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I live on the ocean, and it’s beautiful. The ocean is full of sounds and smells and movement. It’s always changing. But the mountains — steady, silent, calm. Two very different settings, each so life-giving in its own way. Having grown up in both southern California and Colorado, the mountains and the ocean are both in my blood. But the mountains hold a very special place in my heart and soul.

So, you can imagine my delight upon learning that Sonia’s sister and brother-in-law purchased a new home in the mountains. We visited them recently and were dumbstruck by the beauty of their hideaway nestled in the New Hampshire White Mountains. Sonia and I ventured out into the nearby town of North Conway and decided to take the chair lift to the top of Cranmore Mountain, a ski resort within spitting distance of the quaint little town.

The gentle swinging of the lift as the mountain slowly slid beneath us and the periodic bumping as we passed over the squeaky cable wheels made me anticipate the coming winter and accompanying skiing! But for now, it was a beautifully sunny, slightly cool, late August day — the kind of day when you find yourself putting on and then taking off your jacket depending on whether the sun is showing itself.

After a short hike to explore the summit, we settled down on the patio of the lodge with grilled cheese and fries with mayo (European style, heheh). The view was breathtaking and begging to be captured in a sketch.

I did something a little different than my usual. I wanted to see how fast and loose I could be. I did a quick sketch with pencil, but didn’t go over it with pen. Blurring my eyes, I tried to stay in flow as I let my new watercolor brush deposit paint and push around the colors on the paper.

Here’s what emerged:

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I paid special attention to value (dark/light), making sure I kept the distant mountains light and faded. As I painted the foreground, I used more color, with darker pigments. This gave the painting more dimension, and it’s something I’ve struggled with in the past (normally tending toward less variation in tone, which creates a very flat painting).

What I noticed is that it looks best when viewed from a distance. I think this is often the case with watercolor. Or maybe I should say, it’s often the case with expressionistic/impressionistic watercolor. Detailed and realistic watercolor can be viewed up close and personal, but that’s not really how I paint. Or rather, it’s not how I want to paint. I actually find myself tending toward more detail and control, but I aspire to be more impressionistic. I want the painting to express my feelings and emotions, and not just be a painted version of what you can capture in a photograph.

I know not everyone prefers this, but it’s my preference. And this is a big difference that I see between artists–those whose paintings evoke an emotion in me vs. those whose paintings cause a sense admiration for the artist’s technical skill. Both are obviously valid forms of painting, but I like art that makes me feel something in my heart.

I immensely enjoyed the process of painting this mountain scene. As always, it grounded me in the present moment–paying close attention to colors, tone, and shapes while hearing the birds and the rustling of wind in the trees and the sounds of children playing. What a view. What a day!

I love the mountains.

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