National Parks Through the Eyes of 6 Artists

In the time before cell phones and digital photography, landscape painters introduced Americans to the spectacular geographical features hidden away in little explored corners of the country. In doing so, they inspired others to see the beauty and importance of protecting these lands, helping to drive the creation of dozens of national parks. Today, the U.S. National Park System encompasses 423 sites, spanning more than 84 million acres.

1. “Magical Mountains” (Grand Tetons National Park) by Sharon Weaver

Landscape painting of Grand Tetons National Park
Magical Mountains (Grand Tetons National Park)
Sharon Weaver
2018, oil, 11 x 14 in.
Private collection
Plein air

2. “Hopi Cave” (Grand Canyon National Park) by John Lintott

Oil painting of Hopi Cave
Hopi Cave (Grand Canyon National Park)
John Lintott
2018, oil, 15 x 15 in.
Private collection
Plein air

3. “Red Rock Sentinel” (Arches National Park) by Susan Hediger Matteson

Paintings of National Parks
Red Rock Sentinel (Arches National Park)
Susan Hediger Matteson
2016, oil, 10 x 8 in.
Available from Mary Williams Fine Art, Boulder, CO
Plein air

4. “Toward Otter Point” (Acadia National Park) by John Caggiano

Plein air paintings of National Parks
Toward Otter Point (Acadia National Park)
John Caggiano
2006, oil, 20 x 24 in.
Available from Bayview Gallery, Brunswick, ME
Plein air

“Acadia is one of most popular parks in the National Parks system,” says John Caggiano. “With the generous help of the Rockefeller family, it is connected by a series of roads, bridges, and paths. It is also a painter’s dream. Otter Point is but one of the easily accessible views to paint.”

5. “The Bath House” (Hot Springs National Park) by Catherine Hillis

Paintings of National Parks
The Bath House (Hot Springs National Park)
Catherine Hillis
2006, watercolor, 11 x 15 in.
Available from artist
Plein air

“I was honored to be an artist in residence at Hot Springs National Park one summer,” says Catherine Hillis. “It’s an unusual park, featuring the old bath houses that the town grew around. The buildings are historic, and I did go into the bath houses to participate. I figure if I’m going to paint something, I’d better learn what it’s all about.”

6. “Continuance” (Grand Canyon) by Lyn Boyer

Paintings of National Parks
Lyn Boyer
Undated, oil, 24 x 34 in.
Studio from plein air studies

Have you painted at your favorite national parks yet? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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  1. Gettysburg is interesting for painting plein-air- cannons and stone walls, hills with a view, woods, old buildings, cemetery. They are redoing the plantings in the fields to the historical crops/ orchards that were there during the way. Nice visitor center (restrooms!) and port-a-pots on tour roads.

  2. I consider myself fortunate to have taken the opportunity to build a home overlooking the west side of Katmai National Park .The site is on the moraine ridge that was deposited with the glacial recession that created Naknek Lake and River. Our panorama is expansive and never static. Weather patterns can be generated off the Shelikoff Straits, Bristol Bay and Naknek Lake . The immersive experience is quite stimulating and challenges me daily .

  3. Yosemite is a very special place, especially its water falls and hike country away from the crowds. If you like water falls that are gushing with water, May-June is a great time to visit. During late summer the water may be just a trickle. Still interesting but different. On another trip we hiked and stayed in the high county tent cabins. Days of hiking at high elevation ended with a delicious hot meal and warm bed. Awesome experience!

  4. I enjoyed painting in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks in 2016. In 2018, I painted in Olympic National Park. In 2019, I co-led a plein air painting trip to Acadia National Park, through Beverley Street Studio School in Staunton, VA. My husband and I plan to visit Yellowstone and other national parks in the southwest this spring, where I will paint again.

    We usually travel across the country by car, and I actually paint in the car, while he drives. I am a watercolor painter, and I use watercolor pencils, Caran d’Ache watercolor crayons, and a water pen to quickly sketch scenes as we zip by. It’s fantastic practice for getting the essence of a scene down quickly, and improving your visual memory. Those sketchbooks are treasures to me now.

    It is a thrill to be painting in these beautiful places, often watching wildlife while I paint. I am grateful for the foresight of the men and women who protected these lands, and those who maintain them today.

  5. I paint at Yosemite as often as I can. In fact, one of my Yosemite paintings – of Yosemite Falls – is currently at the US Embassy in Azerbaijan as part of the Art in Embassies cultural exchange program, promoted by the US State Department. The ambassador to Azerbaijan is a Northern Californian and Yosemite is one of his favorite places.
    We try to visit Yosemite at least once a year, in different seasons each time, to get the broadest range of painting and photography experiences.


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