Plein Air: Colorado Springs, First Snow on Pikes Peak


This is Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs viewed from a main trail on top of Palmer Park. For two days, It’s been chilly and rainy with clouds covering the mountains. Basically, its the kind of days you don’t mind being indoors at work. Today, the clouds peeled away and revealed a snow covered peak. With the dry climate here, things far away look much clearer and closer than a humid area where it takes on a haze, so the snowy peak was spectacular with the contrast of bright show and rock. As soon as I got off work, I sped out to Palmer Park to get a good view of the mountain with a nice foreground of pines and grasses. As drove out there, I could see clouds starting to form near the mountain, starting to block the view of the peak. I was fast-walking and jogging up the trails and came to an unexpected spot showing now only Pikes Peak, but also a great view of Garden of the Gods in front of it! I dropped my gear, and within five minutes my easel was up, paints portioned out on my palette and I began sketching in a rough idea. Over the next half hour, clouds grew thicker wrapping around the peak like a blanket and creating a light show on the area of the valley below. It was like looking at a staged scene as Garden of the Gods and the area just in front of it lit up while most of the mountain remained in shadows. All of this was in perfect timing as I was just at the point of adding in the detail there.  With shifting lights and shadows, its like a dance with nature and the painter.  You have to lead, keeping your original scene with it’s shadows locked in your memory, but also be watchful and adapt as the scene changes, moving with it and loving the unexpected display as it unfolds. It’s in these small, unexpected moments that nature reveals a beautiful moment you don’t want to forget.  As quickly as the moment passed, the clouds engulfed to peak and drops of rain started to hit the canvas.  I packed up in record time and for the second time, I was glad I had my little fold out umbrella.


You can see in this reference photo the clouds had already covered the peak and put everything in shadow. At this stage of the painting, I usually back up and make final changes needed to get rid of distractions and pull all the element of painting together. However, with dark storm clouds spreading out, and hands as cold as ice cubes, I got outta there.

Moving toward a Studio Painting: I love the mountain and how the clouds add drama and the spot-lit area. Reducing the foreground and leaving it in shadow, will lead the eye to the spot lit area. Adding more highlights to the mountains could lead the eye up towards the peak, which should be like the grand finale of a fireworks show. The evolution of this studio painting from this study will be a future post.


2 thoughts on “Plein Air: Colorado Springs, First Snow on Pikes Peak”

  1. Stevie –I love the painting- and also the narrative; you write beautifully. I’m so happy I know you!! your sharing your work always brightens my day. Louise

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