|"The Sun Rises On Barney's Tree" (oil on panel, 16"x20"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.|
When we lived in Kansas City, we spent almost every waking moment with our two dogs, Barney and Betty. Every morning, rain or shine, snow or ice, we would head across Main Street and visit Penn Valley Park for our morning walks. As we headed up the hill toward the Pioneer Mother Statue, there was one tree that stood out. For me, it was the way the sunrise lit up its upper branches while the trunk still remained in the cool shadow cast by the Federal Reserve Building behind us. For Barney, that tree was his first stop every morning. He marked it every day.
|Betty at sunrise on the hill in Penn Valley Park|
I had always intended to paint this scene before we sold our home and left Kansas City, but then both Barney and Betty passed away a week apart from each other. They had lived long and happy lives, but age and disease caught up to them. Losing our constant companions of 15 years made it too painful to return to the areas of Penn Valley Park that we had shared together. Last year's plein air festival took place only a month after their passing, and I avoided our morning spot the entire time.
|Barney rolling in leaves at Penn Valley Park.|
This year, before we even arrived in Kansas City, I had committed myself to painting this spot. I knew what the light would be like. I knew the composition that I wanted. I didn't know how I would feel about the experience.
Thursday morning was cold for early May, but we rose before dawn and headed for the park. As we walked up the hill like we had so many times before, I remembered all the times the dogs had charged forward ahead of us. And there it was - the tree. The light was just beginning to touch its topmost branches, and I quickly set up.
|Two crazy dogs patrolling their dog park|
As I painted, everything around me brought back memories of the dogs running back and forth, tongues hanging out, sliding through snow in the winter, or rolling through leaves in the fall. This was our place. This scene holds memories for us all, and always will.