We went on one of our trips to the American West back in October 2016, passing through sections of western and southwestern Montana that we hadn’t been through on prior trips to the region, before later joining my dad and sister for an extended tour through the arid desert region of southeastern California. While road tripping through Montana, we happened to stay overnight in Dillon — a charming small working town filled with some classic western architecture.
After getting situated at our motel, we had a delicious bite to eat at the nearby taco truck, then afterward went strolling through the surrounding neighborhood as the sun was beginning to settle toward the horizon. One of the buildings we passed by was the William’s Feed building, an old grain elevator and business.
I did the studio watercolor painting a few years later, as a greeting card for my wife, to remind her of wonderful memories from past trips.
Studio Painting info: William’s Feed Building Dillon, Montana May 2019 Schmincke Horadam watercolor Fluid 100 100% cotton 140 lb cold press paper 4”x6”
Photo info: William’s Feed Building Dillon, Montana October 2016 Apple iPhone 6S
For nearly a decade we owned a former gold mining plot high up in the rugged San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado, near the tiny town of Silverton. The property was something that we stumbled upon by pure accident during one of our many trips to the region, fell in love with, and impulsively decided to buy it on the spot.
Was the impulsive purchase worth it? Totally! After all, the mining claim was readily affordable… except for the three sealed gold mining shafts located on the property, there was nothing there — no cabin, no power, no water, no sewage, no road, nothing. A muddy access path was punched in by bulldozer as we finalized the purchasing paperwork, and we were left with an idyllic wilderness camping location — one that we could usually access by foot, or sometimes via a serious 4-wheel drive vehicle during the drier seasons.
We were fortunate enough to visit our little slice of heaven once or twice a year during the time that we owned it. If we arrived during the snow season, we would stay in a hotel 10-miles away down in Silverton — otherwise we would camp on the property in our tent. As nature lovers, we couldn’t have picked a more stunning location. Our plot was located on a steep slope, began at 11,300 feet in elevation, topped out at over 12,000 feet, and was surrounded by 13,000 foot peaks well above the tree line — a taste of which you can see in the second image above.
The black and white photo was taken on June 12, 2007 — the last time we camped on the property. There was so much snow — six feet in places — that we couldn’t drive to it, even with a rented 4×4… so we had to hike-in for the last half-mile with all of our gear, which required several trips to the car and back.
The last night that we were there, we had snow fall on us during the early morning hours, and we woke up to nearly an inch of fresh powder on the outside of the tent. Being an early riser, I let Cindy continue sleeping while I got up and explored the magic scene all around us.
Truly, we have some wonderful memories of that time.
Studio painting info: Proposal Peak Silverton, Colorado July 2018 Schmincke Horadam watercolors Indian 100% cotton rag 300 lb rough press paper 4”x6”
Black and white image info: Proposal Peak Silverton, Colorado June 2007 Fujifilm FinePix F31fd digicam
From a different trip to visit family in southern California, we stopped by Laguna Beach — an area where one of them had lived for a time. Laguna Beach is — or was (they’ve lost a number of shops and artists over the years) — very much an artist’s colony, in which there are a huge variety of shops dedicated to the sale of all things art related. This is where the famous “Festival of Arts’ Pageant of the Masters“ has been held annually since 1933, so they definitely take their art seriously here.
For me, a visit to Laguna Beach isn’t complete without some quality time spent in Heisler Park, the section of coast devoted to the preservation of tide pools and water quality protection. Here one can find all sorts of potential painting opportunities — for both plein air and as photos for future reference to be used in studio art, like this painting.
As much as I love painting plein air, it’s difficult to do when visiting with family members because it can be such a time sink. On such occasions, I take as many photos as I can get away with, trying to do so without irritating the rest of the group.
Image info: Heisler Park Laguna Beach, California August 2018 Schmincke Horadam watercolors Hahnemühle 150 lb rough press paper — 4” x 6”