Sunday, July 3, 2011

Colorado Trip 2011

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!

 Sliding down!

A young elk gives me the deer-in-the-headlights look.

Then he strikes a thoughtful pose.

Sunset over the Rockies.


  1. Your parents live in a gorgeous place. Your plein airs are all so nice. I especially love the one from your parent's porch. What a view! Beautiful colors and wonderful sense of space in your painting.

  2. Absolutely incredible. Scenery, paintings, all of it. Thanks for the post.

  3. your quick skethes are really nice. thank for the post

  4. Thank you so much for the nice comments. They are very encouraging.