Ashley had a week-long training in Denver, a work-paid rental car and hotel room, and I had nothing pressing going on… so we spent a week in Denver! It was a great opportunity to explore a city without the pressures of finding parking and squeezing an RV around traffic and was generally relaxing.
Here’s the view from our 12th floor balcony, looking downtown.
For a few years now we’ve talked about having a family get-together of some sort. This year we went ahead and reserved a house in Savannah, Georgia. With a few month’s notice and everyone’s buy-in, the family gathering finally happened. It was certainly nice to get together without the event of a funeral or wedding.
Durango sits in a valley, created by the Animas River. So there are magnificent views of the mountains from almost every point in town. This particular view is part of my morning commute into town. I love how the shadows show off the definition of the ridges – but it has to be the right time of day. In the afternoon, everything is flooded by sunlight and is flattened out.
For this morning’s sketch, I sat in the park just a few feet further upstream from the rafting sketches.
Further down the Animas River from the bridge is a series of rapids that rafters and kayakers love to play in. I took an afternoon break and enjoyed a late lunch before sketching the beginning of the rapids. These are easily accessible from one of the many parks in town.
Trying to get better with my watercolors, so I experimented with adding some color to the sketch.
Of course, since I didn’t have to leave just yet, I didn’t. While sitting a few different rafts came down. I thought they’d be a fun challenge to capture in sketch.
Who knew there could be such a thing, right? Well, it was really a painless experience (just a cleaning) – especially since it wasn’t me that was visiting! Ashley had an appointment at the Smile Station and we had errands to run afterward so I passed my waiting time by sketching the front office.
Only a few miles up the road from Guadalupe Mountains is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Even though I spent a few hours exploring the cave, and no matter how fascinating, dramatic, and visually stimulating it may be, it’s a bit of a challenge to draw in the dark. Plus, as patient as my wife may be, she does have her limits at times.
Here’s a quick rendering of the Chandelier, one of the prominent stone features.
After leaving Big Bend it was time to hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park for a couple of days. It was evening by the time the RV was settled, so I only had time for a quick hike to a nearby spring and a bit of time to sketch out the Frijole Ranch house.
Of course, the first order of business the next morning was to hike up to Guadalupe Peak – not only the highest point in the park at 8751 feet, but also in all of Texas!
During a quick break I started sketching the true trail markers, rock cairnes. I need to add some background (a trail and second cairne) for context, but this is a good start.
Up on the peak, after eating lunch I pulled my sketchbook back out to capture the back side of the most famous landmark in the area, El Capitan. The pencil line in the background is the road circling off in the distance. I couldn’t quite decide what to do in the distance and will probably just end up erasing the pencil lines and letting the monolith stand on its own. Additionally, it was pretty hot and there was no shade or breeze for relief, so a quick sketch definitely won out over a watercolor option.
After leaving Brant’s I headed further west in Texas to visit Big Bend National Park. Even though it was hot (and I’m out of practice with the heat, so it felt pretty miserable) I explored the park for 4 days. Of course, I carried my trusty little moleskine pocket sketchbook everywhere. In addition, on bigger hiking days, I tucked a few sheets of watercolor paper into my daypack and a mini art kit.
On the first day in the park I hiked into the Santa Elena canyon. Tucked in the shade of the cliffs, sitting next to the Rio Grande river, it was nice and cool. I loved taking a few minutes to capture the scene. The cliffs on the right, across the river, are Mexico.
The next day included a hike up to Emory Peak, the highest point in the park. After reaching it and enjoying lunch, I pulled out my watercolors and tried to capture part of the scene before me.
It was hot and humid, so it didn’t take long for my watercolors to dry out. As they did, I pulled out my little sketchbook for this quick render. It’s a zoomed in view of a slightly different angle of the Chisos mountains.
After getting back from the mountains, I zipped around on my motorcycle for a bit more sketching and painting.
The bright buildings in Boquillas, Mexico, really stood out against the natural desert backdrop of the mountains.
I sketched out this fun tunnel that leads down into the Rio Grande Village campground, where we stayed during our visit. Later I’ll go back and add some watercolor to it. On one of the trips out of the valley the timing was perfect and the sunset was highlighted within the tunnel. Of course, that was heading the other way on the road. This direction gives layers of mountains to play with and a big sky above them.