Wyoming Plein Air Trip – Days 12-14 Strada Easel Challenge

This past week, I had a wonderful time taking a Wyoming Plein Air Trip to the Med Bow Routt National Forest with friend and plein air painter, Andrea Gabel.

Day 12

We started our trip in Vedauwoo, Wyoming (pronounced vee-da-voo) where the aspens were beginning to turn, the rocks glowed, and the earth seemed lit from within.  Over the past 10 years, most of my time at Vedauwoo focused on rock climbing.  Now, I look at the landscape with the eyes of a painter.  One of the reasons I started to paint was to paint places like this.  My first several attempts were absolute failures.  This time, I had a breakthrough.

The day was perfect.  We setup in Central Vedauwoo and had hours to paint.  I chose “Holdout”, a north-facing rock face in the hopes that the light would be slow to change.  I was particularly drawn to the light hitting the edges of the rock and the tops of the trees.  And, I really liked that in contrast of the deep shadow to the golden foreground.

I picked a 12×16 panel, and although I ran out of time to finish the painting, it felt so good to paint large.  My main focus was studying the rock, the cracks, the shape and of course, the color.

"Holdout", 12x16, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“Holdout”, 12×16, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper

From Vedauwoo, we drove up to Centennial and the Snowy Range.  We set up camp at the Libby Campground and while Andrea painted, I got to work on drawing leaves and trees for an online drawing and painting trees course.

Day 13

The next morning, we set off for the Snow Range and Lake Marie.  Temperatures were only in the 50s and the wind was blowing (no surprise there).

Luckily, I knew a couple of places to seek shelter from the wind with great views.  Looking at the lake and mountain range, I can hardly believe that this scene was one of my first attempts at plein air painting.  Back in 2014, I carried up my pastel kit, a drawing board, and a large piece of Canson paper.  I set up with a view of the lake and mountain and attempted to put every nuance, angle and color change into an 18×24 painting.  I can laugh at it now, but I had no clue.

And, in some ways, little has changed.  I set up with a view of the lake and the mountain and quickly became enraptured by the angles, colors, and crevices in the rocks, the subtle color change in the water, and the reflections.

With only a short window of time, I placed as many of the elements as I could.  This is one I will definitely revisit this fall.  Perhaps I’ll start again.  Perhaps I’ll finish it.

"Lake Marie", 12x16, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“Lake Marie”, 12×16, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper

Of course, once we called it quits, the sun came pouring through the clouds!

Not ready to finish painting, we scouted out some other locations, then headed to lower elevations for some fall color.  We had spotted these trees near our campsite.  Just as we were about to set-up, it started to rain and hail.  Thankfully the storm quickly passed.

"Aspen Trio", 10x8, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper
“Aspen Trio”, 10×8, oil on canvas panel, © Nelia Harper

I’m guessing we had an hour before the wind picked up, and within another 10 minutes, the sky poured out!

Here is Andrea before it really came down.  I wish I’d caught a picture of the deluge!

Andrea Gabel - ready for anything!
Andrea Gabel – ready for anything!
Day 14

I think this is the fastest painting I have ever attempted.  After breaking down camp, we returned to Lewis Lake Trailhead for a morning of painting.  The day started out with a breeze and blue skies.  About an hour in, we had clouds and wind!

I knew the water would change quickly, so I attempted to get the base in as quickly as possible.  The shadow shapes were next.  Then, while the sun was shining, I piled on the color.  I wasn’t able to finish the trees and rocks, or fix the shapes, but it sure was a fun time!

"Lewis Lake TH", 12x12, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper
“Lewis Lake TH”, 12×12, oil on panel, © Nelia Harper

If you ever make it up to the Snowy Range, be sure to wear/bring warm clothes, hat, gloves, handwarmers, a raincoat, and a hat.  I think we used every item of clothing that we brought.  And, be ready for a quick change of weather.  At, 10,800 feet, the Snowy Range is exposed, high alpine territory.  It’s beautiful and stormy.

What do you think?

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