In August my husband Dennis and I traveled, and I painted for two weeks in the wild and fabulous State of Alaska. Plein air painting in Denali National Park and the Kenai Peninsula was a privilege. These remote and extremely wild areas present special challenges while painting - but the pay-off was beyond compare.
I am so re-inspired with the grandeur and beauty of all that I have seen and feel so grateful to have been there.
Painting Denali (the great one) aka Mt. McKinley - the tallest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet. The Mountain showed herself to me as if by magic while I was there. The previous 2 months she had remained hidden behind a veil of fog and thick clouds.
On the Kenai Peninsula I visited the Kenai Fjords National Park - a vast and remote glacier and fjord marine environment accessible only by boat - watched calving glaciers and Orcas (killer whales)at play. Saw humpback whales feeding in waters dark with their favorite small fishes. Watched Sea otters and puffins in the pristine ice cold ocean. Painted glaciers and felt their cold breath on my cheek as the melting ice cracked and groaned.
Plein air painting sites that I experienced will be listed with details of how to get there, what to expect in the way of challenges, will all be shared in the USA Sites section of this website.
My first plein air painting in Alaska - early morning at the entrance to Denali National Park - on the bluff overlooking the Nenana River and the Polychrome Range - The glacial runoff in all the rivers was very high - the river water a milky sudsy color that took me quite a while to mix on my palette. Spectacular place with vast vistas in every direction. The Alaskan weather is very changeable - early morning and evening time seemed to be the most promising in the way of cloud cover lifting for a short while - we were there in August - lots of rain and fog - but that's the challenge and fun of plein air painting - going and bagging your "catch of the day" as it were no matter the weather and difficulties.
An evening painting from the same vantage point that same day - this time looking up the Nenana River in the direction of Fairbanks. Wow! The gorge full of rushing glacial runoff - river rafting outfits run this section in the summer. I saw a couple of rafts going down as I did this painting at 6pm - in August it is daylight until at least 10.30pm - so lots of time to do outdoor activities.
We took Alaskan Railways from Anchorage to Denali Junction to get here - 8 hours by rail through wilderness and mountains upon mountains. We followed the Nenana/Susitna Rivers all the way - the main access into the Alaskan interior ever since people have been coming here. In the winter the rivers freeze solid and travel is easier by sled or snowmobile - lots of people live the frontier lifestyle with teams of huskies and sleds, living off the land. Not for the faint of heart! This is not a country for wimps!
Painting this mountain was a truly spiritual experience for me - one of those special times I will always remember
My first morning at the Mt. McKinley Wilderness Lodge near Talkeetna (50 miles away) dawned clear - The Great One - Denali peak revealing herself to all for the first time in two months.
This is my painting done in a big hurry because the clouds and fog could descend again at any moment. Talk about seizing the moment! My hair was on fire as I painted this - Realizing I had one opportunity I had to just get it done - no second guessing. As I closed in on the finish, the very top of the mountain cleared for a few minutes allowing me to "paint it in" - A funny note: just as I placed my final brushstroke of white paint on the peak, a large hungry Alaskan mosquito dive bombed the summit and landed there - glued in place - he was obviously ambitious. I removed him with my palette knife and he is in the trees to the bottom of the painting.
McKinley Wilderness Lodge, Alaska
This painting was done from the deck of the Lodge in the late afternoon in August. I tried a new technique to get a better painting of the distant mountain range and the snow field feeding the many glaciers. I used binoculars with one hand and my paint brush with the other - this painting is the result. I rather enjoy the "hovering in a helicopter" feeling one gets from it - give this a try sometime just for fun. The aspen trees were already starting to turn color even in mid August - this far North, the season is short.
Glacier across from Port of Seward, Alaska
We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express in Seward, right on the harbor. Our room had a balcony which looked out on the Sound and mountains filled with glaciers. I did this painting from my hotel balcony using my binocular technique described in the previous section. The wonderful abstract shapes and colors of the glacier, along with the moody dark rock and clouds made this fun to paint. A completely different painting subject then I have ever had before.
One last Alaska Painting was done in the evening light - a view of Resurrection Sound looking towards the ocean - the weather was fabulous - one of two perfect weather days we had in 12 days in Alaska. Two of my main concerns about heading North to Alaska to paint were the weather, and the famous Alaskan mosquitoes and flies. Neither of these proved to be a big problem. Thank you Awesome Alaska! I hope to return to visit again in the future.