Image: Josh Wangrud

If plein air painting was considered a radical activity at inception, when tubes of synthetic oil paint and portable canvases gave landscape artists the freedom to leave the confines of the studio, the resulting freedom of expression (and softness of tone, brushstroke, and form) is now widely acknowledged as a catalyst for Realism, Impressionism, and Postimpressionism. With the right tools in your pocket (or your favorite pack), you too can experience the freedom of painting outdoors—or at the very least collect some poignant sketches of scenic viewpoints along your favorite Park City trails.

Local conceptual artist Bridgette Meinhold spends a large part of the work week painting watercolors en plein air or traipsing through the mountains and desert foraging for native plants to make homemade inks (check out her work at Gallery MAR on Main Street). “Painting outdoors is a way to stop, slow down, and observe the natural world around you,” she explains. “I know of no better meditation than trying to determine how to recreate the color of a scarlet Indian paintbrush flower or a mountain’s shadow in evening light. Observation always leads to wonder, and wonder is the most healing feeling of all.”

Trails with a View

Glenwild Loop  Strategic benches along the way provide great vistas of ski resorts.

Sweeney’s Switchbacks  Hike up under the Town Lift for pocket views of Old Town.

McPolin Farm  Park at The Farm trailhead and walk under the tunnel for multiple nature options or the iconic McPolin Barn.

Meinhold also points out the ripple effect of plein air painting. “Often, when people come upon a painter working outdoors, it makes them pause and look at the landscape in a new appreciation for what is around them,” she says. “If nothing else, it reminds people that there is beauty all around if they pay attention.”

While Meinhold won’t be offering her usual in-person plein air painting workshop this summer, she does offer a series of virtual classes available at bridgettemeinhold.com. And if the idea of picking up a paintbrush and heading outdoors is enticing, it’s easy to embark on your own artistic adventure. All you need to get started is a travel watercolor palette, round brushes, watercolor paper, a pencil and eraser, a jar for water, and a cloth for cleaning and blotting.

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