By Zaylah Pearson-Good
Capturing the wild beauty of the San Luis Valley (SLV) is no easy task. A vast range of rich hues run across the sky from sunrise to sunset. The texture, vibrancy, and mood of the expansive Valley floor changes hastily with four distinct seasons. Full figured vegetation fills the landscape with color one moment, and leaves it empty and brittle the next. Water and snow come and go, as do many iconic resident and migratory species that utilize this arid, yet fertile oasis. For SLVEC, conveying the spectacular and dynamic natural beauty of the Valley was a top priority when creating our new logo.
Having first moved to the SLV when she was four years old, painter and environmentalist Rowan Lyford knew just the beauty that we were describing. Using her strong background in art and a love for her home landscape, Rowan worked with SLVEC to design the new logo. Digitally painted, the logo honors some of the Valley’s most iconic features: Native flora and fauna, vital waterways, the impressive Sangre de Cristo Range, the treasured Great Sand Dunes, a miraculous sunrise, and the flight of the sandhill crane. Keeping SLVEC’s mission in mind for promoting ecological balance, Rowan wonderfully incorporated all of these natural elements into not just a logo, but a piece of art. Learn about what each element signifies here.
Rowan’s personal connection to the San Luis Valley was instrumental in creating the final logo design. She reflects that spending her youth in Del Norte, Monte Vista, and later in Crestone greatly shaped her appreciation for the natural world and her desire to protect it. Hiking through the Sangre de Cristos with the Crestone Charter School, waking up to a sunrise at the Great Sand Dunes, and gazing at the expansive and wild Valley floor are experiences that rooted Rowan to the Valley as she drafted the logo. She notes, “I have never felt so connected to nature and to my own humanity as I do there.” Inspiring a feeling of “serenity” and “spaciousness” in anyone who comes across the logo was important for Rowan.
Creating the logo required both passion and technical skill. Rowan spent weeks sketching and reworking layouts, refining techniques for different design elements, testing out colors and textures, and learning to use Corel Painter, a digital painting software. Painting digitally with this software was a completely new experience for Rowan, but she knew that it would be the best medium for producing a high-resolution logo that could be easily reproduced. In just a few months, Rowan was able to easily combine SLVEC’s vision for the logo with her newly developed skill. SLVEC is proud to be represented by such a fine piece of artwork that speaks to the spirit of the Valley and our goal for protecting public lands, wild species, and natural resources.
Rowan’s creative talent extends far beyond the logo project with SLVEC. Since she was a young child she gravitated towards painting. This love and natural ability took her through a high school painting mentorship with Beatrice Burgoin, and later to complete an art degree at Colorado State University. Rowan paired her art degree with a minor in Global Environmental Sustainability so to expand her reach as an advocate for the natural world.
Many of her oil paintings are inspired by her love for nature and desire to protect it. Animals, water, pollution, plastic waste, political issues, and natural landscapes are all common topics explored in her paintings. She feels that her art can be used as a “political tool to instigate social change” and always strives to imbue her pieces with meaning. “It is so easy to ignore issues in the world,” Rowan explains, “but art makes you look at the world and its issues critically.” Art is also a way to make an ordinary, ugly, or chaotic topic, such as plastic waste pollution, inspiring, beautiful, and impactful. See artist statement below.
As a young artist, Rowan is still deciding where to take her artistic career. Long-term goals of opening up a gallery and participating in art shows across the nation are all on the table. Currently living in the Front Range, Rowan is working as a pre-school teacher. Her love for education has become evident from this work as she gets to design and teach art curriculum daily. This has resulted in a budding interest in pursuing art education in graduate school. There is no telling where Rowan’s creativity and skill will take her next. It is clear however, that her love for the earth and passion for her trade will continue to fill her work with beauty and purpose.
Read below to learn more about Rowan’s artistic mission and style. Follower her on Instagram @rowan_l_art, view her website rowanlyford.art, or shop at her store https://fineartamerica.com/profiles/rowanlyfordartshop/shop
ROWAN'S ARTIST STATEMENT:
My artwork is an exploration of the current state of our world; specifically the relationship between nature and humankind. My current body of work integrates the traditional painting style with a medium that is ever present in contemporary times: plastic. Almost everything we use is or has components that are plastic. Plastic takes centuries to biodegrade and has recently created concern for the mortality of many species. By incorporating plastic in my work, I want to surface the issue of our dependence on this unsustainable material.
Water is also prevalent in my work because while water is essential for human survival, issues of water scarcity and contamination are increasing globally. Through making artwork, I hope to shock my audience with a poetic expression of humanity’s contribution to exigent water and pollution issues. After the initial shock, I hope to create a space for my viewers to reflect on their own day-to-day choices. As an artist, my materials can be a powerful tool used to draw viewers out of a complacent state and instigate social change.
Science inspires my artmaking and my reference points come from the physical world, such as satellite images that document changes in a river over time. Through my process, I want to instigate deeper relationships between the viewer and the subject. For many of my works, this means adding a textural element -such as plastic- to engage the viewer's senses in an unexpected way. I build sculptural paintings by melting plastic onto a surface and utilizing my proficient skills with oil paint to create mesmerizing landscapes. The juxtaposition of these materials is meant to confuse my viewers' emotions; fluctuating between being mesmerized by the beauty and appalled by the toxicity of my work. The act of stretching/melting plastic onto a surface also represents what we are doing to our natural landscape. My process and materials are just as important to the context of my work as the subject matter.