Sunday, August 23, 2015

Telluride Plein Air Experience

I'm a month late with this, but it's been one hell of a busy month with the launch of our PleinAirStreaming adventure.

For the week of the Fourth of July, I was honored to have been juried into the 2015 Telluride Plein Air Festival. Kimberly and I packed up the gear and drove from Kansas City to Colorado for a week of painting and photography. The drive itself was a beautiful experience, and driving into Telluride for the first time is almost unbelievable. What other town sports a waterfall at the end of their main drag?
Telluride looking east.
We got up bright and early on Monday morning and headed all the way to the east end of the town where I started on my first painting of the Pandora Mill. We were there before the sun had cleared the mountains, and knowing the background would light up as time passed, I focused on blocking in the mill.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Within a couple of hours, the sun cleared the mountain and the mill was framed nicely by the landscape behind it.

One painting down, time to find the next subject.

We decided to take the gondola up the mountain and check out the view. The view of the town and surrounding area from atop the mountain is amazing, and I came to respect the effects of altitude for the first time in my life.
Telluride from above. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I started plein air painting two years ago, when a friend gave me a Julian French Easel. These are the classic plein air easels that have been around for over a century. It was a great gift, and without it, I might never have pursued plein air. French easels do have one major drawback - weight. We exited the gondola and made our way to a higher point, but by the time we got there, I was beat. Had to take a break and hydrate before I could get started. The French easel has since been retired, but that's another story.
Painting the St. Sophia Nature Center with my soon to be retired French easel.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I focused on the St. Sophia Nature Center framed in by the mountains beyond the town. The light changes fast on a day with this much cloud activity, so I found myself painting and repainting areas as the time passed.
"St. Sophia Nature Center" (oil on canvas, 12"x16").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The next day we had adjusted to the altitude enough that I finally hit my stride. We found a beautiful creek that flowed on the north side of the town. It was midday, but the light through the trees created a beautiful scene. This painting started coming together right away.
Painting Cornet Creek
"Cornet Creek" (oil on board, 12"x16").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Thursday morning was the quick draw, and I decided to focus on some poppies I found near the center of town. While we had two hours, this one came together in only an hour.
"Red Poppies" in progress
"Red Poppies" (oil on board, 9"x12").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Immediately following the quick draw, a live auction was held across from the Sheridan Opera House, and the Poppies painting sold.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The winning bidder. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
That evening was the awards ceremony, and every artist had to choose one painting to submit for judging by their peers. I chose the painting of Cornet Creek, and I'm proud to say my fellow artists awarded me 3rd place.
Artist Choice winners (left to right) - Patrick Saunders (3rd), Carl Bretzke (1st), John Lasater (2nd).
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The sale took place over the next three days, but I continued painting during the show.


"Wild Onions" (oil on canvas, 12"x16"). Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

"Mia" (oil on canvas, 9"x12").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
All in all, it was a great week. I even walked away with a commission based on my winning piece. I didn't have time to paint it during the show, so thankfully, Kimberly was willing to hike back up Cornet Creek and grab plenty of reference photos for me.
"Upper Cornet Creek" (oil on board, 12"x16").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
It wasn't just the opportunity to participate in the event that made the week memorable. The travel, landscape, and the wildlife - deer came by our window every day - all came together to make it a unique experience. We're looking forward to returning to Telluride in the future with the Airstream, of course! - Patrick Saunders
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

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