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Denver Watercolor Class Teacher Dennis Pendleton

Painting the Iconic West

Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. This is a painting I did when I lived in Steamboat Springs Colorado before I moved to Denver. As I look at it now it takes me back to a halcyon day that I will never forget. I had contacted the owners of Green River Ranch and asked permission to go out on their hay sled with them when they fed their cattle. When I arrived at their ranch, it was 13 degrees below zero and these two beautiful work horses were already harnessed to the hay sled and ready to go. The ranchers were waiting for me and I snapped a few photo's before we got on the sled and took off.

Excited and freezing at the same time, I kept jumping off the sled and running around in the snow to get more pictures. Little did I know that I was recording a part of western history that would soon be gone as the hay sleds were being replaced with modern machinery. My favorite part of that adventure was observing the working relationship and love between the ranchers and the work horses. A little click or a gentle snap of the reins was all it took because the horses knew exactly what to do. When the feeding was finished, the horses were unharnessed and guided to their stalls in the barn. The ranchers took me into the ranch house for a warm and much appreciated breakfast. When we were eating ,they laughed and told me they thought they lost me when I tripped in the snow and they were sure I was freezing and wouldn't get up.

Painting the white horses in the snow was a challenge and I used cool blues and violets in the snow and warm ochers and sienna's for the horses along with bits of unpainted white paper. The hay is mixtures of yellow ochre, burnt sienna, and burnt umber. Seeing the two barns as one simple shape was helpful when developing the composition and the use of cool blues and grays on the distant hillside added the depth I wanted. In a few days I will be returning to Steamboat Springs to gather material for future paintings and it will be fun to visit some of the ranches and renew old friendships.

Later this month on January 28, 29, and 30, 2022 I will be teaching a watercolor workshop in Steamboat Springs and we will be painting winter scenes of the valley and the ranches from the comfort of the Steamboat Art Museum. There is still room in the workshop so if you are interested or have any questions, send me an email to Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton


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