Thomas Moran, “The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone,” oil on canvas, 96.5 x 163.3 in., Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of George D. Pratt

It’s no secret to the plein air community that Thomas Moran and his love of painting the beauty of nature played a critical role is preserving places such as the Grand Canyon. But it’s also gratifying to see when a player such as National Geographic shares this history with the public at large, as the brand did recently in an online article titled “How Art Saved Yellowstone – and the Landscape Still Inspires.”

In the article, Douglas Main interviews plein air artist Shirl Ireland about the difficulties of painting outdoors, and addresses the increase in its popularity. It even includes a shout-out to the 2019 Plein Air Invitational at Yellowstone (September 24–29).

Watch National Geographic’s “Painting Yellowstone LIVE” video here:
Plein air painters at Yellowstone

And watch “A Brief History of Yellowstone” in this visually stunning National Geographic video:

Have you been to Yellowstone? What was your experience like? Share it with us in the comments below!

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  1. My husband, Daniel, and I began leading plein air retreats in Yellowstone National Park for the Yellowstone Forever Institute and the not-for-profit program ‘Plein Air in the Parks’ for the last five years. Yellowstone is such a welcome challenge for a plein air artist. It’s most iconic features are rocks and geysers, both hard subjects for beginners but so rewarding when you complete a great painting.

    This year’s retreat through the Institute is titled “Painting Moran’s Yellowstone”. After studying Moran’s paintings, and then visiting the sites where he painted, we were surprised to find that he sometimes moved the landscape around quite a bit … this forground with that midground using that background from over there. And, of course, some paintings and sketches were from off-the-path locations that aren’t accessible today due to Park restrictions or the movement of thermals. It is always a special time to get to paint these unique and memorable locations and the bison, elk and other animals of Yellowstone. This trip is always the highlight of my year!
    ** Please note that you have to apply for a permit months ahead of a group painting visit to Yellowstone.


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