Bluffs over Durango

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.

Sketching and Hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains

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.

Art in Big Bend

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.

Simple Landscapes

While working on the cityscapes and sunset trees I also wanted to experiment with some simple landscapes. Though I might sketch some scenery while out and about, I definitely don’t paint them very often. It was fun to quickly create these two pieces, especially since they represent real places in Washington that I have fond memories of.

This is the watchtower on Mount Freemont in Mount Rainier National Park. Ashley and I hiked out there with Jackie and Mikel. This view was photographed in the rare few clear moments when we could see. It’s not a detailed “accurate” depiction of the scene, which I had to consciously be ok with. I can tend to focus on the details and struggle to achieve a loose, flowing style.Using the same basic palette I also tried to capture the feeling of our time spent at Lake Crescent. On one of our visits we stopped for an early morning coffee break to enjoy the view and lucked into perfectly still water. The mirrored mountains only magnified the beauty of the location.

Each of these is painted on 8×10″ cold-rolled watercolor paper with acrylic paints.