Boulder, Colorado Art

Springtime at Sanitas

Ross and I have stayed in place the last few months which has allowed me to focus a bit on my art and work on a series that I have called “My Dog Walk Series”.  These painting are all inspired by hikes that I have done while out on the trails with our dog Buddy.  Where it seemed appropriate, I have been putting Buddy in the paintings, so make sure you look for a glimpse of him periodically.  All of these paintings have been watercolor which has really brought back my love for this medium.  I initially started painting in watercolors back in the 1990’s and eventually added in acrylic paints to explore a bit more of the abstract side of art. 

Watercolors require a bit more planning than other mediums since they are generally painted from light colors to dark colors and to make substantial changes is a bit more difficult.  In some circumstances I have used Gouache medium (which is like a cross between watercolor and acrylic) so that I can add a lighter color over a darker color. 

Peaceful Wonderland Lake

What I like most about watercolors is how colors interact with each other when they are wet and the sometimes unexpected result that occurs when the wet paint bleeds into the other colors.  Frequently a beautiful unexpected surprise will surface after the paint dries.

Fall Grasses

Another benefit of using watercolors is the subtlety and softness of color.  I am able to control the vibrancy of color by adjusting the amount of water added.  Softening the color provides great depth perception in a painting.

Glowing Morning

Compositionally I have really liked how the hiking path helps the viewer draw their eye farther back into the painting.

If you live locally, I invite you to come see these newest paintings as well as some of previous work on November 15th from 4-7pm and November 16th from 1-5pm at 2490 Grape Ave, Boulder CO (or by appointment).  

Until the next time……Keep seeing the beauty in all things!

St. Vrain State Park

September 5-8

The last few days have been a bit of a staycation since we wanted to get away but Ross also needed to work.  So it gave us an opportunity to camp at a local state park about 40 minutes from home. It is amazing how just a quick trip away from our home makes both of us a bit calmer and appreciate the simpler things in life.  We are continuously amazed at how simple and easy our life is in such a small comfortable space.  We don’t really need much more than this.

Buddy and Ross enjoying their morning snooze.

Our first day at St. Vrain State Park was a really hot one.  So we quickly set up and got the air conditioner running.  It was the first time that we had both A/C units running and it was needed.  It was 98 degrees outside but soon was comfortable on the inside.  Ross had some appointments that he needed to go to in the afternoon, so Buddy and I spent the afternoon reading, catching up on emails and phone calls.  Fortunately some cloud cover and rain showers came in and things cooled down slightly in the afternoon. When Ross returned, we all went out for a walk around one of the many lakes.  The views were beautiful with the light reflecting on the lakes, amazing abundance of bird watching and views of the mountains to the west.

Because we were only about 15 minutes to old town Longmont we met some friends for dinner and had a really nice night out.  But first we stopped at the local library (one of Ross’ favorite things to do…… and partially how we judge towns) to pick up a few DVDs to watch in the airstream.  After all this is glamping! Camping near civilization certainly changes the whole dynamics.

Ross needed to be at work early the next morning so Buddy and I got up and had a beautiful walk around Pelican Lake and a few other ponds.  It was beautiful but the mosquitos there were unbelievable.  Definitely one of the huge drawbacks of this campsites since mosquitos absolutely love me. 

I had intentions of painting outside but after being bitten a few times I realized that there was no way it was going to happen.  Instead I painted inside and made a birthday card for Ross of two of his favorite things and his preferred way to start his birthday (which was the next day).  I’m not one for doing a lot of still lives but I did enjoy painting the Croissant and  Coffee. 

Croissant and Coffee – a great way to start the day!

The next morning was our ritual birthday celebration for Ross.  We had hoped to play some golf as well, but we couldn’t get a morning tee time, and it was going to be another hot day so afternoon golf was not as appealing. 

Looking a little sleepy but very happy.

We decided to drive to Loveland to see the Benson Sculpture Garden.  I had heard about it for years but sadly had never been before.  What an amazing find!  Both of us were so impressed at the quality of work and the quantity as well. Each sculpture was place well in a beautiful garden setting.  This sculpture park is considered one of the most unique in the US and is well worth the visit.  We spent two hours walking through it and did not see everything.  It will be on the list of places to stop next time we are heading north out of town and need a break.  Here are a few of our favorites.

The afternoon was spent with a little bit of real estate work (yup I still need to pay the bills), and painting.  Ross read while I painted from a photo that I took the previous day.

Pelican Lake

That evening we barbequed and then watched our movies.  It was a pleasant and relaxing getaway.

The Airstream and ourselves will now be parked for a few months so I won’t be blogging about any exciting adventures, but I will try and periodically post paintings from our past trips and more. Enjoy the fall season and we hope to be back on the road in November.

Crested Butte and Black Canyon National Park

August 19-25 – Gunnison Area

This journey takes us to the Gunnison Area of Colorado which is in the Southwest region.  Ross and I have been to Crested Butte on several visits at various times of year and it never disappoints! We tried to get a camping spot in Crested Butte but everything was booked so instead we camped at the Blue Mesa Reservoir.  This area was halfway between Crested Butte and the Black Canyon National Park so we were able to explore both. 

Our first full day we drove into Crested Butte and did a beautiful hike right outside of town along the Slate River through a beautiful valley. We knew that we would be a little late for the peak wildflower season but we were still blessed with some fantastic colors and views. I should mention for those of you not familiar with Crested Butte, that this area is the Wildflower Capital of Colorado. In July there are fields of wildflowers of all colors that absolutely take your breath away. We were fortunate still to find some flowers and majestic views this late in the summer. There were so many spots along the way that I could have stopped to paint and will hopefully get back to or will just have to paint them at home in my studio. We drove around the center part of town and as always were in love the charm of the homes and main street.  Crested Butte is a special place that we would highly recommend visiting particularly in July during wildflower season or in September/October to see the fall color leaves of the aspen trees.  We haven’t skied Crested Butte yet but are thinking this winter it might just be on our list.

Our second day was spent at the Black Canyon National Park of Gunnison.  The main park area is fairly small and very limited on hiking due to the sheer cliff drop offs, so it is mostly a park that you drive through and walk out to various overlooks.  The views were incredible and the steepness of the canyon  amazing.  The canyon is about 2000 feet deep and in some sections only 40 feet wide.  There are striations in the black rock formed by molten that squeezed through the cracks and then hardened. The Gunnison River carved the canyon when it was free flowing but it is now dammed so it is lower and calmer.

One of my favorite viewing spots was ironically called Painted Rock because of the huge lines of molten that flowed through this rock face which is the steepest rock face in Colorado (2300 feet high). We had hoped to have an afternoon to sit and paint however it was extremely hot and there was absolutely no shade.  Buddy was struggling with heat as were we, so we headed back to our campsite.

A video to give you the sense of depth of the Canyon

The next few days we spent hiking in the morning on various trails in Crested Butte.  The flowers (even late in the season) , the forest of Aspen trees and the mountain views were spectacular. 

On one afternoon I started on a painting and was stopped suddenly due to an afternoon thunderstorm.  We went back to the same location the following day where I finished up the painting.  I forgot to pack my travel easel and umbrella but used the tailgate of the truck to step up my paints.

Plein Air Painting with what you have

I am not particularly  happy with the results but can always learn from each painting. If I painted it all over again I would frame the painting differently so that the upper section wasn’t divided so evenly into 3 sections and would have had more variation in the lighting.  I even experimented with cutting the painting into two (the benefit of working on watercolor paper) and I think I like the result better.  Let me know what you prefer.

Peanut Lake Painting
Cropped Part 1
Cropped Part 2

And of course, we can’t end this trip without mentioning our amazing traveling dog Buddy.  His present this time around was a stuffed lamb. He was thoroughly tuckered out by the end of five days of hiking and slept most of the way home with his two favorite things right by his nose.  Ah…..the life of a dog!

Steamboat Springs and Surrounds

July 16 – July 25, 2019

We departed Boulder and headed north through the Poudre Canyon which is absolutely beautiful. We had camped there in the past but forgot just how beautiful it was. With the high snow fall this year the river was flowing at full force.  We stopped along the way for a little break and commented that when we need a quick few days away this would be a great spot to come back to again.

Buddy and I enjoying a little break from the drive

We continued up the canyon to State Forest State Park since it was written up to have lots of hiking trails.  We camped there for two nights and did get to do a few hikes and a bike ride.  However, due to the Beetle Kill (a recent occurrence of beetles killing pine trees since our winters are not as cold as they used to be to kill off the beetles), there were lots of exposed areas where the trees had been cut down and therefore not making it the most appealing hiking.  We did see lots of deer and wildflowers so that was nice. 

We decided to move on to the Steamboat Springs area and spent one night at the Stage Coach campground on a beautiful lake.  It was a great setting and we appreciated having a lake to swim in since it was quite warm.  The following morning I went on a great bike ride around the lake on a beautiful trail with glorious wildflowers.  I would love to go back and do that ride again. 

Unfortunately that campground and all the others nearby Steamboat Springs were full for the weekend so Ross and I came up with plan B.  We decided to boondock (which means go off the grid and not have any water or electric hookups).  We recently purchased some portable solar panels which has allowed us to recharge our batteries with ease so that we don’t need electricity.  They are amazing and well worth every penny.  We stopped into a National Forest office and found that we could camp in the Bear River Corridor of the Flat Tops Wilderness area.  We found an amazing spot overlooking a lake, with aspen trees out our door and gorgeous snow lined mountains as the backdrop.  The vista was amazing.  That was the good news.  The bad news was that after we unhitched the camper and setup, we decided to drive back to Yampa to get a few supplies and check phone messages etc.  Somehow while in town, our hitch was stolen off of the back of the truck.  Ross noticed it just as we decided to sit out in our chairs to enjoy a glass of wine and the view. 

Our campsite for three nights and our new solar panels

Sadly, because our hitch was gone, and Ross and I were having bad visions of how we were going to get our beautiful trailer down this dirt road for 11 miles, the next day was spent heading into Steamboat Springs to buy another hitch.  Fortunately, we were able to secure a new hitch and spend a little quality time in town.  The late afternoon was spent with some fantastic relaxing time while I painted the view out our window (there were quite a few mosquitoes so it was preferable to be inside) and Ross played the guitar.  You can’t get much better than that.

Art Hour in the Airstream

Yampa Valley
Columbine Beauties

Early the next morning we went for a hike and were blown away by the wildflowers.  We had been to Crested Butte before for their Wildflower Festival and this came close.  There were fields of columbines, Indian paint brush, lupine and various other purple, white and yellow flowers (I’ll need to look up their names).  We hiked through huge forests of Aspens and both of us commented that we must return on a fall trip to see the changing colors. 

We packed up and headed back down the valley and to the North Side of Steamboat Springs to Steamboat Lake State Park.  It was a beautiful drive and the countryside in this area is beautiful. We had four nights there at the lake and we really settled in and enjoyed it.  There was a gorgeous path that followed the edge of the lake which we hiked and mountain biked.  Again we were so surprised by the beautiful fields of wildflowers.  We got out early in the morning to enjoy the outdoors and then spent the afternoon in the shade of the awning reading, playing guitar and painting.  The last two days we had some friends join us which was fantastic spending time with them doing some biking, stand-up paddle boarding and enjoying some nice dinners together.  Overall it was a fantastic trip away with so much beauty and color.

Last but not least….one of our new rituals is to buy Buddy a stuffed animal for the trip. Since we were in the Rabbits Ears Pass area it was only appropriate to buy him a rabbit. Until the next trip Buddy says goodbye.

Custer State Park – South Dakota

June 9 – 15

Our journey takes us to Wyoming and South Dakota.  This week long trip started as we headed North and spent a night at Glendo State Park in Wyoming.  Ross was looking for a halfway stop on our way to Custer State Park and so we ended up camping at Glendo which was a really nice surprise.  The campgrounds were fairly empty and on our evening walk we were treated to a beautiful sunset over Lake Glendo.  What was a really nice surprise was that there were lots of mountain biking trails of all different levels through out the park.  Ross and I are not technically mountain bikers but would like to do a bit more of it.  So it is on our list of places to return for short getaways.

We moved on to Custer State Park in South Dakota.  We weren’t sure what to expect but were told that it was great.  It is one of the largest State Parks in the US and feels like a National Park. It has a lot to offer.  It is reasonably close to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Memorial and has lots of wildlife and hiking and amazing rock formations.

After setting up the Airstream we decided to go for an afternoon hike.  Sadly, what we found were that the with hiking trail map was very inaccurate and the trails were not well marked or maintained.  So we ended up making our own trail the first evening.

On our second day in the morning we drove up to a beautiful lookout point to get our bearings.  We attempted to go for a hike but once again found it frustrating.  We drove to the trailhead, started our hike and got to an impassable (for us) river crossing.  So what was supposed to be a big hike turned into a short hike along the French Creek.  The weather was turning a little iffy so we decided to drive out to see The Crazy Horse Memorial (the world’s largest stone carving).  It is a massive undertaking and hard to imagine that it will ever be finished. The face of the Indian Chief has been completed but there is much much more to go and watching the video of them jack hammering the stone makes one realize how tedious this project is.  I can’t even imagine how they go about something of that scale.

From Crazy Horse we drove over to Mount Rushmore.  It is spectacular and something worth seeing.

After making the long drive and having dinner we took advantage of the long days and went for an evening hike.  Again, we were challenged to find the trailhead and felt that the hike was not well marked but beautiful.  We started off at lake level where the sun was out and the lake was still which made for a stunning view.  We climbed up to summit one of the hills nearby and had gorgeous views of the Needles (rock formations) in the park.  It was a prefect way to end the day.

Day three we decided to drive Iron Mountain Road which was written up as a must see. It is an amazing road with narrow tunnels blasted out of the rocks with views that focus your eyes on Mount Rushmore. 

With Buddy in tow we stopped along the way to do a hike but once again were stopped by a river crossing that seemed a bit too much for us. The hike was cut short and we continued the drive.  After passing by Mount Rushmore again we dropped down to Sylvan Lake and had a picnic lunch and a hike around that area.  Sylvan Lake was a beautiful area with rock formations but the area itself did seem to be a little bit too commercialized and busy for our liking.  Continuing on the drive down the Needles Highway was breathtaking.  Needle spire rock formations and more blasted out tunnels amazed us.

The Needles Highway

On our last full day at Custer State Park we did two amazing hikes.  The first was to the Catherdral Spires which are amazing granite rock formations that rise straight up and really are ethereal.  They are famous for rock climbing and we watched with awe as several people climbed these formations.  From there we continued on to the Devils Tower which climbed above the Catherdral Spires to the top of a granite rock that we needed to scramble/climb up which was challenging but exciting. These two hikes were both of our favorites from this trip.  If you get to Custer State Park we would highly recommend it.

Video from the Top of Devils Tower

After a trip back to the Airstream and a relaxing BBQ dinner we headed out at dusk on the Wildlife Loop Road.  This state park has one of the largest Bison heard in the US as well as lots of other wildlife.  The drive was beautiful and we did see a fair amount of wildlife including Bison, Pronghorns, White tailed deer and burros.  The highlight though was seeing a new born deer.  Neither of us have ever seen one this small that were guessing that it wa most likely just born since it could barely walk.  Unfortunately it moved into the high grasses near its mother before we could get a photo.

On the way back to Boulder we decided to stay at Guernsey State Park in Wyoming.  What we are finding is that the State Park campgrounds are amazing in their own right.  We have been so impressed that we bought a book on all the best state parks in the US and are hoping to incorporate those into our travels.  But back to Guernsey….we found a magical campspot on a spit of land overlooking the lake and had the spot to ourselves for the time that we were there. It was the first time that we set up our awning on the Airstream which was fantastic and gave us a beautiful outdoor living room to enjoy the view and be in the shade.  The day ended with a magical sunset.

One of my biggest challenges continues to be getting enough time to paint.  Each day I set out with all my supplies but with sightseeing, hiking and daily activities there never seems to be enough time.  Somehow I’m going to have to figure out how to squeeze more time out of the day.  I did paint two paintings, one of the Cathedral Spires and the other at Guernsey Lake.

The painting of Guernsey wasn’t too successful in my eyes but  the Cathedral Spires I think captures the feeling for the hike so here it is.

Watercolor of Cathedral Spires

Our next adventure will be in mid July….stay tuned.

Official Naming and Plein Air Painting

April 28-May 3

This post is not about any exotic trips but is all about painting and the naming of the trailer. 

Ross and I have been trying to figure out a good name for the Airstream and his new truck for the past few months.  We wanted names that are inspirational, loving, adventurous, and strong.  We have searched through lots of options including famous married couples, and artists etc.. After much consideration we decided the truck should be named Bob and the Airstream should be Josette (Jo for short).  Bob and Jo are my “French Parents” that I spent some time with when I lived in Italy, and they were good friends of my parents.  Ross was able to meet them on one of our trips to Europe and of course they loved each other.

Bob was a strong man who loved to travel, loved maps, and was extremely bright.  Josette (Jo)  is a beautiful painter who loves to travel, enthusiastic about learning and always growing intellectually and is a go getter.  According to the web Josette means: inspirational, and a powerful force to all whose lives they touch.  Bob and Josette also had a strong, beautiful loving relationship that could be a role model for all of us.  It is a perfect fit.

Springtime at the Golf Course (Painted in a sheltered area in high winds)
Wonderland Lake – Painted on a cold day and completed at home after the snow started to fall

After our quick trip to Australia I returned home just in time for the Boulder Plein Air Festival.  Although I was  painting in Boulder County and not traveling, this experience is going to be pivotal in my painting while traveling. From April 28-May 3, I was one of the 26 Juried Artist for this festival and needed to paint outside over the four days and complete 7 paintings, one of which was timed and needed to be completed in 2 hours. 

Playful Pearl St – painting completed in 2 hours…I’d love to add some people and trees.

This was a first for me in many ways.  I have never painted that many paintings in that short of a duration, and the weather that week in Boulder was crazy.  The first day was hot and windy. The next two days were literally freezing cold and went between rain and snow.  The last day was perfect 😊. That is spring time in the Rockies.

After a Spring Snow at Boulder Valley Ranch
Early Spring at Boulder Valley Ranch

What did I learn from this experience?  A lot!  First of all, I learned that I need to keep things simpler especially in the 2 hour painting (called a quick draw).  In the future I would also like to loosen up my style and become a bit more stylized.  I felt as if my paintings leaned more towards the “realistic” side and those who won the competition had a definitive style.  I don’t want my painting to be all about trying to win a competition, however I do want to continue growing and have felt for awhile that I could improve in that realm. 

Stormy Skies over Coot Lake

Next I learned a few things about setting up my easel in various conditions. In one instance I had my easel facing right into the sun.  I had a really hard time seeing the various paint colors and lost the contrast in colors.  I also learned that on windy days I should hang a weight from a bungy cord from the center of my easel to prevent it from blowing over.

Tranquility at Coot Lake (we finally had some sunshine)

Lastly, I learned that I should try a few different kinds of Plein Air Frames.  I forgot to mention that on top of having the 7 paintings completed, they also had to be framed for the exhibition.  I have been using a frame that I like but I learned of many others that I am going to look into. 

I have been leaning towards painting in Acrylics for the outdoors because I thought it would be easier to deal with in regards to framing since they do not need glass.  But what I learned from a few other water colorists is that there are options. Additionally I learned about a new watercolor board that I can paint on while outside (in lieu of having to tape my paper to a board.  So although I did not win any awards (however Ross thinks I was the best), I feel like I learned a lot and on the next go around will be much better prepared.  This experience reinforced why Plein Air Painting is so difficult but I am anxious to get back out there and experiment a bit more with some of my new thoughts.

Melbourne, Australia

Our latest journey had us Streaming via the air to Australia.  This was an unexpected journey for a sad occasion but we tried to make the best of it.

Our first few days were spent walking around Melbourne hitting some of our favorite spots.  The weather was absolutely beautiful and there is nothing like a long walk after a really long flight. Ross and I generally stay at the same hotel each time we visit so it feels a bit like a second home.  We choose that location because it is an easy tram ride into the Downtown area but also really close to some great walks and green spaces.  We started our days with walks around Albert Park Lake, The Tan, the Botanical Gardens and along the Yarra River.  It was really nice for me since on a few occasions I took advantage of that beauty and was able to paint some Plein Air paintings while Ross attended to some family duties.

Melbourne is a beautiful city with a lot of European flavor.  The markets are amazing and remind me so much of when I lived in Florence, Italy.  The specialty stores and the quality of food makes me want to eat my way though the markets.  The city is also filled with a lot of diversity and has many neighborhoods to reflect each culture.

As I mentioned our trip down under was for a sad reason.  Ross’ niece Lilly passed away.  She was a special girl who had some struggles.  I always felt a connection to her even from my first meeting of her many years ago. This water lily is painted to honor her life.

After the funeral and burial we were able to have a few nice days hiking at Pt. Nepean near Sorrento/Portsea where Ross’ family spent a lot of time as a child.  We go to that area every time that we visit since it is a beautiful spot. 

On our way back to Melbourne we were able to do a few new hikes including the Bush Rangers Bay track at Cape Schanck and the Kokoda Memorial track (also known as the 1000 steps track) .  The Bush Rangers Bay walk is a beautiful walk along the coast with magnificent views  and ends at an old lighthouse. 

The Kokoda Memorial track is a steep hike up 1000 stairs which is supposed to be a small replica of the climb that the Australian military made to stop the Japanese advance on Papua New Guinea in World War 2.

Needless to say we also spent a great deal of time with family.  It was nice to see everyone even though it was a sad occasion.

We are now back in Boulder and I am getting ready for the Boulder Plein Air Festival.  I will be one of the 26 juried artist and this will be my first time participating  in something like this. After I finish the week of Plein Air painting I will blog about the experience and share my thoughts.  Feel free to come and see me during the week at the paint outs or at the opening night exhibition.  The link to the event is:

https://www.boulderpleinairfest.com/

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