The outdoors is my creative space. I’m not sure if it’s because of nature inspiring me or because hiking stimulates my mind. It’s likely a combination of both.
Ever since I started walking outside on my own as kind in my parents’ cow pastures, I found the experience enlightening. A lot of times I think out story ideas and put them to paper. I haven’t published any of these, but you might see something in the near future.
I have also written a poem inspired by nature and how it offers peace. I layered with the scariness of cancer and compared it to a dirty city.
Where the Prarie Meets the Sky
Cankered walls of urban blight,
Doors of other’s lives closed and boarded.
Trapped in my own barred cell,
My dreams and future disregarded.
Dreams, where the prairie meets the sky,
Rolling mountains, benign tumors
kept safe by the Snake River,
Winding around in health and humor.
Sitting in the dark and damp,
my heart longs more
for gentle Ticklegrasses that caress
my cheek while swaying in warm air
Running barefoot through the plains
straight to water’s edge,
Looking for a pale mutated face,
Instead a smiling, friendly sketch
And a sudden splash from salmon,
The river thrives and provides
healthy growth seen in the tallest conifers and aspens,
Bringing life to my insides.
Mule deer and rabbits graze,
Growth where it is supposed to be,
encouraged by the compassionate sun,
Never scourged by acute disease.
Pulled away from the harmless world
I relapse into the state I’m in,
The reality of my evil plague,
There is no remission.
I’ve also thought of art ideas. One of the more obvious ways to express art in the outdoors is through photography. I love to have a camera when I’m hiking. Since I graduated high school I’ve used a Nikon D3000.
Since moving to Wyoming one of my favorite photography subjects has been the Indian Paintbrush. I’m fascinated how it grows in both desert and alpine climates and how it looks different in those two environments.
I also love the landscape of Wyoming and have taken many pictures. It’s been fun to use my camera in manual mode and learn different techniques, like depth of field and shutter speeds as well as adjusting ISO.
This summer I tried a new experience, painting outside. In the past my paintings have consisted of acrylic and replicas of animal pictures I found on the internet. Last winter I picked up watercolors for the first time since high school and found my love for the medium. I love how the water reacts with the paints, and you’re never one hundred percent how it’ll turn out.
Once I find a medium I also start following several Instagram accounts of artists to learn skills and techniques. One watercolor artist is Nikki Frumkin, who operates the drawntohighplaces account. Nikki lives in Seattle and often paints Mt. Rainier as well as many other mountain landscapes. One of my favorite things about Nikki is that she paints her landscapes while she’s actually there. She’s so dedicated to her art, she even goes out in the cold winter months. I recommend everybody follow her on Instagram to see how the paints freezes on the pages. Check out her website too and you’ll see her prints, calendar and stickers.
Being inspired by her method, I decided that I was going to start painting outside too. It’s a unique experience that gave me a new appreciation for the wild places I visit. I searched the landscape and enjoyed every piece of it instead of focusing on my trail and what was ahead of me. The experience helped me realize details I was oblivious too months before. It also gave me new purpose in protecting the lands I love because I noticed every beetle killed tree spotting the landscape.
Tips and tools for getting started:
– For my birthday my boyfriend got me water brush pens. These allow you to bring your brushes anywhere. You don’t have to worry about using your drinking water supply for carrying an extra water container. The water sits in the brush handle and is ready at the squeeze of the handle.
– My boyfriend also got me a travel mixing palette that I filled with greens, blues and browns. Mine has ten wells and a slot for a pen or pencil.
– You’ll also want a small watercolor notebook. I got mine from Mossery. Mossery is a Malaysian company. It sells planners, sketchbooks, notebooks and other stationary supplies. My sketchbook has a cardboard type outside that I had personalized with my name with 28 sheets of watercolor paper.
– You can also pack a paper towel or some other material to soak up excess water. It’s also nice to have so you can switch colors without changing brushes or ending up with muddied paints.
– One of my first tips for getting started is to not get discouraged. I wasn’t thrilled with my first painting as you’ll see further down, but I’m proud of my second one. Painting what you see in real time is difficult and takes practice.
– Use nature as a tool. I don’t mean as your subject, but explore how the elements can influence your art. As I mentioned earlier, the Drawn To High Places art has cool examples of how watercolor reacts to freezing temperatures. Let dust react with your work. See how the breeze at the top of the mountain affects your work.
– The next is actually a tip from Nikki Frumkin. If you paint in freezing temperatures, use vodka with your paints instead of water.
My first venture with the watercolor journal was on Kennaday Peak in the Medicine Bow National Forest on August 11th. I am a part of the Platte Valley Jaycees, and we were hosting our annual Snowy Range Duathlon. It’s a biking and hiking/running race that starts near the Lincoln Park Campground, summits Kennaday Peak and ends back at the starting point.
I volunteered to station the summit with the intent to try watercolor painting outside for the first time. Once I got to the summit I picked out a rock that would allow me to get a view of the landscape and keep an eye on the racers.
The sky was smoky that day from the Badger Creek Fire that was burning about 60 miles away. This resulted in a hazy mountain background that I attempted to capture in my painting.
I’m not a huge fan of the painting that came from this excursion, but I didn’t let it discourage me.
The next time I brought my watercolor painting outside was a little more than a month later. In Carbon County there is a famous grove of aspen trees called Aspen Alley. Fall enthusiasts can find this treasure traveling west of Encampment on Highway 70. Travel about 25 miles to Deep Creek Road, which is Forest Road 801. From there, travel north for .8 miles.
I went on September 29th. The trees are often in full color by this time, but this past fall many still had green leaves.
I picked a spot off the size of the road to do my painting. To keep the paper from buckling, I used painters tape to hold about five sheets together.
First I sketched in the trees with a pen. Then I moved to the paints starting with the road and then filling in the trees. The sky and background mountain were last. I’ll admit I took creative liberties, but I liked the outcome. The cool part about this painting is that many cars were driving past me, stirring up dirt from the gravel road. I can still feel the dirt when I run my hand over the page.
With these two paintings under my belt, I’m excited to get back outside with my watercolors. Sitting outside in the cold freezing my hands off isn’t my idea fun, so I’ll leave the winter outdoor art to @Drawntohighplaces. My outdoor art will have to wait until the spring. I learned a new technique to paint deciduous trees, so I’ll return to aspen alley or travel someplace in the Midwest.
Here are two paintings inspired by the outdoors but were completed inside.