I was driving in the Elk River Valley in Steamboat Springs, Colorado when I spotted this ranch with the ski mountains in the distance. I was struck by all the movement created by the ski runs, rolling hills, ranch buildings, scattered hay bails, and rambling fence. It was getting late in the evening so I did a preliminary drawing and returned the next day to complete the painting.
I organized the composition into background with the distant mountains, middle ground with the ranch and trees, and foreground with the hay bails, meadow and fence. Steamboat Springs is not only a world class ski area but also a river valley with traditional working ranches and it was exciting to represent both in one painting. I painted the ski mountains while the sky was still damp so they would soften into the atmosphere then moved onto the green hills. In the middle ground, I settled the ranch buildings into the trees and used the rooftops to create their simple shapes. The hay bails which are yellow ochre and burnt sienna are the same colors used for the meadow with the addition of different greens.
The large hay bail in the foreground had somehow rolled up against the fence and this created a big textured shape against the more delicate fence posts and barb wire. I like this juxtaposition of shapes because it makes the foreground interesting before your eyes move into the middle ground and background. I lived in Steamboat for ten years before I moved to Denver and I look forward to returning several times a year on painting trips. I will be teaching a three day workshop there this July 24, 25 and 26 and I can hardly wait. The workshop is sponsored by the Steamboat Art Museum and, if you are interested or want more information, send me an email. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton