut, and hope to do the first proof of it next weekend. The past two weeks have been incredibly busy. I must be trying to make up for all that time I was stuck at home healing up!

My Certified Interpretive Trainer course with the National Association of Interpretation was phenomenal. I learned some great techniques for teaching others how to be effective interpreters, but the course affected me on a much deeper level than that: It reaffirmed my passion for interpretation and reminded me of why I went into this important field. My love for nature and wild places is endless, and I have a strong desire to help other people connect to their natural and cultural heritage so that these things can be cared for and preserved.

Continue reading

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Carving with my snowboard instead of on my blockprint

Even when I can’t get to my blockprinting, I usually at least try to do some sketches in my journal. This week, it just isn’t happening. Sunday, I went up to Loveland Ski Area for my first snowboarding since surgery. I thought for sure I would get tired after a few runs, which would provide the perfect opportunity to cozy up in the lodge with my sketchbook and a cup of hot cocoa. However, the powder gods blessed us with over 8 inches of fresh powder. Once I got out in the fluffy and forgiving snow, I didn’t want to quit boarding. After a few spills early on, my muscle memory kicked in and I flew effortlessly down the slope, smiling gleefully. I only ended up stopping for lunch, when they closed the lifts for a bit due to high winds. I ended up boarding from when the lifts opened to almost when they closed.


Another evening, Doug and I went to watch the Colorado Rockies battle the Dodgers (and win). It was a gorgeous day, and we parked a distance from the stadium and rode our bikes there. Again, I almost brought my sketchbook thinking it might be fun to capture some of the action out on the field with my pens. However, we were sitting down the third base line, where ball after ball often flies into the crowd. Last summer when sitting in the same area, a spectator in front of us got hit in the face with a ball. I figured it was best to keep my eyes on the field instead of on my sketchbook in case I needed to duck, or maybe even catch a ball.


Now it is time pack. In a couple days I am leaving for a week to attend the National Association of Interpretation’s (NAI) Certified Interpretive Trainer workshop in Fort Collins. After completing the class and passing the credential requirements, I will be certified to train the staff and volunteer naturalists at my job site on the NAI curriculum. I am excited to take this course, as I love training fellow naturalists and sharing my love of natural history interpretation with others.

So, it may be a while before I post again. When I return from my course, I am going to get to work on completing my American Basin linocut. I want to finish the carving so I can print them up and start on the hand painting with watercolors. Though I love this project, it has been sitting on my desk for far too long, and I have a lot of ideas of other images floating around in my head that I want to start working on.

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Snippets of Life

I am sometimes amazed at a place’s ability to take me right back to different moments in time– especially if it is somewhere that I have visited year after year. The location usually hasn’t changed much between visits, yet I have often gone through profound transformations since last stepping in that exact same spot. The sights and sounds of that specific place can often recall memories so strongly, that it is like watching a movie snippet of my life in my head.

On Sunday, I went on a hike on the Fowler Trail in Eldorado Canyon with Doug and our friend, Greg. From there, we continued up the spectacular Goshawk Ridge Trail, a path I had never followed before. Eldorado Canyon is one of those places I have visited numerous times, and it holds a lot of memories. As we started our hike, I came face to face with some artwork of a falcon on the trailhead sign that I did while working as a park naturalist at “Eldo” in 1995. Seeing that drawing took me to that summer, and I began to think back to all the hikes I led in that exact same spot. It was one of my first jobs as a naturalist, and I gained a lot of confidence and skills there that provided a foundation for my career. Eldo is also the place I started my very first illustrated sketchbook journal. Though I had kept a diary-like journal since I was a child, it was in the park that I was inspired to begin incorporating drawings into the pages. One afternoon, I went down to the creek after work, and drew a wild rose on the first page of my new sketchbook. Hundreds of pages and several volumes later, that love of sketching and writing lives on.


Later on Sunday’s hike, we approached a bench along the path and I remembered sitting in that same place, sketching with Molly Dog at my side. The Fowler Trail is an easy hike, and it was one of Molly’s first excursions after she lost her front leg to cancer. I recall being ecstatic as she happily galloped alongside me, and knowing that the tough choices we had to make in her treatment had allowed her to do the things she loved again.

Farther on the trail, we came upon the backside of the Bastille, a 600-foot rock formation. Over ten years ago, I had climbed every pitch of a long route on its north side as one of my first lead climbs (where I head up first and place all the gear to put the rope through to hold possible falls). Where I was now standing with Doug and Greg was the place I had descended from the top. I remember being utterly exhausted when I got down from that rock climb, but I also had a huge sense of accomplishment over doing something that was extremely challenging for me.
 

So what snippets from my life will be playing in my head when I am in Eldo at some future date? I imagine that I will be on an airy rock face, looking across the canyon at the Fowler Trail. From there, I’ll reminisce about the fun hike I had with loved ones. I will remember the beauty of exploring a new section of trail I had never been on before, and recall the strength I felt scrambling up the tiniest rock slab, feeling so alive again post-surgery. I will remember gazing longingly at the climbers on the rock faces across the canyon and knowing that I would be up there again someday.
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No Longer Separating the Strands

For a long time, I felt the only thing I should comment on in my art blog was drawing, painting and printmaking. It even felt strange to write about vacations, though these were often the inspiration for my wilderness-themed artwork so that seemed like an okay stretch. However, I am not very good at compartmentalizing my life into separate fragments. I view it more like a piece of fabric with everything intricately woven together. As I set out to start writing again post-Ulcerative Colitis (UC) and surgery, it feels very weird to hardly mention something that has been such a big part of my life lately, and to breeze through it in my last couple of posts in a sentence or two. After all, the whole experience has completely altered the lens through which I view life… and create art.

Though I had UC for years and managed to deal with it, this fall I finally saw it jeopardize the activities I am most passionate about and at the core of my life: outdoor adventure and art. I had never let the disease stop me from doing what I loved before. I often went climbing, skiing and hiking in the midst of flare-ups and just made do the best I could. Most of my friends and family didn’t even know I was sick. I was a master at covering it up. However it was on a 3-day backpack trip last September that I noticed my latest UC flare seemed to be entering a new level of severity. The last day of the trip we were going to take a fairly easy hike up a nearby peak. I, for the first time ever in my history with the disease, felt too ill to make the ascent. It really didn’t bother me at the time. I still had my other favorite thing to do: sketch. I sat on a boulder while Doug summited and recorded the landscape around camp in my journal, happy to be outside and immersed in the beauty of nature. That bliss was short-lived. As we hiked out to the car that afternoon, I started to really worry about how sick I was feeling and that this was not going to be my average UC flare. Ten days later, I was hospitalized for two weeks as my illness worsened and my health rapidly declined. I lost 25 pounds and could barely stand due to weakness. However, at that time my spirits remained fairly positive– at least I was still able do my art. I had Doug bring my watercolors to my hospital room so I could paint from some of my wilderness photos on the internet, but my supplies never made it out of my bag. I was just too tired to be creative.

Eventually I got out of the hospital and regained strength with the help of a powerful drug. I was so excited to have my energy back. However, that same drug gave me excruciating joint pain, and I soon found I could no longer walk very well or hold a pencil. I stopped the medication, but the pain lingered. I spent a lot of time those weeks crying, wondering if I would ever be able to hike or draw again. I realized that having surgery to remove my colon was the best chance I had at regaining my life. I counted down the days until my consultation with a surgeon, hoping that I would be a good candidate.

Fortunately I was. Now, at almost five months post-op, I am simply amazed at how good I feel. All the side effects of medications are gone, I am back to hiking and sketching, and best yet, am cured of UC. Every day I make a new discovery of how life is better after surgery. I am filled with immense gratitude… for the support of my friends and family, for my incredible surgeon and for the opportunity to get a second chance to live my dreams.

My selection of photos for today’s blog post may not have made sense before: a journal entry from my backpack trip last September, some sketches I did in the park across the street while I was at home healing and a close-up of carving lines on my block print that I worked on this morning. But today it seems to fit. Art, my love of the outdoors, my illness and recovery– it is all tightly woven together. And I am no longer attempting to separate the strands. Instead, I am going to take this new strong and beautiful fabric and create something amazing.

 



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Just Ducky

I have been so cooped up the past six months recovering from Ulcerative Colitis and having surgery, that I want to be outside constantly now that I am feeling amazing again. Monday I was really in the mood to do art, but it was gorgeous out and I didn’t want to stay in my studio indoors. Instead, I packed up my nature journaling supplies and headed to the Wheat Ridge Greenbelt hoping to sketch some of the waterfowl that frequents the park. Every winter, my bird I.D. skills get a little rusty, and sketching is the perfect way to refresh my memory. When I journal, I usually go out without an exact plan and just let my curiosity lead the way. I wasn’t five minutes down the trail when I caught a glimpse of a spectacular green-winged teal standing on a rock in the middle of Clear Creek. I say a glimpse because he flew off as soon as I pointed my binoculars in his direction. However, in the same area, I saw some American Wigeons and Northern Shovelers. I sat down to record them in my journal. As always, when I sketch in busy places, people love to stop and chat. Today was no exception– I got to hear all kinds of stories about birds people had seen and their nature adventures. It is pretty neat to be able to connect to people this way when creating art.

When I was done sketching at the creek, I headed east on the path and spotted a boardwalk going into some cattails in an area of the park I had never explored before. I knew something had to be hiding by the pond in that direction, and soon found some mallards along the shore. One male I was viewing couldn’t decide whether to stay in the water or on land which made for some frustrating sketching. I finally gave up and decided a portrait of his feet would have to do.

As the sun sank behind the foothills, I packed up. Before I returned to the car, I took a minute to enjoy the present moment. I closed my eyes, felt the last rays of sun warm my face, and listened to the calls of the birds in the cattails– content with my “Just Ducky” day.

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finally getting back to doing some art

I have not written in my blog for some time, but am finally getting back to doing some art and writing. It has been a rough six months. In August, my husband and I lost our 13.5-year-old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Molly (pictured below on one of our last trips together). Our little family unit had been pretty much inseparable for all these years–ever since she was only a couple of months old. From climbing 14ers to going on extended canoeing and backpacking trips, we had so many amazing adventures together. The grief we felt over losing her was huge.


Then in September, I became seriously ill after years of fighting ulcerative colitis, and had to put all my energy into getting better. Some of the drugs I took for my illness gave me horrendous joint pain, and I could barely hold a pen, let alone my linocut tools. The good news is that I am finally on the mend, off of all medications, and will be completely recovered and back to full health soon. (Knock on wood!)

Today I carved on a block for the first time since last summer, and I was in pure bliss to be doing what I love again. Every mark I made on my image of the spectacular San Juans also reminded me of how far I have come, and how I will be up in those mountains again soon.

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Birthday Campout



Some people like to go out to a fine restaurant for their birthday or get pampered at the spa. While those are certainly nice treats, I much prefer getting out for a good outdoor adventure. This year I spent my special day on an overnight camping trip. Finding a local campground that was open in April was a bit of a challenge, but fortunately with a little internet research, I discovered the Ansel Watrous site which sits in the spectacular Poudre Canyon just outside of Fort Collins. The pasque flowers blooming in our campsite reminded me how early in the season this camping trip really was, but I couldn’t tell by the weather. It was a gorgeous 70 degrees and sunny. The relaxing pace of the trip made it the perfect opportunity to get out my journal and do some sketching. When nighttime came and writer’s cramp set in, I put down my pens and enjoyed a special roasted-marshmallow birthday treat.

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