The Two Sisters
Watercolor Painting by Dennis Pendleton. It was supposed to snow here in Denver today but it didn't which is disappointing because I enjoy painting snow scenes. However, I did hear that it snowed in my old hometown of Steamboat Springs and that is where this painting was done. The Green River Ranch is tucked in at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass and the ranchers were still using the horse drawn hay sleds to feed the cattle in the winter. One of my best memories is of going out on the hay sleds with the ranchers in the freezing cold and experiencing how they worked so closely with the giant workhorses. Almost all the ranches use more modern equipment now and the horse drawn hay sleds are disappearing into western history. I did locate one ranch that is still feeding their cattle in this way and I will be going up later this winter to capture scenes like this for future paintings.
The rancher loading the hay bale onto the sled is a good friend and we enjoyed a hot breakfast with his mother when we got back to the ranch house. The blue tarps on top of the hay stacks added some rich shots of color that were repeated in lighter blue values in the snow. The horses had tramped around in the snow creating ridges and tracks that contrasted with the pure white snow on the hay bales. It was my mentor Lowell Ellsworth Smith who taught me that snow is full of color and seldom pure white.
The two horses were sisters and the ranchers pointed out that the one on the left did the same amount of work yet remained pristine while here sister showed evidence of hard work with her sweaty main and stained body and legs. The love and respect between the ranchers and their horses was obvious and I thought about that when I was painting this. White horses in white snow presented an interesting challenge and I used color temperature with warm colors for the horses and cool colors for the snow. You can see light strokes of yellow ochre and burnt sienna on the horses and cool cerulean blue and violet in the snow. The dark colors in the harnesses is a mixture of burnt umber and ultramarine blue. The hay bales were painted with raw sienna and burnt sienna and I tapped my fingers into the paint to create texture.
Inspiration is wherever the artist finds it and Steamboat Springs and the ranches there will always be my muse. Happy Painting! Dennis Pendleton