Clues surface in hunt for plein air painting near Steamboat proposal |

Clues surface in hunt for plein air painting near Steamboat proposal

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The plein air painting mystery continues.

Former Steamboat resident Cole Harper — who proposed to his now-wife Brooke Harper on Sept. 22, 2014, on Rabbit Ears Pass amid a field of golden aspens — is still searching for the artist the couple passed when heading back toward town that day.

The plein air painter was about 15 minutes from the trailhead where the couple got engaged. The proposal coincided with the Steamboat Art Museum Plein Air Paint Out.

In an attempt to track down the artist, Cole Harper reached out to the Steamboat Pilot & Today for help.

A few clues

About 20 artists, mostly from Steamboat, participated in the event that year. Dottie Zabel, Steamboat Art Museum operations director, said the plein air paintings from the event can be identified with a red or black SAM stamp on the back.

“The painter would be located to the south-southwest of Dumont Lake with a view of Rabbit Ears to the northeast. Muddy Pass is too far east,” Harper said about the location where he remembers seeing the artist.

He also remembers the artist wearing a large, straw hat.

“That’s why I couldn’t tell if the artist was male or female,” he said.

Artists reach out

In the past week, four artists have reached out to the Pilot & Today as possibly having painted the piece:

• Award-winning plein air and local studio artist Bonnie McGee was painting on Rabbit Ears that day and is known for painting in a large, stylish hat, but her location was different from where Harper remembers.

• Local Steamboat artist Chris Roche said she remembers painting near the area Harper described but doesn’t remember the exact date.

Susie Jackson, another local plein air artist, said one of her paintings on display at Pine Moon Gallery could be the one. The piece, titled “An Invitation,” depicts golden aspens and was completed near Rabbit Ears. The painting does have a SAM stamp but no date, and Jackson isn’t certain of her location that day.

• Local artist Greg Effinger, who works with plein air as well as stained glass, said he remembers a painting he did of the Rabbit Ears rock formation from the Muddy Pass parking lot.

Bolstered by these clues, Harper continues to search for the artist.

“Hopefully something from that time and vantage point surfaces,” he said.

To reach Audrey Dwyer, call 970-871-4229, email or follow her on Twitter @Audrey_Dwyer1.

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