Plein Air: Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs


About a week ago, I went out to Garden of the Gods here in Colorado Springs. People travel from all over the world to see these large rock formations at the base of the mountains near Pikes Peak. One of the perks to being in Colorado Springs is that this is just 30 minutes away from the house I’m staying at. I went figuring I’d quickly find a spot to set up and paint, but even on a weekday, it was loaded with tourists. After walking a quarter of the street that loops around it, I saw so many spectacular paintings I could hardly keep myself from just setting up right there on the side of the street and let traffic go around me. Then the cyclists came tearing through breaking the sound barrier and I headed back to the truck to return another day. While packing up, I looked up from my truck and saw this scene outside of the loop. It’s not the main attraction, but it was a great scene.


My truck bed could not have been more perfectly aligned, so I just set up my gear in there. As I was painting, I stirred up quite a few onlookers walking around the loop and my favorite response was, “Daddy, that good! Maybe he can come to my birthday party and paint a bird!!”. Gotta love kids. They think it, say it and its done. No filters required.  About three hours, and two light rain showers later, the light had changed too much so I packed it all up and headed home. Looking at it later, I had a hard time with the dark background. It seemed to look more like a dark sky rather than the face of distant mountains, so I decided to make some changes to the scene and just have fun with it.


In hindsight, I like some changes, others I should have left it alone. When the sun was out, the rock had more highlights than shown in the plein air sketch. Adding those really brought the rocks forward. The background makes more sense now, but I should have just kept it more plain with less colors and less distraction. I also suspect I fiddled with the foreground too much. Ha. Oh well. It’s a very solid reference if I ever want to scale it up to work out those mistakes. If the weather holds up, I’ll head out to Palmer Park again (last post). It’s nice to be spoiled with so many choices.

Artist Chat:

Pallete: Heavy Body Liquitex or Golden acrylics for Alizarin Crimson, Hansa yellow opaque, and Ultramarine blue and Golden Open for Titanium White. I’ve found this combination to work very well in this dry climate. The Open white keep my light mixtures from drying too fast and have found the Alizarin Crimson and Ultramarine do well staying moist if I keep it out of direct sunlight.  The Hansa yellow opaque does tend to dry more quickly, so I may try mixing in a little of the Golden open of that color (they mix well).

Limiting my pallete always helps me in new areas. I’m still having trouble with the paint getting darker as it dries, but this isn’t hard to work through. Just painting the color one or two steps lighter in value solves it. I could even do a monochromatic under-painting and then match the value with the colors painting over it. It’s worth a shot.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s