Mountain Sketch

I went for a little hike on Sunday. Usually when I’m here visiting at the Aspen Center for Physics I go on several hikes, but this year it looks like I will only do one, and a moderate one at that. I had a bit of a foot injury several weeks ago, so don’t want to put too much stress on it for a while. If you’ve looked at the Aspen Center film (now viewable on YouTube!) you’ll know from some of the interviews that this is a big component of many physicist’s lives while at the Center. I find that it is nice to get my work to a point where I can step back from a calculation and think a bit more broadly about the physics for a while. A hike is great for that, and in all likelihood one comes back from the hike with new ideas and insights (as happened for me on this hike – more later)… maybe even an idea for a new calculation.


So I took the bus up to the Maroon Bells and hiked up to Crater Lake and a bit beyond into the West Maroon Valley, hunting a few wildflowers. I will share some pictures of those later. (I’ve heard that they are great up at Buckskin pass, and I was tempted to push on up to there, but I resisted the temptation.) I brought along several pens, watercolour pencils, and a water brush (for the watercolour pencils) because I’d decided that I would do some sketches at various points… you know, really sit with the landscape and drink it in – in that way that sketching something really helps you do (as opposed to just taking endless snaps with a camera).

So upon retuning to Crater Lake I found a nice high spot to do a sketch, and within a few minutes of starting a downpour started. So I had to abandon that and put on my rain gear and start the trek back… (I later revisited the incomplete sketch and I’ll maybe share that with you later.) When I got back to the main valley with the canonical view of the Maroon Bells it was all nice again for a bit, and so I found a nice spot, ate some lunch, and worked on a sketch – the one above. The funny thing is that this was mean to be a very rough sketch to get my hand in, done directly in a thicker pen (Pigma Graphic #1 for the curious), to be followed by a more detailed longer one in which I would model the three dimensionality of the mountains more and so forth.

As it turned out, I sort of began to like this one, and then I also saw that the rain was coming again, and so decided this was my only shot, so did some more work on this one between sandwich bites. (Remember, it is a sketch to give an impression, not a full-on landscape painting!) Once the rain began in earnest, I sat in some shelter and used the watercolour pencils and the water brush to mix some colour into the scene, trying (with limited resources) to represent that lovely maroon colour that gives these mountains their name. I had an audience by then, with people making very kind remarks and asking questions about materials and so forth (people seem to look down on colour pencils and are almost always shocked at the watercolour finish you can get with a bit of applied water…so I am usually happy to illuminate.)

So a fun day out.


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