Saturday, June 29, 2013


If you've followed or read my blog in the last few years, you know that when I return from a trip, I like to post my "reflections." We returned last week from a 15-day, 5-state, 4,569-mile trip and I thought I'd share some of the highlights and results from our first road trip specifically planned to reach out to art galleries.


Hmm...You never know who you'll meet!
Planning the trip was a result of circumstances and events that all fell in place at just the right time. First, we took a big step in late April and bought (with the help of bank loan, of course) a new vehicle, a Ford Transit Connect. We had been looking at this particular van-like car (not really a van, nor car, nor SUV) for sometime since I needed something that could hold my large canvases. And, yes, it will not only hold up to a 4x5 foot canvas, but many of them! Within a week of getting the Transit, an artist friend e-mailed her friends that she had a time-share condo in Jackson Hole that she would not be able to use in June. David (my husband, partner and best friend) and I talked it over and decided the price was right; I checked my teaching calendar and his for conflicts; and within 10 minutes of reading the e-mail I was on the phone putting first dibs on the condo. 
Friend's condo in Jackson, WY
The base plan, that was pretty much put together in that 10-minute gap, was to load the Transit with as many paintings as we could and head north and northwest, visiting galleries there and back. Over the next few weeks, we expanded our timeline to a full two weeks, a week at Jackson Hole and the rest of the time on road back home, to make the most of the trip. Since just about all of this was new territory for me to visit and some of it was new for David as well (he grew up in Wyoming), we were looking forward to the trip to combine business with some sightseeing. Also, I had a client in West Texas who purchased one of my newest paintings before it had even been varnished after seeing it in my New Braunfels studio. I had planned to ship the 3x4 foot painting to her home in Odessa, but once we had the road trip planned I offered to deliver it instead, which worked out fine with her. The day before the trip, we packed the Transit with a total of 17 paintings ranging in size from 18x24 to 40x40, representing works from both my "meadows" and "bouquets-n-vases" series. 


Heading into Colorado from New Mexico in our Ford Transit!

So, with art and bags loaded and an ice chest on the back seat, we left our home in the Texas Hill Country early on the morning of Friday, June 7th, with a goal of making it to Santa Fe by evening, which we did. Since we were scheduled to be in northern Wyoming by Sunday, we resisted checking out Santa Fe for this leg of the trip and got back on the road Saturday morning, setting our sights on Vail, Colorado, for the next layover. 

Along the way we enjoyed the amazing scenery, driving through deserts, then mountains, and back into deserts, making a few stops along way but trying to stay focused on our destination. We did visit a lovely gallery in downtown Alamosa that might be an option for my work later this fall.

We made it to the Vail area that evening and booked a room in Avon, which is a few miles west of Vail. We even had time to check out a few galleries in Vail but kept our visits brief since we still needed to get to Jackson Hole to check into the condo before dark the next day. We decided to return  on our way back to Texas.

Enjoying the great outdoors, wildflowers and the Tetons!
Our friend's condo made for the perfect jumping off point to explore the area, including the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and more. But our focus for the first few days was on the galleries in Jackson. Almost three dozen art galleries are listed on the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce website (plus many others that are not listed so there's about 50 total), so we had our work cut out for us. 
For this and all of the towns we stopped in, we did as much advance research online as possible, trying to find a "good fit" for my work. However, there is only so much you can learn through websites and it really does take walking in, looking around and observing the staff and customer service to get a feel for any gallery. Our aim was to narrow down a list of galleries as possible candidates, while still looking for others that we have missed in our research. 

Ian McLennan, Grand Teton Gallery owner.
After visiting several galleries in Jackson Hole, we settled on about 3 as the best fits. Timing is everything, as they say, and one of those was ready to talk about taking on my work now, while the others were already set for the summer but expressed interest for later in the fall. We were delighted to accept an invitation from Grand Teton Gallery! Owner Ian McLennan and Katie Tufte, gallery manager, were both warm and inviting. Ian shared his story with David and I of how he brought his family over from Australia and opened the gallery about 3 years ago. He started out specializing in Western Art, like many of the other galleries in the area. However, he has been seeing more interest in contemporary work and decided to make a shift in that direction, making the timing perfect to add my colorful wildflowers to the gallery! I left seven of my paintings on consignment, two of which were on display in time for a special reception on Friday night for the launch of a slick new magazine for the area.  We enjoyed attending the reception, meeting guests and talking about my work with some potential collectors! Even though others galleries may ask us to join them later this year, we are committed and happy to call Grand Teton Gallery our exclusive agent for the Jackson area. They had their chance :-)

Although we spent the first three days in Jackson totally focused on gallery visits, we were able to "play" toward the end of our stay. My sister made plans to fly up for a few days to spend the weekend. Highlights include a tram ride to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, whose peak is at 10,927 feet, and a day spent driving through Yellowstone National Park, where we got to see Old Faithful shoot up in the air. Although I did the tram, my fear of heights kept me on the ground on our last morning there when my sister and David took a balloon ride at the foot of Tetons. I've seen the photos and they are spectacular! Maybe someday I'll get the courage to join them!
We took a tram to the peak of Rendezvous Mountain...and this is what we saw. Ahh-Mazing!!!


We checked out Sunday morning, dropped my sister at the airport and took one last stroll, for this visit, through downtown Jackson. Then it was back on the road, heading west into Idaho and then south to Park City, just east of Salt Lake City. 
At the beginning of the trip we had not yet made firm plans for how we would spend the week returning back to Texas other than making arrangements to be in Odessa by Friday night or Saturday morning at the end of the 2-week trip, before driving back home. However, by the time we were on the road after our week at Jackson, we had a plan to make the most of the time left and the miles between there and home. Next stop would be Park City, Utah, home of the Sundance Film Festival and another playground for the rich and famous. 
Not that I want to advertise for them, but I did find that using Expedia while on the road to book our next hotel a good way to go. However, I learned early on that it was much easier to book online rather than call (I tried but was unable to understand the woman on the other end of the line and she was not seeing the same price that I was seeing). Before leaving Jackson I was able to secure a nice room in a really nice hotel in Park City for two nights, giving us time to spend all of Monday checking out the town with plans to leave bright-n-early so we could stop over in Moab on Tuesday. 
Park City has one of the most charming downtown areas I've been in and I plan to return someday. And there are plenty of galleries! Most, however, seem to fall to one side or the other of my work: either much more traditional or western or much more contemporary or modern. I did find 2 or 3 galleries as potential fits and I plan to follow up.  
Just some of the many wonderful rock formations in Arches National Park.
Having done our homework, we knew that Moab would not have much for gallery options but we could not resist a visit and grab some lunch, and decided to make time for a drive through the Arches National Park, which offered awe-inspiring views of red-rock formations and other-worldly landscapes. Once we were back on the road, we set our sights on Vail, again. 


We scheduled two days for exploring galleries in beautiful Vail and the surrounding the area, from Beaver Creek to the west and Breckenridge to the east. In the course of visiting several galleries, we found at least three potential fits. None were ready to take on my work at this time but I feel strongly that I will be in at least one of them by this time next year. You can bet that I'll be following up and staying in touch!

There are several towns and communities near Vail, including Beaver Creek, shown here.

Lupines  are cousins of our Texas Bluebonnet!
Something I have not mentioned yet that I found very inspiring were the many, many fields of wildflowers we saw blooming in Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah and even in New Mexico. While our Spring is over, theirs was just peaking and I took great joy in seeing the patches of color, which helped to reinforce the fact that, yes, my wildflower art is a good fit for these galleries! They even have bluebonnets, which they call lupines.

We left the mountains of northern Colorado early Thursday morning, enroute to Southern New Mexico, with a room booked in Alamogordo, just outside of Cloudcroft. It had been a long trip and now it was mostly about sightseeing, getting to visit some new places, and delivering the painting to the Odessa client on the way home.

Again, having done some preliminary research, we knew that neither Alamogordo or Cloudcroft would offer much in gallery options for my work but we for some reason were both being drawn to the area. A friend and fellow artist had mentioned to me the previous week that Cloudcroft was place for me to check out.
We checked out of hotel in Alamogordo and headed up the mountain to check out Cloudcroft. Leaving the desert behind, it was had to believe that we were driving back into pine trees. Breathtaking views were waiting for us around every bend. The town itself, mostly located on a main drag only a few blocks long was charming. We had a great brunch of biscuits and gravy before heading out. Another place on our "must revisit" list!


Judy, Me and David at LongCoat Fine Art, Ruidoso, NM
Before arriving at Alamogordo, neither David or I had taken time to look into surrounding towns for gallery potential. When we checked into the hotel, I picked up a brochure listing galleries in the county. I went online, started doing some research and was very impressed with one gallery in particular. You can call it "gut feeling," but I just knew we had to stop over in Ruidoso on the way out of the area and visit this gallery.

Judy hanging "De-Lovely"
From the minute we walked into LongCoat Fine Art Gallery, David and I felt that my work would be a good fit. An introduction to the owners was followed by an interest in seeing not just some of the work we had with us, but my entire collection. The owners Judy and David, were an absolute joy to talk with. Turns out they are former Texans, having moved from Houston. The four of us hit it off and felt like old friends although we had just met. Soon, they were selecting paintings and Judy even began rearranging the gallery and hanging them before we left!

"Burst of Joy" in its new home in Odess!
As the day passed quickly and we'd be pushing it to make it to Odessa by nightfall, we booked a room for the night in odd little Roswell (another town I want to spend more time exploring when I get a chance). Saturday morning we headed for Odessa to make the delivery, where we were welcomed with open arms. David and I both took great pleasure in seeing how much joy my painting brought the new owner, who could not wait to see it hanging in its new home! We had lunch with this sweet lady, then it was back on the road for our home in Hill Country. 

This turned out to be a very long blog post, but it was a long trip! I really did try to hit only the highlights! There were many little side trips, interesting wildlife sightings,  cool coffee shops, inspiring art, tasty food, amazing landscapes, wonderful people and so much more along the way. Before I end this posting today, I do want to give a heartfelt thank you to my loving husband, who makes so much of this possible by being my partner in both business and in life.
Me and my sweetie!