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Monday, October 3, 2011

Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness Area Plein Air Painting

If someone ever asks you to backpack into the wilderness of Colorado to catch the last of the summer's wild flowers, eat freshly caught trout, and sleep under the stars...do it! For the past couple of years my husband, Robert, has been asking me to go. I have always been hesitant for numerous reasons (bears, mosquitoes, and the lack of flushing toilets, to name a few) but when he lured me with one of the amenities being incredible views for artists who enjoy plein air painting, I finally agreed that I had to try it. I could no longer ignore the beautiful photos that he and my son, Adam, took each time they went that were taken miles from the familiar and more accessible Colorado landscapes.
Since we did not set up camp until it was almost dark, I knew my opportunity to paint at our campsite would come first thing in the morning. After a delicious hot breakfast of oatmeal and tea, Robert set off to fish at the lake down below our campsite and I excitedly got out my acrylic paints, painter box and brushes to record this breathtaking view with the early morning light.

My little French easel was perfect for this adventure. It comes with leather straps and  has its own built in palette and space underneath to store small paintbrushes.

I settled in and began to paint quickly.


This mountain range before me was absolutely breathtaking. At that moment I knew that the five hour car ride, the additional two hour four wheel drive to the trail head of this remote area, and then the two hour hike to our campsite was all worth it.


I quickly painted in the shape of the mountains,


and then began working on the middle and foreground of trees, the lake and the the mountain side.
Once I had all of the major shapes and colors in, I relaxed and knew I had time to add some details.
I had only one direct encounter with the local wildlife. It was this brazen jay bird who decided that she would investigate what I was doing and examine all that I had. She landed on a tree stump nearby and then squawked and flew at me. I jumped up to get out of her way and she boldly flew down to my paint supplies. She picked up my painting towel and then dropped it, grabbed my extra painting panels one by one and threw them down, scattering them around, and then perched on the edge of my can of water I was using for the paints and looked at me. For the love! 
After that little painting break, I added some details: the snow on the mountains, the hint of yellow wildflowers on the mountain side and the rocks jutting out here and there.

Two exhilarating hours later it was time to pack up my paints and head back down the mountain. I felt satisfied and happy. 

This experience has changed my perspective. In my journeys to other parts of the world, planet earth has always seemed smaller. But when I traveled to this amazing place right here in my home state of Colorado, the world seemed like it had grown so much bigger.   
"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains..." Psalm 121:1

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.”
John Muir

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