Spring into Summer

Finisihing up teaching twelve weeks of watercolor classes this past spring and summer had me ready to unwind. And unwind I did. (More about teaching in my next post, where I’ll explore how a recent class of students were all highly motivated to crack the mysteries of watercolor painting.) In addition to teaching at a small local craft school in Vermont (Shelburne Craft School), I also work as a custom picture framer during the day, at ACMoore.

So lining up my week felt great. My son would water my tomato and pepper plants, feed the cat and tend the homestead. Leaving lush, green, cool Vermont in July was a first. It is pure bliss in the summer, as fleeting a moment as can be. And, speaking as a painter, if you like the vibe of the color green…. There is simply no better place to be.

I haven’t had a vacation in years, and this one, as it turned out, was going to be one for the history books! Albeit a short vacation, in one week, I visited with my beloved sister and boyfriend in Sandy, Utah, and went to a very special wedding in Meredith, Colorado, that was high up in the hills, where the Frying Pan River flows, and narrow dirt roads lead right up to the bluest skies a person can imagine. Yup, it was a Colorado Rocky Mountain High, and the wedding was filled with family and old friends. The ride from Utah to Colorado was stunning! I sketched in the front passenger seat, as my husband drove us in our painter’s studio on wheels, through the geologically-formed, panoramic eye candy, inciting me to work at a prestissimo pace, which explains the staccato strokes in several of the pieces.

One of the many rock formations that I saw driving east from SLC, Ut to Basalt, CO.
One of the many rock formations that I saw driving east from SLC, Ut to Basalt, CO.

I used Derwent watercolor pencils and graphite drawing pencils to sketch in a 6″ x 9″ moleskin type book. It allowed me to work fast as we whizzed down mostly straight and sometimes undulating highways at 80mph, the legal limit in that wide-open stretch of the country. The West grasps at your heart, with its expansive skies and textured spaces of tumbleweed, brush and wind-shaped trees. Billowy clouds, much like ones we have here in Vermont, hang over the rocky horizons, and reveal the sometimes complex dances of the winds aloft, as they create, sculpt and move the clouds in the way that winds will do. The scenery is so open and vast that it allows you time to capture shapes and forms, and commit them to paper, even as we moved at a quick pace.

I have been asked how I work so fast in a car, and the only way I can describe it is that I memorize the most dominant shape and quickly draw that. Then I establish the scale, and finish my foreground and background after that. It’s a bit formulaic, but it allows me to capture a lot of information in a short amount of time.  I now have several dozen drawings, which I will use as references, as I work on larger pieces this coming fall and winter, when the winds are blowing and snowing around my studio. These sketches will remind me, and will draw me back into, all the beauty that teems in that part of the world, as I attempt to reconstruct the most beautiful and compelling scenes that my eyes were blessed to see.

Here is a link to a short You Tube picture video I created on my IPhone along the way:


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