Painting in the Mountains

July 19, 2010

I returned home Saturday from a week in Colorado, which of course included many opportunities for painting.  We stayed at Snow Mountain Ranch Y Camp near Winter Park in a reunion cabin with 21 family members.  We do this every three years and this is our fourth time.  From the beginning I have told everyone that in the mornings I will be painting.  Staying among such beautiful scenery it would be too frustrating not to.

Pine beetles have killed some of the trees.  The dead ones are being cut down which has left more meadow land for wild flowers.  What I like about painting at the Y Camp is that I feel quite safe painting alone.  Because I’m not with a group, I’m not rushed and can come back to the same spot the next day, weather permitting, to work on the same painting. 

Many people enjoy the Y Camp, so I attracted a number of spectators as I painted near the road.  It is interesting to hear cars slow down as they go by to see what I’m doing.  Hikers also pass and take a longer look.  People are not only complimentary about the painting, but also often wistfully express the  wish that they had the talent to do what I am doing.

I wish they understood that talent is not what they think it is.  It isn’t a form of magic.  It is a compulsion to do this, coupled with the willingness to spend the time and money learning the basics, and then practicing, practicing, practicing. 

Sometimes people do more than wish they could paint and sign up for a painting class at a senior center or Parks and Rec, because these classes are fairly inexpensive.  Then they get discouraged because they can’t produce something they would want to hang on their wall or give to a relative.  The reason is that they haven’t started at the beginning with classes in basic design and drawing.  Art centers often offer these classes and some colleges allow non art majors to take basic classes.  You may find yourself drawing comes, cylinders and blocks with a light shining on them or drawing telephone poles receeding to a vanishing point on the horizon.  Trust me, it is worth doing.

Once you have learned the basics you can then sign up for painting classes and continue to practice on your own.  At this point, subscribing to art magazines is also helpful.  Some of the articles will tell you what colors the artist used and show the various steps in completing a painting.  I subscribe to The Artist and American Artist.  There are also speciality magainzes for those who use watercolor or pastels.

When my kids were young, I sometimes felt it was foolish to try to find the time to paint because I wasn’t any good at it.  When we moved to a different house, youngest daughter insisted that there should be none of my paintings in the living room.  Her own house is now full of them.  What happened was that when my children grew up I had more time to paint and the paintings gradually got better.  So next time you watch an artist at work and wish that was you, think about what it would take to achieve that skill.

In the next couple of days I hope to add two of the paintings I did in Colorado to the American West page.

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