Jean Perry likes to paint a mountain pond near her home in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. But a few years ago, the area was developed and the quaint little white house that sat on the shoreline was demolished to make way for a retirement home. That didn’t take away her favorite thing about the scene.

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“Lilies and Evergreens,” by Jean Perry, oil, 10 x 12 in.

The scene as she used to paint it had water lilies in the pond, mountains in the background, and the “cute little white house” adding a human element and a contrast to the view. The mountains didn’t go anywhere, and the development left many of the evergreens intact. But best of all, Perry still has the reflections in the water with which to play.

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Casey’s Pond as it appeared in 2011

“It is about abstracting the forms,” says Perry. “You want to just get the feeling of the object, the feeling of a tree or a mountain, because the lines in them are moving. It’s like watching the ocean waves; the reflection is constantly moving and the ripples change — maybe there’s a duck moving through it. I watch for a while and get the feeling of what it’s doing, then paint it quickly. When it’s going right, it’s happening without you making it happen. You pick up the brush and the right color and just allow the brush to follow the movement. If you try to analyze it too much, it can get very stiff. Let your emotion paint it for you. Let the little accidents happen.”

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Casey’s Pond this year

Perry says she also appreciates how the water lilies change over the course of the year, from looking like dead sticks in the water at the end of winter to the sudden shock of green to the yellow flowers and finally the complicated mix of colors the mature pads show — “yellows and golds and rust colors and various shades of green.” She will move the willows around in her composition to strengthen it, especially in the foreground, and positions herself to allow the mountains to reflect in the water for maximum effect.

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“Casey’s Pond,” by Jean Perry, oil, 16 x 12 in.

The artist has taken numerous workshop groups to this locale, once even lining them up along the road by the pond. “It was a good place to take students,” explains Perry. “You can easily see all the things reflected in water and see how you can use them in a design. But one year I had the students too close to the road and it was very distracting. We ended up walking around the pond and working on the other side.”

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“A Time for Reflection,” by Jean Perry, oil, 12 x 16 in. This is another mountain pond in Perry’s area.

The new buildings have disrupted the tranquil scene somewhat, but Perry can work around it — and she knows of many mountain ponds further away that offer similar motifs. “I think I am attracted to water in any form,” she says. “Waterfalls can be very powerful. But I love the ponds because of the forms the reflections take.”

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