Sunday, October 27, 2019

Deep Snow - Beauty Beyond Comprehension

Deep Snow

On an early-autumn evening, another weather system entombed the valley in blizzard conditions. The precipitation poured down out of the dark sky in a waterfall of huge, white flakes that accumulated indiscriminately onto all exterior surfaces.

A torturous wind whipped down through the meadow, making the intolerable matters much worse. The temperatures crashed to well below freezing and crystallized the foothills into a frozen land of enchantment.

By the next morning, the Rocky Mountains were buried in deep snow while radiating beauty beyond comprehension. Overcast early, the normally rich-hued forest was pared down to black and white.

Ascending the mountain through knee-deep powder was a breath-taking, heart-pounding, sweat-breaking struggle. Upon reaching the summit, blue skies burst through the last remnants of soft cloud cover exposing the storms gorgeous aftermath.

Deep inside the woodland, unavoidable confusion was defined by a wintry mix of strong shadows and filtered sunlight. As the lodgepole pine shook free from their white robes, I got soaked by a cold shower.

From a secluded clearing on the steep hillside, an apparition of gray peaks began to reappear in the vast expanse. The most striking thing about being in the wilderness after a storm is the perfect stillness that exudes an eerie calm.

Going out on a day like that may seem crazy but if I’m going to create honest expressions of the local landscape with pencil and paper, I feel like I have to experience everything the mountains have to offer during the good weather and bad.

While appraising my artwork one day, my college art professor told me that in order to paint the mountains properly, you have to live in the mountains. I took his advice to heart and moved to Colorado, searching for a more personal way to express my passion for the American West.

I’ve lived in the mountains for 30 years now where I’m out in the field every single day no matter what because I want to better understand how snow drapes over the high summits, how rivers shape the lush meadows and how sunlight streams through the deep forests.

A frozen land

Buried in deep snow

Radiating beauty

Inside the woodland

The wilderness after a storm

Good weather and bad

A gorgeous aftermath

The foothills were crystalized

Strong shadows and filtered sunlight

An eerie calm

Blue skies burst through

The gray peaks reappear

Perfect stillness

A passion for the west

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Winter Storm Aubrey - Fall's First Snow

Elk Meadow and Bergen Peak

This year’s first snow was right on schedule as the Front Range Foothills were laid on the fringe of a freak winter storm named Aubrey. It was remarkable because of the precipitous temperature plunge that accompanied the autumnal weather event.

The arctic-cold air bottomed out at a breathtaking seven degrees Fahrenheit while heavy snow fell hard from a steel-gray sky. The flakes were more like icy pellets that piled up on the ground in drifts of gritty powder.

Fortunately, the wind was not a factor as a battle against the north breeze was something that never developed. Blurred edges were an eerie effect produced by the diffused light, exaggerating the atmospheric perspective so prevalent from the apex of a rugged ridgeline.

On the morning after, clear skies unveiled a vision of the countryside in its finest form. Most of the accumulation in the meadow had melted into the warm earth but the big peaks were still plastered with a frosty glaze.

The fleeting mirage was a rare phenomenon that only occurs in late fall when the orange fields, yellow trees, blue foothills and white summits combine to create a sublime kaleidoscope of fading color.

Within a few weeks, the woodland will be abandoned by most visitors but I enjoy spending time in the empty forest during the dark season. Winter in the deserted wilderness is a sanctuary for absorbing nature’s finest details while tramping in a solemn environment of peace and solitude.

First snow was on schedule

A remarkable temperature plunge

The flakes were like pellets

Arctic, cold air

Heavy snowfall

Blurred edges and diffused light

Drifts of powder

Clear skies unveiled a vision

Most of the snow in the meadow had melted

The big peaks had a frosty glaze

A fleeting mirage

A kaleidoscope of color

The wilderness is a sanctuary

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Riverbend Ponds - An Idyllic Locale

Riverbend Ponds in Fort Collins

Nestled below the northern Front Range, Riverbend Ponds is a natural area located on the outskirts of Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s absolutely beautiful this time of year because the surrounding forest is an artist’s palette of autumn colors.

The Poudre River and its nearby collection of crystal-clear ponds is a haven for the 200 different species of birds that pass through this wetlands paradise. Dirt pathways criss-cross between the different lakes offering the spectator a delightful perspective from almost anywhere in the park.

During a quick hike along the looping, main trail there are white pelicans, blue herons, snowy egrets, Canada geese and mallard ducks. The prettiest part of the marshy ecosystem is the razor-sharp reflections that decorate the water’s smooth surface.

The peaceful preserve is an idyllic locale where Longs Peak looms over the picturesque valley. A north wind, characterized by its cold bite, blows down from the big peaks carrying with it a premonition concerning a change in the mild weather - the coming of this fall’s first snow.

A palette of autumn colors

An idyllic locale

The Powder River

A wetlands paradise

Razor-sharp reflections

Fall's first snow is coming

Monday, October 7, 2019

River Landscape - Colored Pencil Drawing

"River Landscape" Colored Pencil

High in the northern mountains, a slow-moving storm has settled in a secluded river valley. Heavy, low-hanging clouds are beginning to consume the purple peaks and it won’t be long before the entire landscape is devoured by a snowy whiteout.

Down below the disappearing mountains, the dark woodland is a menacing border enclosing the billowy moraine. The meadow is a verdant field during the summer but here it’s gradually turning golden brown.

In an aggressive prelude to the drama that is about to unfold, the red willows are portrayed as separate sections of simplified form. The fallen grasses droop forlornly over the muddy riverbank, reinforcing the picture’s already melancholy mood.

You can feel the spirit of freedom in this wild country where the unpredictable elements are beyond your control. Some of the most spectacular scenes occur in the ethereal light characterized by bad weather conditions.

I admire the resiliency of the immoveable boulders that have been polished smooth by the powerful current of a mighty river. The glistening rocks somehow manage to survive even while trapped in the midst of troubled water.