The State of Nevada is about to celebrate its 150th birthday this October 31st, and being a native Nevadan, I decided to do some artwork to celebrate this occasion. Since I was born here and went to school here, I fondly remember always having Halloween Day off since it was Nevada Day too. They don’t do that anymore, now they stick the holiday next to a weekend. What a bore. It’s not even celebrated on the correct day. Anyway, I digress…. The point is when I was in high school, we did the parade in Carson City and when I was in elementary school, we did coloring activities that were supposed to educate us about the state’s history. I fondly remember being given a ditto copy – that weird purple inked stuff – of the seal of Nevada to color. I thought that was good fun.
You know what, it still is. This is the first of a small series of paintings I plan to do celebrating the history of Nevada. And apparently not too many years ago, they actually made an official colored version of the state seal, but to be honest, I don’t care for it much. Perhaps the photos I have seen online are not that good. Who knows. But I see Nevada’s landscape and coloring a bit different from that version. This is my way of reliving that creative fun as a child and making something to express how I see the region that I was born in and grew up in.
On this first version of the seal I didn’t want to step too far away from the original concept. Nevada is called the Silver State because of the amount of silver ore that was mined out of her during the 1800’s and basically bought the statehood for the region. On October 31, 1864 Nevada was made the 36th state of the union, and since that event happened during the American Civil War, it may have given the North the winning edge they required to win.
On this painting I decided to make it be displayable without a frame, so I selected the 1 inch thick canvas. It’s a round image on a square space. I could have purchased a round canvas, but those are hard to find and hard to frame. I also decided to make the extra space into something interesting by writing the reason for the subject matter on the side of this canvas. Then the choice of what to do around the seal was also important as well. On this one I selected a metallic sage color since sagebrush is so prominent in Nevada. It is designated the state flower – which seems odd because it is a shrub like plant.
The mountains on this version are more like the Sierra Nevada range that I am very familiar with in that blue green appearance from all the evergreen trees. If you live in Reno, Carson City, or Sparks, you will be familiar with this as well as the sparse contrast to the east where the mountains had been stripped of their timber by the gold/silver rush days of the Comstock Lode. So this silver ore made my decision to make the section of the seal with the lettering metallic silver in color was a “no-brainer” as well as the dark blue colors behind the 36 silver stars.
During my years of life on this earth, I have lived in many locations some of which have been in different locations in Nevada. Some of these locations made travel through the state on a regular basis a necessity, so I can honestly say that I have seen a good portion of the state’s landscape. The only area I have not seen or recall seeing is the northern-eastern portion. I say recall because my parents lived in Wells, Nevada for a few years, and they drove all the way to Reno to have me born in a proper hospital that could handle my medical needs as a baby. They left Wells shortly after I was born and returned to Reno, so technically I was in Wells, but I don’t recall it. I have been told that there were some interesting mountain ranges nearby that were fun to visit. So I have lived in Reno, Austin, Las Vegas, and Henderson. I have driven the complete stretch of highway 50 across the state many times, camped in the desert near Schurz, and attended a fencing tournament in the Black Rock Desert – no, not during Burning Man. Can’t image fencing in that heat. Whew!
So I can safely say I have a pretty good idea of what this state looks like….although Nevada can be like a puzzle with small hidden gems tucked away in the desolation. You have to do some hunting to find those really special places. I like to think that Virginia City is one of those special places. The small living ghost town is often what I think of when looking at the mining operation and the railroad aspects of the Nevada Seal. Sure other places had mines and railroads, but we associate what is close and familiar with us when observing art and symbolism. The plow and the bundled wheat have never made much sense to me although I do recall the region having a lot more cattle ranches and alpha fields when I was young. I suppose much longer ago that perhaps more farmers existed in this area. Drought and people moving from California has really changed the look of the western part of the state.
So much has change that I am contemplating doing a 3rd version of the seal with modern components within the seal. Not sure how that will go over. The second painting I am currently working on has a winter theme to it and I have changed the direction of the sunlight, and so far this second version is proving to be a challenge well worth the effort. This painting can be found for sale at the Buy Nevada First store in what I call the Reno “Old” Town Mall that is just across the way from the Atlantis Casino. This has been a good project and was well received by the people at the store, so I am hoping that someone will like it enough to make it a part of their everyday life.
G. Winkler (c) 2014