Plein Air Jackson Hole

My plein air set up.

Jackson Hole provides many wonderful places to paint plein air. On a beautiful day I headed out looking for just one of these places. I didn’t have to go far and I found a beautiful view of Sleeping Indian Mountain with the Gros Ventre River in the foreground. And there was even a small parking area where I was able to set up: my supplies in the trunk and the lift back for shade.

Painting Sleeping Indian plein air.
Starting my painting with a neutral wash and a the drawing in oil paint.

My painting process

I started the way I usually do: I stain the canvas with a turp wash of ultramarine blue mixed with burnt sienna oil paint. This just gets rid of all the white and gives me a neutral surface to start painting on. Then I do a quick sketch of the composition. This is an important step and I take my time with this, making sure all the elements I want to paint will fit on the panel in a nice composition.

Next I lay in my darks and work towards my lights. So, the dark green trees first, then the far mountain (that’s Sleeping Indian). Then some of the other trees and the river in the foreground.

It doesn’t matter what the “darks” and “lights” are, they could be trees, a river, the sky: I just look at what color the shape is and go from there.

Then come the “lights”. I try to start with the easiest color, the color I’m most sure of by comparing it to the colors next to it. I put down color for the sky and the far ochre hills. The grey trees are a tricky subtle color so I saved those until later – when I had almost every other color in. I continued with the foreground.

Once the canvas is covered with paint, in colors I think are correct, I start adjusting color. Only then do I start refining any details I need. I try to only put in enough detail to define what I’m painting. No more.

My finished plein air painting of Sleeping Indian Mountain in Grand Teton National Park.
My finished painting of Sleeping Indian.

Onlookers

I don’t think this is an official lookout but the “parking area” is big enough for half a dozen cars. Throughout the afternoon cars pulled into the lookout and it was fun to visit with tourists who had traveled from all over. There was even a large bull moose out by the river for a long while. That was a little distracting but that’s the fun of painting plein air.

I didn’t talk too long to the people that stopped by because I had a painting to get done and the light always changes fast! Though it is good to take breaks, to get away from my painting, and then back to the painting with fresh eyes. Below you can see what my view looked like.

My view of Sleeping Indian when I set up to paint plein air.
My view from where I was set up to paint.

Sleeping Indian is another name for this mountain which is officially called Sheep Mountain. It’s part of the Gros Ventre Mountain Range in Jackson Hole, WY. Plein air in Jackson Hole has been wonderful this summer and I’m looking forward to more next summer.

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