Standing on an edge of a mountain, looking down 1,000 feet, painting in sharp rain and wind … does this sound dangerous? Robert Steele does it quite safely.

Demonstration sketch at 2013 Telluride Plein Air Festival derived from Steele’s 2012 plein air painting

Steele says he loves to paint the view from the top station on Telluride, Colorado’s gondola, a free public transportation system that links Telluride with the newer ski town of Mountain Village. “It’s like looking at a little model railroad, with everything and anything, in scale,” he says. “I like manmade things that are in the landscape. The gondola especially intrigues me, as someone who likes mechanical things. I ski the season in California and elsewhere and was a student in Austria and Switzerland, so the mechanical stuff in mountains fascinates me.”

“Telluride Gondola,” 2012, oil

“Telluride Gondola,” 2013, oil

The California artist admits that the weather in Telluride can be, to put it judiciously, changeable. The threat of hail, lightning, wind, and rain chased off his painter friends the first year he decided to paint the view from the top of the gondola system. But Steele has returned to the spot the last two years to paint it again. He’s had better weather since returning, but this doesn’t unduly cheer him up. “The last two summers it has been sunny, perfect weather, but the paintings aren’t as good,” he says.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here