This year Southern Oregon experienced weeks and weeks of thick, oppressive smoke from wildfires. We often experience smoke in the summers because we are in a valley surrounded by vast forests. Thunderstorms in July usually spark wildfire and now, due to drier, hotter years along with decades of fire suppression creating more underbrush to burn and cause bigger, hotter fires we now have regular major conflagrations that burn hundreds of thousands of acres each year. Our part of Southern Oregon, the Rogue Valley is as it is called – a valley and high pressure weather systems trap the smoke in our cities causing us to have densely smoky gray days along with hundred degree temperatures. This will last for days usually and this year lasted WEEKS and WEEKS. I’m trying to find stats for how many days we had what the DEQ calls Unhealthy, Very Unhealthy and Hazardous, because we had A LOT. It’s truly brutal. Our time outdoors during this summer had to be majorly curtailed. Sore throats, headaches, malaise were the norm for residents. So, the Ashland Gallery Association (of which I am a board member) decided the cover issue for our Gallery Guide in 2019 would be a collage of art work around the theme of Fire and Smoke. We had other choices, but the board all felt a cathartic exploration of the topic was needed. In addition to the physical tribulation of the smoke, our local economy and by extension our local artists and galleries all depend on tourism in the summer. This year tourism was drastically reduced causing economic hit along with anxiety about the future economic prospects.
All that being said – my contribution is pretty upbeat. I don’t make dire illustrations but sometime I wish I did! I should try to depict the fuchsia sun during dense smoke sometime. I’ll probably get a chance next year! However, I have however always wanted to paint a campfire so the decision to use fire and smoke for the cover motivated me to finally do it. Here is my cheerful contribution to a very serious subject.
This first one had a pretty cute fire and nice representation of smoke, but I wanted to catch the glow in the ring so ……