I write this latest update watching the glorious orange sun rise above the mountains in Steamboat to start the last day of an amazing week of painting. Ross, Buddy and I have been here for the week so that I could participate in the Steamboat Spring Plein Air Festival. As I mentioned in my last post, these events are a friendly competition amongst plein air painters. There are painters from all over the country competing in this event, and we are given certain parameters into which we must paint which mostly includes in this case, anywhere within 50 miles of Steamboat Springs. The event organizer was the Steamboart Art Museum and they put on such an amazing event that I plan to come back next year. The week for me began with a great visit with a friend who lives in Steamboat who spent a few hours driving me all around, showing me some of her favorite places that she thought I would enjoy painting. For those who haven’t been to Steamboat Springs, CO, the countryside is stunning and full of lots of ranches with glorious vistas and old barns. The ranch life and old west feel is very strong here. There wasn’t a day that I drove to a location to paint that I didn’t stop the car a few times to think about also painting the vista I saw. Unfortunately, a few of those locations didn’t have a wide enough pull out where I felt safe to stand for a few hours and paint. However, I took lots of photos of things to paint when in my studio.
The first day started with the official stamp in of the canvases so that the organizer sees that you are starting with a blank canvas, stamp it with their logo and send you off with lots of maps and a schedule of events. This was a “free” day to paint wherever we wanted. I decided to head to a glorious Aspen Grove off a hiking trail that my friend had shown me the day before. The trees were just starting to turn colors and the ferns were already a glorious reddish brown. I loved the contrast in colors and the dappled light in the tress. It was so peaceful to stand and paint there for a few hours with a babbling creek behind me and hikers going past. It was a pleasant surprise to hear so many of the locals say that they knew it was Plein Air Week. Little did I know that this event was so well publicized and anticipated by the local community. I went back to the Airstream where we were parked for the week in a beautiful state park, happy with my first painting. Always a good way to start off!
The second day of the competition was the quick draw at the farmers market area. These are always a little stressful because you are given 2 hours to paint and then a short time after that to frame the piece and have it up on an easel for sale. I got to the farmers market early to walk around and see if anything spoke to me. It felt too overwhelming, so I chose a more serene spot on a bridge overlooking the Yampa River which was within the boundaries of the area we could paint in. I decided to do an acrylic painting with my palette knife (instead of the more traditional brush) because I tend to paint faster and with more emotion in that style. Lots of people stopped by to watch me paint as well as a few local friends one of which helped document the event for me with some action shots.
I felt pretty content with my final painting, ran back to my car and framed it and hustled over to the location where the sale was to begin. I had no idea what to expect but WOW it was crazy. I set up my easel with my painting and price tag and BAM it was sold within minutes. I was beyond flattered! The response was overwhelming and to my surprise there were several others who were disappointed that they didn’t buy it first, so I handed out every business card I had. I floated back to the trailer on a high.
The third day was another “free” day to paint whatever we choose, so I drove out to another country road that my friend had shown me, and pulled over to paint a few barns that had a backdrop of the mountains with a hint of the colors changing. It was a hot and windy day which provided a few challenges, and was surrounded by the chorus of cows mooing. Nothing like really immersing yourself in the feel of the environment.
The forecast for the next few days was for a cold spell and the weather predictions were correct. We awoke the next morning to a dusting of snow. I set out with my down jacket and mittens to head to Yampa (a small town nearby) where we were provided a few locations to paint including some ranches on private land. I drove for about an hour trying to find the perfect location. With so many choices it was hard. I finally decided to paint a partly collapsing barn surrounded by trees. I loved the rustic textural feel, as well as the hidden colors in the wood as the sun hit the front side. I painted away and was joined by another artist, but after about two hours of standing in the freezing cold, with the wind blowing steadily, I looked at her and said I need to go sit it my car and get warm. Instead, she suggested we pack up and head back to the town of Yampa for a warm cup of coffee. What a brilliant idea that was! A few of us ended up in a local diner having a coffee and talking about art. It was a great way to get warm. I was able to finish off the painting back at our campground and was happy with the result and loved how whimsical that barn turned out.
The wind continued and I really wanted to get a second painting in that afternoon. So drove back to a location I had passed in my car on my way to Yampa, and sat in my car and painted a watercolor of the hay bails in a field. I don’t know what it is about hay bails, but I have always loved seeing them in the fields in fall. I certainly love watercolors for a lot of reasons, but the fact that I can do them while sitting in a car was an added perk for the day.
The following day the organizers had arranged for us to paint on another private ranch. Again there were so many options to paint….barns, cows, rusty old farm equipment, the Yampa River meandering along and many other vistas. I choose to go with a view of the Yampa River. The sun just sparkled on the water and with the babbling water sounds I couldn’t resist that location. I spent the next few hours painting a watercolor that I hoped captured the peaceful feel.
There were lots of other artists coming and going so it was fun to talk and see what else everyone was painting. A few of us sat around at lunch sharing art tips, thoughts and philosophical theories which made for a fun day.
Our next arranged location was at Alpine Mountain Ranch which is a new development with huge lots and expensive homes with impressive amenities. Again there were some many choices….barns, horses, lakes, and lots of views and trees changing colors. One of my new painting friends told me that she was heading to location where she had been told the Aspen trees were in all their splendor. I followed her up to the location where there were quite a few other painters. As soon as I walked around, I could see why. It was a magical location. I decided to paint with my acrylics and do another palette knife painting. I started off with a base coat of vibrant colors and let that dry. I then painted over that with my palette knife and allowed some of those colors to come through. I added the Aspen tree trunks last and was so happy with the result.
I headed back to the campground to start varnishing and framing all my completed paintings since I needed to have them completed for the final show. But first the organizers had another event/pre-sale arranged for us. There was a sunset happy hour/buffet back at the Alpine Mountain Ranch where we could put a painting up for sale. I chose my painting “I’m Still Standing” the whimsical barn that I painted in the cold. The event was a great mingling event with the other artists and art collectors. My painting sold to a lovely couple with a great sense of humor saying that the barn represented their future house after putting their grandkids through medical school.
After dropping off all the framed paintings (we were allowed to submit 5 paintings to the competition) to the museum, we had a relaxing and fun evening having a great dinner with my two friends and their husbands on their deck overlooking Steamboat. What a glorious way to end the week.
Friday was a beautiful day so I decided to head out and try and get one more painting in before our departure on Saturday. I put Buddy in the car and we headed up into the mountains where I could see lots of Aspen trees in their bright shimmering yellow. I spotted a nice pull out with a rustic farm fence and lots of trees in the background. I loved how my eye was pulled into the Aspen Grove by the fence line. It provided a great start to a painting which I hope to finish off in the studio when I get home.
Then it was time to head off to the Museum for the jury and the show. It was great to walk around and see the 200 paintings created by all my fellow artists. There was a variety of styles, subject matter and skill level. I did not win any awards, but I had a great response to my paintings and sold at least one. I left before the end of the show and the art will be hanging until Nov 6th if you are in the area stop by the Steamboat Art Museum.
Some of the take aways for me from the show and the feedback were: continue to paint both watercolors and acrylics. Don’t worry so much about trying to get into a gallery but use social media and email marketing more to sell what I want to create and not what a gallery wants me to create. Lastly, it seems that my palette style of painting acrylics with the vibrant colors seems to speak to a lot of people and is more unique. Since I enjoy the methodology, I think I will create a series in that style and see where that journey takes me. And now it is time to head home and get ready for a few busy weeks of Open Studios in Boulder. If you are in the area please feel free to come by my Open Studio Sale/Show on Oct 2,3, 16 &17, from 12-5. Feel free to message me for more information and the address if you do not have it already.