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58 Summer 2011 / www.pleinairmagazine.

paint outdoors all year long, and I espe-
cially like being out in winter, when the
low angle of the light creates amazingly
beautiful shadow patterns across the snow, says
Montana artist Aaron Schuerr. Yellowstone
National Park is a magical, captivating place in
winter, yet most people never see it during that
season because most of the roads arent open to
automobile trac. However, its a visual para-
dise for hikers, cross-country skiers, and those
who can arrange to travel in a snow coach.
Snow coaches are full-sized touring vans
that have rotating tracks in place of front and
rear wheels. Te coach sits high o the ground
so it can cut through drifts of snow, and the
tracks grip ice-covered roads so the vehicle can
take from nine to 20 passengers through the
park. Te cost of a vehicle and experienced
driver is steep, which is one of the reasons
Schuerr thought about organizing a group of
plein air painters who might share the expense.
He says, I enjoy going out to paint on my own
or with friends, but I thought it would be a
great experience if a group of us could pitch in
to hire a snow coach for a few days.
After sending e-mail messages to some of
his painting buddies to gauge their level of in-
terest, Schuerr quickly came up with a group of
seven artists and a photographer, Audrey Hall,
who agreed to make the trip in March 2010.
In addition to Schuerr and Hall, the group
included artists Greg Scheibel, Ned Mueller,
Kathy Wiper, Joyce Lee, Brent Cotton, and
David Slonim.
I knew everyone from having painted
with them or studied with them in workshops,
but no one else was acquainted with everyone
in the group, Schuerr says. Since we were
going to be sharing accommodations and
traveling to painting sites, it was important
that I invite people who would be exible and
friendly. Moreover, they had to understand
that winter painting requires being hardy and
ecient. Tere isnt room for a lot of extra gear
in a coach, and once you commit to hiring the
vehicle and driver, you cant cancel at the last
Schuerr contracted to hire a snow coach
and driver for three days at a cost of $1,000 per
day, then found an inexpensive vacation rental
property in Gardner, Montana, at the north
end of the park, where the group could meet
and stay after the rst day of painting. He then
made reservations for cabins near Old Faithful
where the artists could stay while painting in
All these commitments had to be made
well in advance of the trip, and there was a
real nancial risk that someone might back
out, blizzard conditions might make it im-
possible to paint, or there might be a strong
Risks & Rewards of Painting
Outdoors in Yellowstone
Seven artists ventured into Yellowstone National Park during the winter without knowing whether they
could make it over the snow-covered roads, withstand the low temperatures, or agree on painting locations.
The results of that painting trip are currently on view in Cody, Wyoming.
iaixrixc iocarioxs
The participating artists, left to right: Joyce Lee, David Slonim, Greg Scheibel, Aaron Schuerr,
Brent Cotton, Kathy Wiper, and Ned Mueller
All photographs of artists by Audrey Hall ( / Summer 2011 59
1. Brent Cotton painting in the foreground,
Greg Scheibel on the right, David Slonim and
Ned Mueller in the background
2. Kathy Wiper paints the steaming geyser.
3. Brent Cotton uses a palette knife to add
texture to his painting.
4. Group organizer Aaron Schuerr
5. David Slonim ready for another day of win-
ter painting in Yellowstone National Park
6. Plein air paintings by the participating art-
ists displayed at the end of one day
60 Summer 2011 /
Golden Pools, Yellowstone
David Slonim
2010, oil, 12 x 9 in.
All artwork photos courtesy Simpson Gallagher
Gallery, Cody, WY
Geyser Runo
David Slonim
2010, oil, 9 x 12 in.
Grand Prismatic Steam
Kathy Wiper
2010, oil, 6 x 12 in. / Summer 2011 61
dierence of opinion about where we should set up to
paint, Schuerr says. But on the ip side, there was a
good chance we could go home with some of the most
amazing landscapes we ever painted. I felt strongly that
the risks were worth taking, and fortunately the others
agreed with me.
After the rst day of painting within driving dis-
tance of the rental property along the stretch of road
between Mammoth and Cook City, the artists spent
the second day painting close to the snow coach inside
Yellowstone. On the third day, everyone set up their
easels on walkways near geyser basins. Another great
thing about painting in the park in winter is that the
locations that become too crowded in the summer for
artists suddenly become open spaces for setting up ea-
sels and painting gear, Schuerr explains. For example,
on the last day we painted the spectacular view of the
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone that is immortalized
Small Geyser
Kathy Wiper
2010, oil, 8 x 10 in.
62 Summer 2011 /
iaixrixc iocarioxs
Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in Winter
Aaron Schuerr
2010, oil, 9 x 12 in.
Obsidian Creek in March
Aaron Schuerr
2010, pastel, 18 x 28 in.
Yellowstone Paint Pots
Ned Mueller
2010, oil, 9 x 12 in.
March in Yellowstone
Greg Scheibel
2010, oil, 8 x 8 in. / Summer 2011 63
in Tomas Morans 1872 painting, and
we had the promontory vantage point to
Te weather turned out to be un-
seasonably warm in the winter of 2010,
and there were patches of exposed ground
where one would normally see deep snow.
Nevertheless, the scenery was breathtaking,
and no one complained about being able to
paint wearing lighter clothing.
If the trip had been planned for
2011, we would have had a lot more
trouble painting, says Schuerr. As every
outdoor painter knows, you have to ac-
cept what nature has planned for you
because her decisions are not up for a
vote. I normally wear thermal underwear,
Carhartt coveralls, two layers of gloves
the bottom pair with holes for ngers and
the top pair made of thin wool and big
pack boots. I have a pad I stand on so my
boots arent buried in snow, I take along
a supply of hand and foot warmers, and I
paint quickly during the limited hours of
light. Once I get going, I can spend up to
two hours painting one picture, but under
severe conditions I do what I call panic paintings on 6 x 8-inch panels
that I nish in about 45 minutes.
Schuerr paints both in pastel and in oil, although he prefers to use
oils in the winter months because of the logistics of carrying a large sup-
ply of pastels out on location and handling the sticks with his ngers.
Te plein air oils are created on panels covered with Claessens oil-primed
linen, using a palette of the following colors: Michael Harding titanium
white no. 2, cadmium yellow light, cadmium yellow medium, yellow
ochre, cadmium red light, cadmium red
deep, alizarin crimson, ultramarine blue,
and cobalt blue (or Compose blue). He
sometimes adds Indian yellow, black, raw
umber, or viridian.
Schuerr sometimes teaches painting
through the Yellowstone Association Insti-
tute, with students staying in cabins within
the park and traveling in a 14-passenger bus.
In June he will be teaching a workshop
with Frank Serrano.
Te artists who joined Schuerr on
the winter painting expedition allowed
themselves more than a year to rene their
plein air paintings or use them as the basis
of larger studio paintings. Tose will be ex-
hibited at the Simpson Gallagher Gallery in
Cody, Wyoming, from June 16-29, 2011.
Sadly, Joyce Lee died on March 25,
2011, after a battle with cancer. One of
the last things she was able to do before
going into hospice care was sign the paint-
ings she put into the exhibition. It was
the unanimous decision of the artists to
dedicate the Simpson Gallagher Gallery
exhibition to Joyce Lee.
For more information on the participat-
ing artists, visit the following websites: Greg Scheibel, www.schei; Ned Mueller,; Kathy Wiper,; Joyce Lee,; Brent
Cotton,; David Slonim, www.davidslonim; Aaron Schuerr,; and Audrey
M. Stephen Doherty is editor-in-chief of PleinAir Magazine.
Six Degree Day
Greg Scheibel
2010, oil, 8 x 10 in.
Sundown on Geyser Basin
Brent Cotton
2010, oil, 6 x 8 in.
Firehole River
Joyce Lee
2010, oil, 16 x 12 in.
Artists estate