When I was visiting Maui one time, I discovered that some of the best views of the landscape and oceans beyond can be found on golf course properties (not because I’m a golfer, but… ah, it’s a long story). In Jasper the same goes for resort properties. Because we were traveling on a budget, Andrew and I opted to camp for the majority of our Jasper trip. No resorts for us! So one morning as we wandered looking for a new painting location, we took a quick spin through the private resort property of Tekarra Lodge. We found an incredible painting spot on their property and the front desk was nice enough to allow us to paint then and there.
A storm was passing in the distance and the sun broke through intermittently – as go the normal challenges of plein air painting. I opted to try and capture a broad view by lining up two 6″ x 8″ panels side-by-side – a diptych!
In this particular piece you can see the reddish-brown colour of the trees which have been devastated by the pine beetle infestation. It was extremely distressing to see and to also understand how much it increases the wildfire risk.
Of course having the opportunity to paint from the lodge grounds made me want to stay there so we could just walk out of our quaint cabin to see that view all day long – and to join other guests at the fire pit – and enjoy a glass of wine listening to the live band at the on-site restaurant… ah well, at least we had a chance to paint!
I often daydream about attending one of the very popular plein air events such as the Plein Air Convention which is run by Plein Air Magazine. The one in 2018 would be especially sweet because it will be in New Mexico – the light, the culture, the memories! However the cost is prohibitive. Therefore next year we will likely stay closer to home and keep our eyes out for a more local plein air event(s) to feed our need for both painting opportunities as well as art socializing.
Back to Jasper… our passes in hand, we headed up one morning to the stunning Mt. Edith Cavell and Angel Glacier. Our memories failed us this time because neither of us remembered that there was a rather steep 1km-ish hike to get to the best spot to view Angel Glacier. Normally this would be just fine but with the amount of painting equipment we choose to take with us, it was quite a slow-going trek! Determination to paint in front of the glacier pushed us on and once we were set up above and behind the place where most of the tourists would be standing to view the glacier, we were happier than we could ever be. More than once on the Jasper trip I said `There is no where I would rather be right now.` in my outside voice!
We spent 4 hours painting, smiling and chit-chatting with interested people, watching the chipmunks and listening to the cracks and groans of the glacier. There really is nothing as in-the-moment as trying to capture in paint the stunning views of a living and moving glacier. This was THE moment of the trip which we dreamed of and it was better than either of us could have imagined. It was exhilarating, humbling, exciting and exhausting all at once, for 4 hours! The resulting paintings for both of us were not what we would consider gallery quality but for me at least, it captured the intensity of the colour, size, shape and energy of the place. I do intend to use this painting as a reference for later works:
Overall, the weather cooperated when we were in Jasper, with only a day or so of rain and a couple days of smokey haze. We used the new Best Brella when the rain threatened or sunshine was prohibitive. I’m still learning that even if the sun is behind me, it’s important to put the brella up because my piece will end up being too dark since a palette and canvas in full sunshine is way brighter than you think it is when you take it inside.
Another challenge to painting outside is having to chase the light; On one scattered clouds afternoon, there were moments where the mountain in front of us had these incredible bursts of light and then in the next moment, they were gone. This is usually a frustrating experience but this one afternoon I relaxed and used speed and memory to capture the light I wanted (as I listened to Andrew swear under his breath as his highlight disappeared). My resulting painting ended up being one of my favourites:
I have a few more pages of my trip diary to go through to bring more stories to these pages. My holidays are coming to a close, so I want to capture the highlights for you and for myself so that when I am getting comfy in the studio, I will remember how much I LOVE painting outside. So, more to come…
Following an eventful 3 days of travel (through active wildfire territory) and settling in to our campsite home for 10 nights (including sleeping in the car for a portion of one night due to our extreme lack of preparation for the cold that Jasper sees at night in the summer), we finally painted!
Up cold and early we lined up in front of the tourist information centre that morning to get tickets to visit Mt. Edith Cavell later in the week. There is construction happening there so officials are timing and limiting the amount of people allowed up at one time. While it was a teeny bit of a pain to get the tickets, they did well in setting limits because the flow of people was not too much, not too little. More to come about that in subsequent postings…
In the meantime, our first painting stop was to be Athabasca Falls. However, our slight delay meant the number of tourists that morning was high and we couldn’t find an out-of-the-way spot to paint so we just took a few reference photos for later painting. Instead, we headed back on the road and stopped at the side of the highway to paint the Athabasca itself instead. Note: The BC wildfire smoke had followed us into Jasper, so visibility of the surroundings was limited. It therefore made sense to a paint close view rather than distant. We had a successful couple hour session, during which we met and chatted with a nice young fellow who was working the river boats this summer. This is one of the asides of painting en plein air – you meet some characters!
We both had a successful and enjoyable first painting session and were excited for more so we headed to the river again beside Becker’s cabins. I was distracted by the highway, stopping tourists and fear of bears so my results were not worth keeping. Andrew had better luck. The thing about bears in that location is that the previous time we visited Jasper we had dinner at Becker’s and the highlight of the night was watching a bear traverse the hillside across from where we were now painting. Bears – they are very real.
The next day was when we found a painting location which we returned to whenever we were undecided about where to paint. This meadow at Jasper Park Lodge became our go-to spot even just for chilling a bit with stunning views of multiple mountain peaks and the Athabasca.
One 3 hour painting session at this meadow was where I put into practice a tip from Richard Schmid’s book, Alla Prima. The tip is to paint what’s most important first. And it seems to work for me! Particularly because I tend to become less focused as a session goes on, getting what I want to say down first means that the painting is more likely to be successful even if it is just a sketch of what I found most important about the scene.
While we were so close to the Jasper Park Lodge that day we decided to check out Mountain Galleries. And it was there, in such a beautiful lodge, in the midst of several stunning pieces of art, that we spied a painting by Josh Clare which moved us both, very much. (Truth be told, Andrew pointed it out and it took a second viewing on another day for it to hit me – that rare art experience feeling). The painting captured the light focused on a red earth mountain peak. Unfortunately I can’t find an image of it online. Andrew and I pondered the purchase of this painting for a couple days and… I’ll tell you more about that in my next post. Oh yes, there are plenty more painting adventures to revisit!