Hello my friends, and welcome to August Plein Air 365…
August was quite an eventful month filled with many new and wonderful experiences. August started with more colorful flowers, then I was off to Wyoming for an exciting painting adventure. This letter is a little longer and later than most, but I hope you enjoy it. My 14 day, 2800 mile excursion through the diverse and beautiful landscape for which the state of Wyoming is so well known, made painting quite fun and challenging.
As you may or may not know, I was accepted into the Wyoming Plein Air Painting Event. This was my first time entering a National Plein Air Competition, what an honor! And not only did I get accepted, but I also won 3rd place! I thought I would share some of the journey with in this months letter.
It started with a 10 hour drive from my home in Evergreen, CO, a quick check in at Link Gallery in Cheyenne, then off to the Grand Tetons. On my way to the northwest part of Wyoming, I couldn’t be more surprised to find how green and lush that area was. It was nothing like the prairie of Wyoming that I had come to know. This was a place filled with rivers, creeks and grassy green pastures with more horses than I’ve ever seen. I think for me, one of the best parts of my adventure was the driving for miles and not seeing another car for hours. I could just look and admire all the great places to paint. I literally drove 180 miles and saw only 2 cars, this to me was pure bliss.
After a 10 hour drive, I made it to the Grand Tetons just as the sun was setting. What a truly beautiful area this is. If you have not seen the Tetons, I would put in on your list for next summer’s vacation destination.
I spent three days camping and painting the spectacular mountain ranges, rivers and lakes. It was on the third day of painting when I was along the river getting ready to paint the Tetons along with the river, when suddenly, my legs began to move back and forth. It thought it my have been the river bank shifting. I have had this happen to me before, so I quickly moved up to the solid road, just in case the edge slid into the river which was quite deep and very fast moving. After a few tense moments, I walked down the embankment to my easel to finish painting. The next day came and I found myself at Ol’ Faithful. I thought this would be a great challenge for me to try and capture Ol’ Faithful as it erupts, pure Alla Prima. As I was setting up, a gentleman (approx. the third person) approached and asked if I knew when the geyser will go off. As an official tour guide of Yellowstone Park, I said, “The brochure says anywhere from every 40-140 minutes. He then somehow knew I was a geologist and asked if the earthquake yesterday would affect when Ol’ Faithful would erupt. In my official state park voice, I replied, “No way, there was an earthquake!!! Where was it located?” The gentleman was now looking at me as if I’m the crazy one and said it was just outside of the Desman entrance area. “No way,” I said, “I thought the ground along the river moved a little stranger than a shifting river bank. It scared the heck out of me and yet at the same time, I thought that was pretty cool. So with that conversation, I found out that I had been in my first earthquake and even stranger that is was at the Tetons. I must say that it was quite the moving experience.
As I finished painting Ol’ Faithful erupting, I couldn’t help but think about the day before with the earthquake and watching Ol’ Faithful erupt, how deadly but beautiful, this part of the country is. After Yellowstone, I was off to visit my aunt and uncle in Gillette, WY, but not before stopping to paint the buffalo. Actually, it was one out of the herd of about 150-200 head of buffalo crossing the road. Which reminds me of a joke: “Why did the buffalo cross the road? To get his portrait painted!” I had a bull graze in front of me, just long enough to get a painting of him. We were about 8 feet from each other with just the canvas between us. What a great experience of mutual comfort that was.
After the buffalo and I went our separate ways, I headed east for a 7 hour drive that started around 8pm. About 3 hours into it, I hit a huge rain storm. I was driving along this steep mountainside. With limited vision, I could tell it was steep by the switchbacks and the limited view that the few bolts of lightning provided. Out of nowhere, going full speed, a herd of elk came running down the hillside at me in my ‘87 Toyota Van. As they came at me, I looked at one and realized that he is bigger than the van. If he hit me, let alone the whole herd, the van and I would not survive the impact, or with no guard rails, a roll down the mountainside. As I swerved to miss one, I look up at another elk, square in the eye. I decide to go for the gap between the group, and guess where he decides to go… the same gap! I hit the brakes, only to hear and feel the entire contents of the back of the van as it all came flying forward. The cooler, clothes, bedding and food are everywhere. Quickly I hit the gas and miss the rest of the herd crossing the road. A few more quick moves and it’s over. I looked over my shoulder and it looks like somebody used my van as a clothes dryer. There was stuff everywhere. This is when I must mention that I had all my paintings, 7 of them from the last three days, back there somewhere buried. I thought to myself that after the rain stops, I will stop and check out the damage. It was about that moment, that a herd of deer, yes you read it correctly, a herd of deer came flying down the mountainside at me. I quickly turned to the left, missed a handful of deer, then to the right and missed a few more. I couldn’t believe, two herds in one night, in the rain, crazy… Once again, I looked in the back and somehow it looked worse than before. All I could think of was how all those paintings must be ruined now. My thought was that there was nothing I can do now, it is still raining and there is nowhere to stop. After about an hour of driving, I came into a small town with a few really neat old homes and a shred of light illuminating the road. The rain had finally slowed down to a drizzle and I was just starting to get the feeling back into my hands after driving with a death grip since the elk and deer incidence. When out of nowhere this very large cat jumps across the road in front of me. I once again hit the brakes and once again everything in the back shifts around and I think, “For sure there was no hope for the paintings now buried under a mound of stuff!” Then it occurs to me, that was a big cat! I mean a really big cat! …and it had no tail…” hey, that was a bobcat!” I said out loud. Looking back in hope of getting one more glimpse of it. But what I should have done was to focus on the road ahead and not on the bobcat, because just as my gaze went from the side mirror forward, an owl decided that I needed just a little more excitement for the night and flew into my front window!
As I once again hit the brakes, all I could see were feathers flapping in my face. Just as fast as he was there, he was gone. Miraculously, nothing happened to him and I could see him looking down at me from the top of the tree by the road, as though this was a normal thing. This time I did not gaze at him in the side mirror as I went down the road, but instead kept my white knuckle grip on the wheel and scanned for the next attack. Well 4 hours and 3 towns later, I finally made it to Gillette around 5am, with no other incidences to mention. Being exhausted, I decided to wait until morning to check the damage to the paintings, and tried to get some sleep.
The next day (three hours later), I woke to find after removing the clothes, food and cooler, that to my surprise, the damage to the paintings was very minimum. After a few repairs, it was off to paint Devil’s tower! What an awesome place this is. I had a great time painting there. Soon, it was time to clean up and visit my aunt and uncle as well as my wife, daughter and son who came to visit. It felt great to finally have a real shower and a nice bed to sleep in. After a two day visit, it was time to head to Cheyenne for a week of painting in town.
After arriving in Cheyenne, I prepared for a week of special painting locations and events arranged by gallery owners and sponsors Rebecca and Mike of Link Gallery as well as Harry Desimal of Desimal Gallery. It started with a chance to paint at the original Railroad Round House a the Cheyenne Train Depot. What an opportunity! Not many people get this view unless you work there. I quickly jumped on the chance to paint there, followed by a wonderful dinner at the Governor’s mansion with the pleasure of meeting the governor and his lovely wife. Then it was back to painting… the week ended with a quick draw painting competition. My painting was auctioned off, I felt quite fortunate.
Later that day came the opening of the show, and the big moment with the awarding of the prizes. I did 17 paintings in two weeks, and I could only submit 3 for the competition. I was quite nervous about my choices, but to my surprise, the juror Mr. John Encinias, a fantastic plein air painter, awarded me with a 3rd place in this national competition. I couldn’t have been more pleased or excited!
After 2800 miles and a few close calls with mother nature and two weeks worth of painting, I came home with a great appreciation for Wyoming and a third place award to boot! What a great time!
So back to Evergreen, to prepare for the Golden Triangle plein air competition as well as our 6th annual Open Door Studio weekend. I displayed last year’s 365 paintings as well as showed a quick glimpse of this year’s paintings. What a show! Next year will be even bigger and better. Thanks to all of you for your support and appreciation throughout the year.
Well my friends, that is about all for August. I hope you enjoyed my long typed out adventure of my journey. I was quite excited to share this adventure with you… until next month, remember: May love fill your heart and art fill your life.
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