My Year in Mountain Painting: January Sojourns

January 17, 2016  •  1 Comment

Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire.Mount Lafayette, New Hampshire.Mount Lafayette, star of the Franconia Ridge, as seen from the Appalachian Mountain Club's Greenleaf Hut. I've been stuck in Boston for years now because of my day job as an archivist, which I love. Ironically, I work for an outdoor recreation and environmental non-profit, but I don't actually get to live in the woods or mountains. I never intended to live anywhere near a big city, yet here I am. My dumb luck for falling for this gig, I guess. I am, on rare occasions, able to make a work trip up to the White Mountains in New Hampshire where I usually get a little bit of time to play in the forest, hike the trails, and look at the stars.

January brought me to Pinkham Notch where I had the chance to go for a trail run on the packed snow trails leading out of the valley each morning. My last day out I ran up the slopes of the notch until I reached the sunlight spreading down the mountain to meet me and stood for a while. The quiet woods, frozen streams, and pink glow on the Presidential Range lifted my soul. These mountains give me a euphoric feeling found nowhere else in my life. I sometimes stop dead in my tracks out there in utter disbelief about where I am at that moment. 

When I call one of my mountain paintings a success it is because it gives me some brief zap of that feeling. It means I've captured, by way of some soft wisp of cloud or an inky river valley's shadow, a part of the mountains that speak universally to my love of wild, secret places. It makes me think of moving on foot over terrain that doesn't give a damn about the weight of my pack or for what temperature rating my sleeping bag is built. I pay attention to the weather and how I feel and whether or not I should take the trail over every peak, lie on a rock for an hour sketching, or duck under treeline and dodge the worst of a sudden rainstorm. The painting brings back every trip. The glorious sunny days and the days of gloomy masks of clouds over the ridge. 

I'll be working on that idea a lot this year in my art. I want to be out in the mountains as much as possible and paint them in the moment, holding all the feelings they trigger long enough to bring them back to my studio. It's like a roving meditation or an endless trail. There is something around every turn. Time to find it. The Great Gulf, White Mountains, New Hampshire.The Great Gulf, White Mountains, New Hampshire.The White Mountain National Forest of New Hampshire and Maine is a spectacular place to hike, full of dense forests and panoramic mountain views.


"The quiet woods, frozen streams, and pink glow...."
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