Okay, I promised to post the Telluride work one painting at a time, with personal commentary, like a demented Rick Steves on an painting tear, but my lovely wife thinks it’s a bad idea. A very bad idea. And you know, she’s always right on these sorts of things, even when I don’t think so. It’s taken me a week to prep the images for this post and during that time I’ve come to see the wisdom of her words. Count yourself fortunate that I have, as I am well aware how I get wordy whenever the opportunity arises. My favorite subject is myself. (Ha!)
So, here are the paintings. Not all fourteen of them, since a couple didn’t photograph well and all the photoshopping in the world wasn’t going to improve them enough for public display. But here are the paintings I still like after being home a week.
You saw the alleyway painting already so here are the rest in what I remember as the order they were painted…
There are two amazing waterfalls at the end of the box canyon that surrounds Telluride, and one, Ingram Falls, can be seen from almost everywhere in town. The spot above is next to the campground upstream from the town. The rock walls in the distance are approximately 2K feet high so that little waterfall in the notch is in fact a roaring cataract when you get up close.
This is one of my favorite paintings from the week. It was about 6:15 in the morning when I started working and the location is about 20 miles out of T-Ride at the southern end of Trout Lake. The temperature in the first place I set up was around 34 or 35 degrees F. I had to abandon it because I was standing at the foot of a draw that funneled a stream of cold air down from the cliffs above. So I relocated to a place of 37 degrees and no wind. Wow, what an improvement! Balmy in comparison.
I like the way the shapes are simply expressed in this painting, and how I captured the light raking across the vertical cliffs. The light moved fast and changed by the minute. If I could knock out a painting like this one every time I set up I’d be a happy camper. As long as it could also be around 72 degrees as I work. Ha! The shapes were simply expressed because my hands transformed into lobster claws five minutes after I started painting. Trust me, in this situation detail was not an option
Later in the day I went up on top and tried to paint Mt. Wilson in a thunderstorm. (Mt. Wilson is famous for being the center peak in the Coors’ logo.) The storm blew from south to north and ultimately right over my head. Felt like I could reach up and grab a lightning bolt or two as they whizzed by. Gave up and ran for cover when it became too dangerous to remain standing under an umbrella. I took the free gondola back down to T-Ride and warmed up with a shot of Grappa in a cup of coffee.
The next morning I decided to go easier on myself and paint at a lower elevation. I found this sweet spot on Society Bend road. (I never found out why the road is called that.) When the sun peeked over the distant canyon walls it fired up the aspen leaves you see in the foreground. This has to be one of the most luminous works I have ever painted. The painting actually glows in the dark. As I worked on this painting I began to notice how often I reached for Hansa yellow and Dioxazine purple. I can only imagine what this view will look like after the aspen turn color in September.
These two cabins had caught my fancy as I drove back from Trout Lake the previous morning (gripping the steering wheel with my lobster claws, of course.). The cabin in front was for sale and I imagine it must have been listed at a cool million or two given the view of the lake in front. I didn’t paint the lake itself because I was so enamored by the log and chink construction, the weathering, and the tin-nailed roof that was bent and dented by years of snow. I could live in this cabin, say, during the summer, sweeping off the porch and cooking flapjacks on the wood stove, but not in the winter. There was no insulation in the walls and a lot of drafts. A million dollars worth of Brrrrrrrr!
Later that day the thunderstorms built up again and that turned out to be the schedule for the rest of the week. First, you got stunning morning light, then storms building after lunch. If you were lucky, you got a glorious sunset around 7:00 pm when the sun dropped below the clouds in the west. So, rather than make myself a lightning rod I decided to stay low and find some aspen and flowers in the Mt. Village area. Didn’t take long as they both were everywhere. I spend a lovely afternoon working on the painting above while rain drizzled lightly all around me. Ahhh, refreshing. No electricity. Didn’t mind the wet because I’d picked up a jumbo golf umbrella a couple of morning earlier from the hardware store and whenever it actually threatened to rain I’d hold it over my head with my left hand and paint with the right.
The San Miguel runs out of town towards the west. One night a friend and I decided to paint the sun as it set over this river. Seemed like a great idea until the clouds began to part. Not so great in practice because we ended up staring right at the sun. (“My eyes! My eyes!” . . .)
I am happy with the result but would like to give it another go next year. With sunglasses.
A little history here, folks. Telluride had the first commercial operating hydro-electrical generator built in America and it was the first town with electric street lights. The power plant was built to provide electricity to the mine and the town got some juice too. One problem though, Tesla was selling Direct Current (DC), and Edison was pushing Alternating Current (AC/DC) to the rest of America. AC won out because Edison had a particularly nasty way of demonstrating how dangerous Tesla’s DC system was. Edison would buy an old circus elephant and publicly electrocute it using DC. Kinda got the point across in a big sort of way. A PR campaign that went viral before the internet.
The main street in Telluride has a center lane for delivery trucks. It makes getting full bottles of beer into the main street bars easier, and the empty ones out just as convenient. And there is a lot of beer to move back and forth in Telluride. Especially on the weekend.
This was the last of my street scenes in T-Ride. Gives you some idea of how the box canyon defines the space. On Independence Day, at the end of the parade, four f-18 fighter jets flew in over our heads from Colorado Springs, coming in low just above main street and aiming straight for the back wall. They pulled straight up and over the lip as we yelled and screamed. The last jet came so close to the back wall you could see its shadow running up the face. ‘Merican fire-power on display.
And finally, here’s something that ain’t a paintin’, but a fine picture instead. This is Roudy, a man that represents Telluride in its wildest, free-spirited glory. (His name is pronounced ‘Rowdy’ for an obvious reason) Roudy is considered one of the last, if not the last of the Telluride Cowboys. Met him when I got lost up on the Grey Head plateau. He and his Roudy’s Riders are the last horsemen to ride in the Independence Day Parade, and until recently he’d finish up by riding his horse into the New Sheridan Bar for a hard drink and soft kiss from the barmaid, accompanied by much hootin’ and hollerin’ all ’round. But he doesn’t drink anymore. Gave it up for cleaner living. Roudy runs a ranch teaching young men and women how to ride a horse and run cattle. Inspiration guy if you are kinda rough and ready yourself. I hear if you can make it all the way to the end of his course, it makes you a cowboy too. If I get back to Telluride next year I want to paint his portrait next. On his horse. In the bar.
As Roudy likes to tell the folks who come to ride:
“I got gentle horses for gentle people,
Fast horses for fast people,
And for people who don’t like to ride,
I got horses that don’t like to be rode.”
Well, that’s it for Telluride. Time to move on. This week I’ll be judging the Hillsboro Plein Air Painting Out. Yiippee-Ti-Yae! I’ll post something about that next.