Table of Contents
- About this Piece
- Colorado Alpine Stream
- Painting Outdoors
- What Inspired Me?
- It’s All About Illusion
- Studying Other Artists
- Quick Links
About this Piece
••• Purchased for Collection •••
Colorado Alpine Stream
This is an alpine stream scene from an area in Colorado known as Paradise Divide, near Crested Butte. There is a beautiful headwater alpine stream that runs through the narrow valley and eventually feeds into the Gunnison River. This alpine stream piece was done on site and is an ACEO collectible card. Read more about ACEO art by having a look at this piece when you’re done here. I explain about the genre there.
I’ve come to enjoy painting outdoors in nature. Alpine stream scenes like this offer a lot of different angles and viewpoints for setting up your equipment. Several paintings can be sketched out or even completed without having to move everything to another location via the car. At worst, you just have to walk a bit upstream or down to reconnoiter another good view. And let’s not forget the fishing license and light equipment for a little change-up in the day’s activity to take care of lunch or dinner back home.
What Inspired Me?
The motive for painting this painting was the depth of field provided by the distant mountain and conifers that are common alongside alpine streams like this. I also liked the somewhat shallow angle of the shoreline rock slabs and the coloration of the plant material growing on the varied surfaces. It was overcast that day and I conjured up a thin fog in the distance to add to the sense of depth. Little solutions to problems such as uninteresting overcast light can simply be overcome with artistic license and a little imagination.
It’s All About Illusion
Interestingly, I struggled for many years with the idea of utilizing artistic license in the creation of artworks. My professional career background was in design engineering which involved technical drawing and the communication of precision and specific dimensions. There was no artistic license. Whatever was on a drawing was precisely what was going to be made by someone or many someones. It had to be right, approved and free of error.
So the idea of tweaking an alpine stream landscape to improve its beauty or communicate a feeling or sense of place presented great conflict to my career training. It was a foreign concept for me. I wanted to capture every leaf and the precise shapes of mountain profiles and trees, exact color matches to what I thought I was seeing. Precision, precision, precision.
Frankly, difficult to do without tremendous patience and time. Not to mention how those restrictions I thought so necessary actually killed any chance of spontaneity and artistic expression. I was a frustrated soul trying to figure out how to create landscape art that I enjoyed creating! An alpine stream scene like this one was a perplexing undertaking for me back then.
Studying Other Artists
It wasn’t until many years ago, I saw a life-sized oil painting by John Singer Sargent at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, that everything clicked in my mind’s eye. Up close, abstract, bold brush strokes of color flooded the canvas. Seemingly making little sense as to why they were there. What purpose was held in that twisted stroke, that straight one, that clipped one? But I stepped back twenty feet and that painting turned into an almost photographic unified piece depicting the personhood and persona of Mr. George Washington Vanderbilt, the man who commissioned the building of the estate.
In another room, a portrait of Frederick Law Olmsted by Sargent described beautifully the lifelong commitment of Olmsted to creating beautiful, natural landscape spaces of worldwide renown. Again executed such that up close, little sense could explain the “why” of many of the brush strokes. But from twenty feet, Olmstead appeared to be emerging from the very landscape he had designed as though alive on the canvas. Several other portraits by Sargent were also there, Richard Morris Hunt the architect of the estate, and several of the Vanderbilt women. I studied them carefully in amazement to what they revealed to me about painting in general, regardless of subject.
From then on I realized painting was a loose process, not a tight and restricted one as in the technical and engineering drawings in which I was steeped. I was a free man! I began my journey toward enjoying the wonderful blessing of creating landscape art in the open air of the great outdoors.