On many of our trips on US Route 89, Barbara and I have found ourselves camping and hiking near water. From Peña Blanca Lake near the Mexican border to the lakes of Glacier National Park, water in its many natural forms has been a part of our journey. So it was almost inevitable that water would be an inspiration for Barbara’s newest series of paintings.

It has been fascinating for me to watch as Barbara has created this series over the last eight years. The paintings are loosely based on snapshots taken by Barbara. The earliest ones are realistic depictions of lakes and streams and the vegetation growing along the banks. As the series progressed they became increasingly abstract, still recognizable as water but much more impressionistic. The surfaces of the paintings have grown in complexity as she builds up layers of paint mixed with various mediums. It is hard for me to describe the effect this has and the photographs of the paintings hardly do them justice. The gallery below is arranged in chonological order starting with paintings of Peña Blanca Lake in 2008 and progressing through the Virgin River in Zion National Park from our latest trip in 2014. The captions are Barbara’s descriptions of her paintings.

You can see photographs of more of the paintings in the Water Reflections gallery on Barbara’s website. Also, be sure to read her blog in which she writes about the process of creating her paintings.

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  • Reed Calligraphy-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Reed Calligraphy—18" x 24" acrylic on panel. I took a series of photographs while camping at Peña Blanca Lake, close to Tubac, Arizona. The abstract forms created by the reeds, the water and reflections were fascinating.
  • Morning Dawning-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Morning Dawning—12" x 12" acrylic on panel. Peña Blanca Lake, the stream running into it, in the early morning in February, on a camping trip. There were puddles with ice over them, and I only braved the chilly air because of the beautiful reflections.
  • Calligraphy on Peña Blanca Lake-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Calligraphy on Peña Blanca Lake—12" x 12" acrylic on panel. The wonderful reflections of reeds in the water, contrasted with the rough bark of the trees caught my eye. The challenge was in capturing the reflections, especially the shadows cast by the trees onto the water.
  • Pena Blanca Reflection IV-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Pena Blanca Reflection IV—12" x 12" acrylic on panel. Reflections on utterly still water, close to sunset, with the last light just hitting the tips of the grasses.
  • Summer Solitude-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Summer Solitude—18" x 38" acrylic on canvas. An almost primeval feeling struck me when I first saw this view of the lake at Palisades State Park. The strange white tree trunks sticking out of the water, the reflections and the islet of grasses were my inspiration.
  • A Still Point-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    A Still Point—36" x 42" acrylic on canvas. Dock scene from Pinnacle State Park. Tranquil moments before people get going and take the boats out for fishing.
  • Paradise on Butcher Lane-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Paradise on Butcher Lane—36" x 38" acrylic on canvas. This is a special place in the Verde Valley, in Northern Arizona. An oasis in the high desert, this pond was carefully cultivated and maintained by long time friends. It was always a special pleasure to leave the big city and sit beside the pond, watching the golden fish, and enjoying the beautiful water lilies and the peacefulness of this little paradise.
  • Drift-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Drift—12" x 12" acrylic on panel. A couple of fishermen drifting on 9 Mile Lake with the pink Utah desert mountains in the background and reflecting in the water. A peaceful scene, a reminder of how life can be if we just stop and drift for awhile.
  • Agua Caliente-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Agua Caleinte—24" x 24" acrylic on panel. Reflections at Agua Caliente Park in Tucson.
  • Water Abstraction-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Water Abstraction—24" x 56" acrylic on Canvas. This painting took me in new direction–more abstract with even more layers of color and texture
  • Harmony in Reed & Water-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Harmony in Reed & Water—30" x 30" acrylic on panel. Rough reeds contrast with the reflective water in this painting, dominated by a variety of blues, greens, gold and warm orange colors.
  • Passageway-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Passageway—24" x 24" acrylic on panel. I noticed the beautiful colors in the water as well as the contrast of texture between the boulders and the water. I also liked the idea of the contrast between the ephemeral water and the solid & timeless boulders.
  • Water Jazz-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Water Jazz—80" x 58" acrylic on canvas. A large 2-panel painting (assembled with bolts to create a single painting), water rushing over boulders creating foam and eddies swirling with color and light. Texture and movement are also important elements in this painting.
  • Water Juxtaposition-painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin
    Water Juxtaposition-60" x 48" acrylic on canvas. Ripples leading up to swirls of water create movement in this painting. Light coming from the left side adds a glow. Deep blues, lots of texture and complex surface give a sense of the kind of complexity inherent in the world around us. In water what you see now is not what you'll see even a few seconds later. I try to capture that second, while wrapping the seconds before and after into the painting—time passing.
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