Reliving an Adventure through Painting

A couple of weeks ago I blogged about my ski trip to the Opa’s Taylor hut in the backcountry near Aspen. I knew when I was on that trip that I would paint some of the amazing sights we witnessed while we were out exploring the backcountry. Since I blogged about the trip, I received many comments (both in person and on social media) about how gorgeous my photos were. I was a bit surprised, since they were all taken with my iphone! But it was great motivation to get a painting done as soon as I could.

So, I decided to take my favorite photo from that post and paint it:

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This photo was taken at the end of the first day, as we were settling into the hut, building a fire, making appetizers and drinks, and relaxing. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy 🙂

This will be my first time blogging about my painting process, so I’ll walk you through my set-up.

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I work in a corner of my office, which also doubles as one of our guest rooms. The room has East and South facing windows, so it’s nice and bright all day. During the day I find I don’t need any additional lighting, unless it’s really gloomy out. I like to work from photos, and I like the way a monitor illuminates photos so that they feel more real than a printed photograph. I also only have a very basic office printer which doesn’t print photos well, and I like to avoid wasting paper and ink. So I use my 8-year-old Dell laptop (which refuses to connect to the internet and is missing keys anyway) as my monitor for painting. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see smears of paint it has accumulated over the last couple years of using it in this manner.

I spread out my paints, brushes and palette on the table, get Pandora or a podcast going on my fancy-schmancy MacBook Pro (which is out of reach of any paint splatters, don’t worry!!), and I set to work.

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For this particular painting, I did do a quick sketch on the canvas in pencil before applying paint. Sometimes I do this, sometimes I don’t. Sometimes if the composition is simple, I jump right in with heavy layers of paint. Or sometimes I draw in an “underpainting” with a thin layer of paint, although I tend to do this more when I work with oils. Today I worked in acrylic.

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I usually start painting the background first and move forward to the foreground. So I started with the darker colors in the sky and kept building upon that.

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As you can see I don’t bother wearing real clothes for painting as I tend to be messy with my paints and can’t keep them off of anything. I also don’t wear my wedding rings as cleaning them is a pain. Check out the big ol’ hole in my left elbow – sexy!

Once I finished with the sky, I moved onto the mountains. I blocked in the purple color but left the detail for later.

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Sorry this one is a little blurry – I think I was getting a little excited as the painting started to come together! As I painted, I relived the memories from the weekend at the hut. As the sun set the night that the photo was taken, I felt a feeling of supreme contentment that I only feel after a big day of adventure. There is something about accomplishing a huge hike, ski or bike ride, and then spending the evening talking and laughing with friends (over copious amounts of good food and wine, of course!), that is just so satisfying. I love the tired, happy feeling of sitting in front of a wood stove and relaxing after a challenging yet fun day being outside.

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Next I filled in the snowy sections, which were also purplish like the mountains. I then painted the trees, as well as the roof and the floor of the deck that wraps around the hut:

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I like to flip my canvas upside down regularly. Sometimes this is to make sure the composition still works, but in this case, it was so I could easily paint the sharp edges of the roof, post and railing of the hut at all of the different angles. I can’t say I’m particularly good with straight edges (this is why I don’t usually paint architecture), so I’ll do anything I can do to make it a little easier!

Finally I went back to the mountains and filled in the detail, making up the rocks, cliffs and trees in the distance.

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And here is the finished painting! I am thrilled with how this one turned out. The process goes differently for just about every painting – sometimes things go very smoothly, sometimes I hit road blocks (artist’s block, I suppose), and other times I get frustrated with how a painting looks half way through and I want to quit (once in a while I do). But this was one of the times things just flowed; I never got hung up on any one element. It was a complete joy to paint from start to finish. Maybe it was because of the memories tied to the experience of the hut trip. Or maybe it was just dumb luck. Whichever it was, I loved, loved, loved painting this piece!

This painting is available for sale here on my website. If you have any questions or comments about this piece, my process, my hut trip, or anything else, please leave your comments below, or contact me! Thanks for reading!

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