Sunday, November 22, 2015

Stephen Quiller Workshop at the 4UR Ranch

"Nature's Confetti"
19" x 14" Watercolor

"Trout Fishing at the 4UR Ranch"
19" x 14" Watercolor
"Nature's Beauty"
12" x 15" Watercolor
After travel to Colorado and Japan, an October visit from a good friend, and two workshops, I am back to blogging about three art adventures. Here goes with the Steven Quiller plein air workshop at the 4UR Ranch in Creede, CO, Steven's home town. I attended with friend Jeannie from the Santa Clara Valley Watercolor Society, and the whole experience was just so special. Jeannie and I found that we were very compatible travel companions. 
The ranch was so much more than I expected -- a Cordon Bleu trained chef gave us beautiful meals; the ranch has breathtaking scenery; we could take advantage of horseback riding, swimming, fly fishing, and hiking trails; though we were mostly busy painting); we were also treated to two meals cooked on the chuck wagon hauled into the mountains; and the accommodations were superb. I loved this dude ranch that has hosted the likes of Presidents, John Wayne, and Walt Disney. Steven gives two workshops a year at the ranch. We had an interesting range of temps, from low 20s early in the day to 70s by afternoon, mostly clear skies, and just a bit of rain a couple days.
A frosty scene from our porch on our first Colorado morning
Steven gave us our money's worth. In addition to working from 9 am to 5 pm, he hosted several evening sessions. Everyday we painted at a different location in the San Juan mountains: by the Rio Grande, by a trout lake, and amidst spectacular fall colors. Steven would demonstrate his approach, and then we selected our subject and painted. At the end of the day, we returned to a workshop area at the ranch where Stephen did a critique of the day's work.  
When I finished the week, I felt like all my paintings were pretty mediocre as I was pushing myself to try new approaches to watercolor. However, after going back to the paintings a week later, I decided to do a bit of work and apply Steven's critique suggestions to three of them. I was then satisfied with my results.
"Fall Confetti" was done on the morning of our second day when we went high in the mountains on an unpaved ranch road to a spot Steven had previously selected. Steven is a color expert and has written several books on the subject. He always emphasizes that the greyed colors and neutrals are what make the pure color pop. His suggestion was to use pure acrylic to add in the dots of falling leaves. The name came from a statement by Angie, our carpool driver in her large SUV -- she gazed at all the fallen leaves and stated they were nature's confetti. That day we had to return to the ranch workshop area and finish our paintings due to rain.
Painting fall color before the rain
The third day was spent at a beautiful trout pond backed by spectacular scenery. Steven arranged from two of the ranch hands to do some fly fishing while we sketched and photographed them. I worked one of images of the two fisherman into "Trout Fishing at the 4UR Ranch." The fourth day we painted along the Rio Grande, which runs past the trout pond. Steven arranged for a wrangler and one of the horses, Navajo to do some posing for us  along the river. I have not yet gone back to that painting.
The final day we went even higher in the mountains, roughly 10,000 foot level to paint an area of nature that was both affected by a fire a few years ago and by a beattle blight in the evergreens. The area is called Station 10 for the purposes of trout fisherman. The result is quite spectacular with the colorful aspens against the burn and the deep magenta and purples of the blight. It was extremely cold that morning, and I wore 4 layers, including a light down jacket. Later I would shed a jacket and flannel shirt as the day warmed nicely for the fish fry done on location by the chef.

Attentive artists at Station 10
Steven demos at Station 10
On Thursday evening, we had a voluntary visit to the Quiller Gallery in Creede and the local historic theater where Steven recently installed a gorgeous 4 panel mural. Part of the gallery is devoted to his "Beauty in the Burn" series done in paintings and monoprints. The "burn" refers to the devastating fire, a small bit of which we painted on Friday.

On Friday night, we were invited by Steven and his wife Marta to their home for a delicious catered dinner. They graciously allowed us to view Steven's paintings throughout the house. Steven gave us a tour of his splendid studio, which we entered into the top level office retreat and descended into the working studio. Spectacular views of the Rio Grande that flows below them and the mountains across the valley were icing on the cake. Steven said the view paid for the studio as he has painted it many times in all seasons and weather.

Mary, Steven, and Jeannie behind the studio
The following day, Jeannie and I toured the area by car, seeing the remains of the old mines that built Creede in their day. A day-long scenic drive back to the Denver area completed this art adventure. We flew home the next day.

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