Last week I returned from a vacation in Colorado. I visited with my family, ate lots of food, hiked, and found some time for plein air painting. On my first plein air outing, we pulled off along a highway in Rocky Mountain National Park, not far from the city of Estes Park. I painted this 6x8 canvas in about an hour, which is unusually fast for me. I started at 6 pm-ish, when the sunlight is starting to slant and become richer in color.
Sunny Rockies - 6x8
After packing away the first painting, I continued riding up the mountain highway until we reached a high look-out point. I had to hurry–the sun was sinking quickly! I painted the 5x7 shown below.
Lonely Peak - 5x7
A couple of days later, I painted another one from a roadside pull-off in Rocky Mountain National Park. Backlighting is my friend! Backlighting gives sharp definition to monochromatic vegetation, and backlit mountains have a soft, hazy look that increases the sense of distance. I need to put a little more blue in the sky. I was so intent on maintaining strong contrast between sky and mountains, I nearly wiped all the color out of the sky.
Evening Sun - 8x10
One day I painted mountains from my parents' house outside of Loveland. Below is a distant view painted from their back porch. The double-peaked mountain to the far right is Long's Peak, and the blurry, mostly unpainted town below is Loveland. Toward the end of this painting, I about had a heat stroke from the sun pouring through the windows of the back porch. It seems ironic for a Tennessee painter to get overheated painting a Colorado mountain scene…
I also painted a scene that was a little less rugged than the others. This is the garden behind my parents' house. I love the flower in the lower right; it has both lavender and blue petals on each flower. As I worked on this painting, it felt like a juggling act. There were so many elements to keep in the correct relationship with one another, especially as far as position and value.
Summer Garden - 8x10
That's it for the paintings. Now here are a few photos I shot during my explorations in Rocky Mountain National Park. (Unless I'm in it...then someone else took it!) Click any photo to enlarge.
A mallard drake preens himself at Crystal Lake.
Backlit aspens along the trail, which is starting to get snowy.
Snow formations over the lake.
A nice view!
The trail gets snowier...
...and soon there's no trail at all.
Just because the trail ends, doesn't mean the fun has to end!
A young elk gives me the deer-in-the-headlights look.
Then he strikes a thoughtful pose.
Sunset over the Rockies.