Wyoming painter Jennifer L. Hoffman takes advantage of “artist’s hours” to get a lot of work done in the winter months.
Hoffman’s setup at South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area
Although Jackson Hole is a popular ski destination, tourists during the winter months tend to hole up in a resort, particularly in nearby Teton Village. “They stay on the mountain for the most part,” says Hoffman. “Maybe they do a ‘town day’ one day of the week. Teton Village is near but not near enough.”
“Turning Point,” by Jennifer L. Hoffman, pastel, 12 x 16 in.
In the summer and fall, on the other hand, Jackson is bustling. Fly fisherman descend on the town as they explore the great trout streams in the area, hikers and bikers use Jackson as a base of operations, and the cluster of top-notch galleries attracts artists and collectors to the picturesque town. During warm-weather months, Hoffman is hopping. She runs Trio Gallery with two friends — Bill Sawczuk and Kathryn Mapes Turner — who are also artists. “It’s hard to find time to get out and paint in the summer with the gallery and all,” says Hoffman. “I have to squeeze it in when I can.”
“Winter’s Timbre,” by Jennifer L. Hoffman, 10 x 8 in.
That means Hoffman can’t be dissuaded by cold weather if she wishes to do a significant amount of plein air painting. She certainly isn’t. Hoffman acknowledges that one has to push a bit to paint in the winter, especially in a state such as Wyoming. “You just have to bundle up and get out there in the snow,” she says. “It’s tough to be a plein air painter here if you can’t handle painting in the snow.” But on the other hand, business is slow enough in the gallery during that time of the year that she spends only one day a week on the premises. “Artist’s hours are better than banker’s hours,” she jokes. Of course, when she’s not in the gallery, her real work begins, or at least her labor of joy.
“The Clouds Roll In,” by Jennifer L. Hoffman, pastel, 12 x 12 in.
How dedicated is she? Hoffman says that one year she offered herself a challenge: to paint a plein air painting every day in February. “You can dress for it and get used to it,” says Hoffman. “If it’s 20 below, maybe I won’t go out. But otherwise, I try to get out there at least once a week.” Where does she go?
Hoffman’s favorite place to paint is the South Park Wildlife Habitat Management Area, which is about five miles south of Jackson. “It’s a cool spot where Flat Creek flows into Snake River,” says Hoffman. “It may not be as striking as some views of the Teton Mountains, but it’s really beautiful from every angle.”
“First Breath of Autumn,” by Jennifer L. Hoffman, pastel, 8 x 10 in.
The 972-acre riparian area is popular with cyclists, fishing enthusiasts, hikers, and, yes, painters. But there’s a catch. “It’s closed in the winter because they feed the elk there,” Hoffman explains. (They feed them using horse-drawn sleighs, we might add.) This does not deter her. The bike path stays open in the winter, as it runs along the rim of the lowlands holding the rivers. “It’s actually really cool because the area sits down low; you get great views of the patterns of the cottonwood trees, and the river receding, and looming in the background, Munger Mountain.”
The cabin often depicted by Hoffman at South Park
Because of the restrictions on the public in that area from December 1 through April 30, Hoffman has little choice but to paint from that high vantage point. It doesn’t bother her. It’s true that in warm months she will descend into the wildlife management area to paint intimate scenes, but even in summer, Hoffman paints from the bike path.
“Flat Creek Composition,” by Jennifer L. Hoffman, pastel, 6 x 6 in.
“I feel really comfortable there, and maybe it’s because growing up in Pennsylvania, we used to visit the Appalachian Mountains, and I had my little spots that I knew very well,” says Hoffman. “They became my spots. South Park has become something like that for me here in Jackson. It’s wonderful to paint something so familiar and paint every little aspect of it that you connect with. Those are the kind of paintings people respond to, because they can sense my connection to it. When you return to a spot, the first struggle has been taken out of it, and now you can focus on the mood and atmosphere that made you choose that spot.”
Anyone who has visited the Jackson Hole area knows that the rugged beauty of that countryside is truly awe-inspiring. Hoffman has lived there since 1996. Has she become desensitized to it?
“Harvest Moonrise Field Sketch,” by Jennifer L. Hoffman, pastel, 8 x 6 in.
“No,” she says. “I never get tired of it. When you paint, you are always looking at things from a heightened perspective. I hope I always do this. Driving around the valley, I never feel like I am moving through this place and not taking it in. I am always like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I live here.’ But I also have this special thing where it is not just the shock value of the beauty. It is a little bit deeper for me because I know so much about it, and it’s home.”