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Monday, July 6, 2015

Day 29: Grand Teton National Park (7/3/15)

I continued following our TransAmerica route to Grand Teton National Park this morning. The mountains surprised me as much as they did on my bike - you turn a corner and BOOM! MOUNTAINS! This continues down a long winding hill as you approach the park. The mountains come in and out of view and get closer and closer. On my way I saw a mama moose and her baby! I'm learning that if you see a bunch of cars parked somewhere, it means wildlife is nearby.

The campsites at GTNP are first come, first served and with the holiday weekend I was *very* nervous I'd have to drive out of the park to find camping. I got to the park and secured a campsite through the weekend at Colter Bay. I set up my tent and sat down to read and brush up on Thomas Moran. He's my main dude for my time at the Tetons and Yellowstone. A little on my history with Thomas Moran. He kicked off my love of the Hudson River School and American landscape painting my sophomore year when I was randomly assigned a report on him in my art history class. It was love at first sight. His use of color is what strikes me the most about his large oil paintings. Anyway, I'm doing things a little backwards, it turns out, as Moran painted in Yellowstone first in 1871 on Ferdinand V. Hayden's expedition to the area. He traveled west again about eight years later with his brother Peter with a mission to collect new material for pictures (he has already seen great success with his paintings from Yellowstone). It was on this trip that he supposedly sketched the Teton mountains for the first time. Also, F. V. Hayden named one of the peaks "Mount Moran" in his honor. Moran as also a highly skilled watercolorist. All of his sketches of Yellowstone are done in watercolor, but his large studio paintings are in oil. I imagine they were easier to transport out west on horseback. I brought water colors with me, but I don't think I'll use them but one or two times. Oil paint and watercolor are kind of like biking and running. They're both cardiovascular sports, they both use your legs, but I'm a much better biker than I am runner. But, I can run, I'm just not that great at it. So, I can paint with watercolors, but the end result will be much better with oil paints. Watercolors take an opposite approach than oil painting - you have to think about where your light values are first and "save" them, then work gradually darker, and oil paints I work dark to light.

I went to the Colter Bay visitor center to get some advice from rangers about where to paint. I brought in my bike Thomas Moran Bible and flipped to his Tetons paintings. Per usual, they were very helpful and said they were excited by challenging questions that weren't "where's the bathroom." I decided to go paint Mount Moran, like I'd painted Bierstadt Lake, in homage to my Admired Artists. The Ranger recommended a turn out that had a good view of Mount Moran. So I had my first experience painting in a parking lot. I popped the trunk and it worked very well as an umbrella. Mount Moran is stunning, but I was a bit too close to the mountain. I think it would have been a nicer composition from farther away, and maybe with a lake or stream in the foreground. And I just wanted to be moving after a few stationary driving days. My best experiences have been when I combine hiking and painting. I met a lot of nice people coming and going in the turnout, including a young artist who showed me some of the drawings she did in her car. They were good! She even drew a still life. Her mom said, maybe you can be an artist someday too! Ah, parents supportive of the arts. Love it.

I drove up Signal Mountain on my way back to Colter Bay to watch the sunset. Oh, I had to stop painting before I finished because the late afternoon light makes the mountains look like one hue of light blue. So I'll have to go back to finish one afternoon. View from Signal Mountain was great. These mountains are regal, reserved, and majestic. They are mammoth and gargantuan, both up and across. They are angular and muscular, distant and impenetrable. Rockies seemed more friendly and inviting, but the Tetons seem unconquerable, like hiking them is impossible. I know you can hike their blue and far away summits, but for now I am so content to admire from afar.

First glimpse of the Tetons! Nothing, then BOOM there they are.
Mama moose and baby moose!
Follow me little baby!
Little spindley legs.
TransAmerica memories.
Hmm, named for THOMAS MORAN?! Need to get an entrance pic at the other entrance near Yellowstone.
Praise the lord, I got a campsite in the Tetons on Fourth of July weekend.
Ugh! Pictures don't do it justice!
Painted Mount Moran...but was a solid blue hue when I left.
Mount Moran, named for Thomas Moran. Will come back to finish.

A quick sketch before I left, 6x8.
Studio with my sun umbrella.
I think I have a favorite paint color (kings blue light).
Jackson Lake...dipped my feet in, felt amazing.
View from Signal Mountain summit.
Beautiful sunset...
Love how the light and color on the clouds change as they get farther away.
Mount Moran.
Seriously the color was out of this world!
So beautiful!


  1. Oh my gosh, the sunset photos are spectacular! Use those colors!
    Togwotee Pass and all the Continental Divides...such memories AND the first time we saw Teton! And kept watching for it the whole way down to the lodge! Did you see The Fox restaurant (I think that was the name of it)? Was it windy or winding road down? I recall it being both when we were on our bikes! Ha!
    I think we drove up to Signal Mountain when we were on our Lewis and Clark trip because we were searching for moose! How lucky you were to see a mama and her baby!!!
    I do look forward to seeing Mount Moran finished as a painting. And, I will be curious to see you work water colors! I did love the use of the hatch as an umbrella! BTW your tent looks so tiny on your 'lucky day' campsite!
    Keep up the excellent work! You are in heaven on earth where you are!
    Love, mom

  2. Absolutely love the Tetons! So beautiful there...and so are your paintings and photos!!