The Art of Winter

Winter Windfall by John Buxton

Winter hasn’t quite left us just yet. Some areas are still dealing with temps that would have to climb to get to freezing. Old man winter still has an icy cold grip on some parts of the country.

This morning , Thursday, March 10th, as I looked at the weather maps, I noticed some astounding temperatures in degrees Fahrenheit:

00° – Bismark – North Dakota

02° – Pierre – South Dakota

29° – Santa Fe, New Mexico

Los Angeles – 55°, New York – 40°, and Chicago – 32°. But whatever your local temperatures might be, if you are living in the Northern Hemisphere, you know that Winter is really on its last legs. It will punish some of you with more severe weather, but it definitely won’t last.

To celebrate that fact, I’m going to share some art that will show winter phasing itself out but with some remnants stills visible. Others are indeed wintry.

Speaking of which – our first painting (top left) is called Winter Windfall by John Buxton. It shows some woodland Indians who have discovered a broken cart and some supplies. Evidently, the cart couldn’t navigate the stream. Someone’s misfortune turned out to be someone else’s windfall. Just look at the details in the tree shadows and the ripples of the water in the stream bed. This painting was the Winner of the Patron’s Choice Award at the 2009 Quest for the West show at The Eitleljorg Museum in Indianapolis. John Buxton lives in Pennsylvania, and this painting is from his historical vignettes series.

Next up is a series of four waiting individuals – a favorite theme by Martin Grelle. Someone is waiting and watching. As you can see, in all four of these, the trees are no longer carrying any meaningfull amounts of snow. There’s only an inch or so on the ground. You will also note the fact that all of the subjects are wrapped in a blanket.

With Wonder, She Waits (right) is one of my favorites. I love the red of her dress, and the detailed beaded amulets hanging from her belt. You can also note the wrappings containing her hair, and the disc shaped earring. Yes, that is a bow and arrow in the quiver she’s holding in her right hand. Perhaps she is hunting for today’s meal.

Cheyenne Wood Gatherer by Martin Grelle

In the remaining three from this set, we can see the similarities. Cheyenne Wood Gatherer is portraying the same model as With Wonder, She Waits. Same dress as well. The quiver has been replaced by some wood for tinder and a fire. Also note the additional beaded purse dangling on her right side.

Apsaroke Guardian by Martin Grelle


Apsaroke Guardian does not carry a quiver. Instead he has a rifle, but note that this rifle is wearing its own winter coat. He too is wearing earrings. And the two feathers in his hair are a nice touch. He has a regal bearing, and even though we cannot see any majestic mountain peaks behind him, we know they are there.

The Scarlet Robe by Martin Grelle

The Last of this set is called The Scarlet Robe. This time, there is less detail to see of the model’s clothing or ornamentation. But the deep rich color of the blanket is quite striking. I also like the way the light falls on the left side of her face.

Blackfeet War Robe by James Bama

Continuing the sole person theme is Blackfeet War Robe by an old favorite, James Bama. This is the third of fourth time that Mr. Bama has appeared on my pages – the first two were Thanksgiving articles. You can use the search function on the site to find those articles if you choose.

In this one, the warrior is wrapped in his robe, and the snow is still falling. He doesn’t look particularly happy, but that is part of the charm of this work. Though it is hard to see, his blanket, which is probably the hide of a bison, has some intricate design carved on its surface.

Small Comfort by Howard Terpning (below) has more visible snow than did the works by Martin Grelle. In this one, our solo person is trying to warm up a bit by the side of the meager fire he has started. His pony is quite shaggy, still wearing his winter coat.

If you’re thinking that such a small fire won’t last long, or provide much heat, and at best is a short term solution – you’d be right. That’s probably why Terpning has chosen to call this work Small Comfort, because that is all it is.

I also like the fact that you have to look a bit closely to see the fire. We know from the Indian’s posture and his outstretched hands that there is a fire, but it isn’t easy to discern. But that is part of why art is so great. When you look closely at this work , slowly, details that might not have been seen at first glance, emerge.

Small Comfort by Howard Terpning

The next three involve horsemen. Martin Grelle calls this one (below) Coldmaker Morning. I like the direct sunlight on the Indian brave’s face, as well as the two tepees in the background and the meager grasses in the foreground.

Cold Maker Morning by Martin Grelle

Our next selection is an action scene. It is called In the Land of the Winter Hawk. The artist is Frank McCarthy. The details in this one are so rich. Check the war-paint on the nearest horse. His rider wears Bison horns, and he seems to be looking our way.

In the Land of the Winter Hawk by Frank McCarthy

The far rider doesn’t look at us as he clings to his pony and his spear. But best of all is the sparse twigs growing between those rocks in the foreground. I wonder what they chasing or running from? Also take note that there appears to be only one set of horse tracks in the snow.  Why? Of course, when art makes you think – it is a good thing.

Winter Stillness by David Mann

The last one in this grouping is called Winter Stillness. The artist is David Mann. There’s a lot of color to be seen in this wintry work. The tanned buckskin with its fringe. The reds, whites, and blues of the blanket. The white of his beaded necklace. Note that he too wears earrings.  I think the reason this painting works so well is because of the bluish hues in the background, as well as the gnarled tree still standing after these many years, and yes, still wearing some snow which in this case seems ornamental. The horse waits for its next command. This is just a marvelous work.

The Helping Hand by John Buxton

In the next one called The Helping Hand, John Buxton portrays a frontiersman and an Indian brave. Together they’re working to retrieve something from the river. What might it be? That water must be plenty cold, and the amount of snow on the ground as well as the amount of clothing they each wear is a strong signal about the temperatures. I wonder if these two even have horses. The Indian has his rolled sleeping blanket on his back, and the hunter still carries his rifle. There’s our answer. What they are pulling from the stream is probably an animal he just shot.

The painting says a lot about teamwork, doesn’t it?

Stories of Winter by Martin Grelle

Our last painting is another by Martin Grelle. This one is called Stories of Winter. The three-man party are either discussing the best route to take, or are just talking about the wonders of nature to have created the arrestingly beautiful mountain scene in front of them. Or a two-man party has just crossed paths with a sole rider. Maybe he’s asking if the trading post is open? Maybe not. I like the three man party concept better. Obviously, I can’t say with certainty what they are discussing. But there’s no doubt that this is a majestic painting.

Details? Did you notice the small puff of cold-weather fogged breath coming from the speaker’s mouth? I only noticed it after I had inserted the image into the post.

We’ll bring this topic to a close with a haiku by Matsuo Basho and a last image which happens to be a classic photo. After all photography is an art and this image just happens to fit right into the mood of this article.

Winter Solitude–

in a world of one color

the sound of the wind

Pals by Rick Meoli

This photo is called Pals by photographer Rick Meoli. In this superb image, the cowboy and his horse look like they’re walking away and leaving winter behind them. One can only wish for the same for the rest of us!

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