Ned Mueller‘s favorite place to paint is 11 hours away by car, but the draw of the location is strong enough that he won’t hesitate to go.
Photo of Many Glacier, in Glacier National Park, Montana
The resident of Washington State will readily travel to Glacier National Park, in Montana, to visit Two Medicine, a campground that offers a “true wilderness experience,” according to the National Park Service. The vistas are mind-blowing, but Mueller generally shys away from them, or at the very least loads them with a lot of foreground activity. “I usually don’t do vistas too much anymore, unless they are somewhat extraordinary in terms of the lighting or the clouds,” he says. “I like getting more foreground in the painting, because it’s more interesting. And really, I’m just looking for interesting arrangements of shapes and colors — an abstract, a design thought. I don’t find that too much in vistas; they aren’t as interesting to me.”
“Montana Majic,” by Ned Mueller, oil on linen, 12 x 16 in.
Mueller is an eager hiker, but he’s come to appreciate accessible locations, too. Two Medicine offers both. A dead-end road deposits visitors at a scenic lake, but the intrepid can hike further to another lake, with more amazing views. “You can spend the whole week painting in just one spot because the mountains are all around, and there are waterfalls, all in about a two-mile radius,” Mueller says. “Other than that long hike up to that one lake, you only have to walk at most 100 yards and find all kinds of stuff to paint.”
Another view in Glacier National Park
The gruff but gregarious artist says he also likes Two Medicine because the wildlife is plentiful — he’s seen grizzly bears, bighorn sheep, and moose there, just to name some of the more notable fauna. Mueller likes to visit the area in early June, when he’s unlikely to encounter other human visitors and when the prices are cheaper. This can backfire, though. “The first part of June is cheaper for flights and lodging, and there’s a good amount of snow in the mountains to make them look more interesting,” says Mueller. “But you could run into a blizzard and 15 degree weather, like we did once. It was miserable; we folded up our stuff and called it a day. But it later warmed up and turned into a good trip.”
“Two Medicine Lake and Pumpelly Pillar,” by Ned Mueller, oil on linen, 10 x 12 in.
One suspects that the weather and the ruggedness of the land are draws for Mueller, rather than deterrents. The artist is clearly invigorated by unspoiled scenes, be they quaint Central American villages, remote mountain lakes, or isolated canyons. Glacier National Park, at the Canadian border, foots the bill. “Even though I have to drive all day to get there, I love to paint that area,” says Mueller. “I go for a week.”