My Monroad Trip Paintings and Reflections

The following pieces are four of my favorite paintings that I created for this project and I feel that they represent a culmination of all of the work I put into this project. My first few paintings were incredibly bad, but over the course of painting more, I began to feel significantly more comfortable with the watercolors and happier with what I produced. I feel that I successfully captured the lighting in the environments I observed and in doing so have done some justice to the amazing views I witnessed.

This painting is of the sunrise over Two Medicine Lake in Glacier National Park. The sun is not in view in this picture, but its pink and orange light was reflected in the lake and illuminated the clouds and the fog that was in front of these mountains. I feel that by staying true to the colors I saw, I have effectively captured the mood of the sunrise that I observed.image7

This next painting is also from Glacier National Park, however it is based off a photo looking down into a valley that I took in the middle of the day. My favorite parts of this painting are the clouds and the way the shadows cast by them contrast dramatically with the highlights on the mountain faces.


This painting was taken later in the afternoon from the train window looking out at plateaus in Utah. The photo of these plateaus was taken in the late afternoon prior to the sunset, which is why the shadows are incredibly purple and the tips of the mountains are starting to get a red-orange glow. This is probably my favorite painting due to the details and the complementary yellows and purples.image2

This last painting was taken out of my window on the train as we passed through North Dakota. The sun was starting to set and so the tips of the hills have started to get a reddish glow and the shadows have begun to grow longer.image13

One of the biggest things that this project taught me is how to simply observe. I am so used to a fast pace of hurriedly doing or seeing things, without paying too much attention to the environments that I’m in. Even if I were to go somewhere to intentionally be in nature or see pretty views, I rush through incredibly pretty spaces, consuming as I go, in order to get to the next view or activity. At the top of mountains after long hikes, I may look at the view for a short time but quickly am ready to move on. However, being stuck on a train for so long, I was able to truly immerse myself in the environment and simply observe and absorb. I am so infrequently this passive in how I intake information, visual or otherwise. Through this, I was able to be overcome with awe and appreciation more than I usually am. By deliberately noticing both the big picture of amazing views and the tiny details that composed these sights, I was able to really appreciate the intricacies and beauty of nature.

This was heightened further through painting these stunning views. I would start with very loose washes of color across the paper that captured the big picture of color and shape. Then, I would carefully analyze the pictures I took, as well as notes I took about the colors that I had observed in real life, dissecting these images into the many complex colors that made them up. This allowed me to accurately depict the highlights and shadows as I had hoped, which I feel was the crucial part of making these photos feel realistic and capture the awe that I experienced. This critical observation also made me appreciate once more the views that I had appreciated while on the train.

This project has influenced my life since the trip and watercolors by making me significantly more perceptive to lighting in environments that surround me everyday. By this point, I am sure that my friends are incredibly sick of me pointing out the way the tips of the trees appear golden right before dusk and all of the beautiful colors that illuminate the clouds throughout the day. However, as I notice things that I would have walked past before, such as the blues and purples that were evident in the shadows filling valleys of sand on the beach as the sunset was approaching, it is impossible for me not to share my amazement.

I now have a better grasp of the fullness of the color that surrounds me everyday and this awareness makes gratitude seem so natural. I am also so incredibly grateful for this entire experience. It has left me with so many great memories in addition to more deliberate and perceptive observation skills. Moreover, I am certainly much better at using watercolors, which had been a goal of mine going into this. Looking back at the complete process of this project, I am completely amazed by it all. What started as a pipe dream one late night in Blair ten months ago turned into the most amazing reality and has impacted my so positively. A quote that I’ve recently found in my journal is that I decided to do this trip because traveling and art make me come alive, and in fact, my soul is most certainly alive right now as I think about all that I have accomplished.