D O N    S A H L I

en plein air

Winter, 2003

The body of work represented here was created during Artist-in-Residence events, February and March 2003, in the Colorado mountain towns near my home in Evergreen.

Every day, I painted on location around and near the galleries that represent my work. With each painting there was a story to tell, and I was there to capture that story. Each evening, the gallery had a “viewing hour” presenting the day’s work to its collectors. Art enthusiasts shadowed my own path as an artist — painting and exhibiting. Few realized the immediacy of my work, and both the gallery and the collector were offered the opportunity to witness that aspect in person.

Prior to this, I envisioned paintings filled with snow, sunlight, and beautiful blue shadows — Colorado does have 300 days of sun a year. As you view the paintings and read my commentary of the events, you will see that that was not what happened. Instead of sunny days with beautiful, painterly shadows, I found myself in the snow, lots of snow on many grey days.

I always tell my students that painting en plein air presents additional challenges; that bringing the studio outdoors, experiencing the elements as one works, adds new dimensions of complexity to painting. During the month of painting in the mountains, I had the chance to experience that philosophy first hand, up close and in person.

In hindsight, it was a great experience, but at the time, the repetition of grey skies, blustery winds, and falling snow, was wearisome and exasperating. It was not just a painting opportunity — it was also a character-building experience. I had to paint everyday regardless of the weather, and I did.

Now I am home, relishing the sunshine of spring. As I look at my work, not only am I happy with it, I am moved by some of the very works created on the days of the most frustration. These works are so poetic and beautiful — in the soft grey tones of winter. I don’t know if those paintings would have “happened.” I don’t know if I would have ventured out on that many cold, grey days. I am glad I did.

So, come rain, snow, or shine, I look forward to the next opportunity to work out-of-doors, en plein air.

Click on the image to the left to begin the tour in Aspen, clicking your way with the forward arrows through a day-by-day chronology from February 13, 2003, and ending in Breckenridge on March 15, 2003. Or you can go straight to the individual galleries below:

About Don Sahli

All images and text ©2003 Don Sahli