Snake River Ranch Painting Session

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Our visit to the Snake River Ranch is actually two visits – one a painting demo day with Kathryn, and another to figure out where on the vast, 5,000+ acre expanse of the Snake River Ranch this will be.

 

The “upper” Snake River Ranch is a huge part of the visual identity along the Moose-Wilson Road, flanking both sides of the highway with open space and cows on the drive out to Teton Village. Kathryn and I meet Bill Resor on the west side of the highway, turning left after a bridge that crosses Lake Creek.

 

Bill is waiting for us next to his big red truck at a spot just off the road, and shows us the many options for views from this one little nook of the ranch. It’s all about water here, in a riparian area criss-crossed by side channels of Lake Creek and irrigation ditches. Just beyond, there are Teton views and open ranchlands, and everywhere, there are aspens.

 

Kathryn is thrilled with the options, but even more special is the chance for her and Bill to chat about art. Their families know each other, having been in the valley for many decades, and yet on this day, there are new conversations and discoveries to be had. Bill’s grandmother, Helen, was on the board of the MoMA in New York, and it becomes clear that art is one of Bill’s many interests as well. Kathryn learns from Bill that the Raynolds Expedition brought some of the first artists to the valley in 1860 –Anton Schönborn and James Hutton – 11 years before Thomas Moran arrived with the Hayden Expedition and created the works that helped inspire the protection of Yellowstone National Park. Bill sends us off with a gift, a fresh porcini mushroom that Kathryn plans to use for a locavore’s dinner of elk pasta.

 

When we return, we’ve already survived some of the valley’s first snowstorms and it is the peak of fall foliage. The aspens are radiant, leaves a bright yellow, and Kathryn decides to paint them for her plein air demo, forgoing the streamside options. “I’m obsessed with the aspens of the Snake River Ranch,” she exclaims. We’re joined by Larrie, Rocky, Marilyn, Kelsey, and Joanie, our guests for the demo day, and Dan Visosky, an Open Space Council member of the Jackson Hole Land Trust who is working on a video blog about the View22 project. Joanie has brought her watercolors along, and paints the view as well.

 

Kathryn’s commentary while painting is both instructive and reflective. She has us look more closely at the colors flooding the aspens and the trailing edge of light on the sides of the aspen trees, talks about when to choose different brush sizes, and share things true to both art and life: “at some point, you just have to commit,” and “less is more”. She covers the canvas with greens using expressive, big brush strokes to start, then focuses in on applying the “juicy”, thicker paints. Finally, committing, she adds the highlights on the left side of the aspens, and their eyes.

 

Leslie Steen

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