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Quick draw

Greg McHuron, of Wyoming, paints on location during the past week.
Courtesy Photo

Plein air painter Darcie Peet drove 400 miles around the Yampa Valley this week as homework.

“I’m looking for that perfect spot with the right combo of shapes and lights,” Peet said. “I love to explore and get to know the country before I paint.”

She has been waking up at 5 a.m. every morning to be on location when the sun is rising, and provides her with long shadows and the rich colors you only find early in the day.



Peet is one of 36 plein air painters from around the country who are here for the week as signature members and invited guests of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters. They had one week to create three paintings on location anywhere between Yampa and Columbine to submit to the exhibit on Friday at Wild Horse Gallery.

Some painters will complete 20 works.



“It only takes two hours to paint because of the changing light,” said Jeanne Mackenzie, founding member of the Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters. “Some do a new painting every 15 minutes. They can do two to four paintings a day, which gives them quite a few to choose from for the show.”

Throughout the week, there are organized artist dinners, picnics and a llama pack trip where participating artists will go on a 6.5 mile round trip hike to the lakes at the bottom of the Mt. Zirkel Wilderness.

“Everybody has different things they are excited about,” Mackenzie said. “Whether it be hay bales, rivers or high peaks, there are a lot of subjects to gravitate to.”

On Saturday morning at 10 a.m., there will be a quick draw where the painters have two hours to complete a painting within a two-block radius of the courthouse. There will be still lifes set up and three models on the courthouse lawn for artists to paint as well.

“Two hours for me is a long quick draw because when you are under pressure, you know you have to get it done,” Mackenzie said. “When they say ‘ready, set, go,’ your adrenaline goes and people walk by and are watching you. You get the feeling you have to perform.”

Peet said it is really important to understand that although it may take artists only two hours to complete a painting, that also includes a lifetime of experience.

“Think of all the years of constant practice,” Peet said. “It’s the technique and sequence of how you lay paint on the canvas that really helps you accomplish that.”

There will be an hour-long silent auction at noon immediately following the quick draw event. Portions of the proceeds will go to the Yampa Valley Land Trust that has given the artists permission to go on scene to some of the local pioneer ranches during the week.

“What’s exciting about the quick draw is seeing how different and varied the brush strokes are, and the subjects and interpretation,” Mackenzie said.

The Rocky Mountain Plein Air Painters organize weeklong events such as this one as a way to introduce plein air painting to different towns and to encourage socializing among the members.

“Artists can be very solitary when working by yourself in a studio,” Mackenzie said. “When you come to exhibits, you find other artists that love to paint art from life and you see their impressions and interests and get to see your artist friends from out of state.”

Coming to this event was not a tough decision for Peet.

“It’s a group I feel a lot of camaraderie and professional ties to,” she said. “Coming here for me was about the diversity of learning about the country, the sheer adventure and sense of discovery, and being able to add a painting to that.”


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