Spindrift on High

Proposal Peak — Silverton, Colorado

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.

Proposal Peak — Silverton, Colorado

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

Laguna Beach

Laguna Beach, California

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”

Having Fun Playing with Paints

Painting exercise

After having been away from watercoloring on a regular basis for most of the past 30-years, I’m slowly getting back into the rhythm of painting again, though it’s not without some fits and starts. The biggest issue for me is setting aside a regular block of time to do so, and sticking with it — as I have many other things to do during the course of the day.

One way to ease back into painting is to find course books — or how-to volumes — on watercoloring and to follow along with them. The above painting is one of those, an exercise that I’m doing along with the text that I’ve been reading — “The Ultimate Watercolor Course: Simple Techniques to Paint Like the Pros” published by Reader’s Digest. I discovered this impressive hardbound course book at the local library by pure accident, and was so impressed with the contents that I bought a used copy for myself from off of Amazon for less than $20US, which you can find here.

What did I find so useful about this book? Well, it’s one of the very few that I’ve ever found that takes the aspiring watercolorist from the absolute beginner-level to advanced techniques within just one volume, as if the reader were attending an actual class on watercoloring. Also, it doesn’t contain a lot of fluff; each two-page spread is a concise new lesson, with printed examples and exercises. The book is large, lavishly illustrated on slick paper, and contains roughly 140 lessons.

Having never had any formal training in watercolor, I’ve found this book to be invaluable for helping me further my skills, so I highly recommend it to others.


Image info:
Painting exercise
February 2021
Schmincke Horadam watercolors
Indian 100% cotton rag 300 lb paper — 4” x 6”