Coming Back — Again and Again

It’s happened many times in my life— my first impression of a place grows into something much deeper when I visit multiple times.

Last spring of 2021, I started exploring a small area of Castlewood Canyon State Park, near Castlerock, CO. It was the only location chosen by staff at REI for the new Art of Adventure: Painting in the Wild class for which they hired me to refine the curriculum and teach.

When I first scouted, I wasn’t thrilled with the chosen location. I couldn’t find great views for landscapes paintings; instead there were clumps of Gambel Oak, with a few Ponderosa Pines and rocks scattered in — didn’t seem super interesting to me.

Sketches from my scouting trip 4.9.21

Yet, a couple of times a month from April to October, I taught at this same place. I drove for an hour and arrived in the early morning chill to meet 8 people who wanted to learn to watercolor in nature.

And, over those classes, I have come to love the views in this place. Now, feel as though I will never tire of painting here.

A couple hundred people have “Painted in the Wild.” We start out learning to use a waterbrush, small watercolor palette, viewfinder, and fine liner pen. We use one color to practice making a value scale and a simple worksheet to start painting with big shapes of the view.

Everyone starts out with simple sketch of big shapes of the view in front of us.

Then, each person chooses something in nature nearby and looks closely at all of the colors, matching them with our paints.

Matching colors of an object in nature is my stundents’ favorite activity – no drawing skills needed. Everyone is delighted at noticing colors more deeply.

We make thumbnail “landscapititos” — hopefully beginning a sketching habit that will lead them to deeper connections with nature and the world around.

Always start with big shapes of the view: Shape of the of the Douglas Fir trees below the canyon wall.
I believe that John Muir Laws coined the term “Landscapito”

And, looking closer is a wonderful way to notice nature With a sketchbook. I love seeing the native perennials bud, bloom, go to seed, and their winter skeletons.

1-minute sketches of plants document their blooming, as I do quick demos of spattering paint to create texture and negative painting to make the white of the paper standout for the Sand Lily, as well as a few written notes.

I am the lucky one, coming back again and again to see and record the seasonal changes of a place I have come to love.


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