Lisa Dianne Martin plans to paint at the peak of all of Colorado’s 14,000-foot mountains. Here she is with her painting done at Grays Peak.

Do you think setting up your gear is difficult? Try hiking seven miles up rough terrain before even unfolding your easel. But for some, such as Lisa Dianne Martin, that’s part of the fun. 

“Mt. Lincoln,” by Lisa Dianne Martin, 2014, acrylic, 12 x 24 in.

Martin plans on painting at the summit of all 53 “14ers” in Colorado — mountains that reach more than 14,000 feet. She has a handful under her belt already, and she’s giving herself a couple of years to tackle the project. “I’m taking off this summer just to climb and paint,” she says. 

Martin on Mt. Sneffels

At 14,000 feet, altitude sickness is a real concern. Getting there requires physical conditioning and some mountaineering knowledge. Some of the peaks require technical climbing, with ropes and harnesses and the like. For even the easier 14ers, a person has to be aware of weather. “Even in the Class Ones, there is some scrambling, and you are supposed to summit and get back down by noon, when the thunderstorms roll in,” says Martin. “At that height, mountains create their own weather. Lightning is a huge factor.”

“Pyramid Peak,” by Lisa Dianne Martin, 2014, acrylic, 12 x 24 in.

Painting at the peak of Mt. Sneffels

In the winter months, there is wind and cold that must be negotiated. Martin paints in acrylic — “If a storm blows in, you have to be able to run down the mountain” — and thus far she has not had to add alcohol or anything else to her water to keep it from freezing. “I use Golden acrylics,” she says. “You are not supposed to use them under 50 degrees, but I haven’t had any problems.”

Martin and her painting from the top of Mt. Evans

How did she get into this?

“Originally I fell in love with landscape painting because of Bierstadt and Moran,” says Martin. “I climbed Mt. Bierstadt with a friend and was more excited that it was named after my favorite artist than because it was 14,000 feet. I took pictures from the summit instead of painting there. But it took a year to complete, so I knew I had to come up with a different plan of action if I was going to paint all the 14ers.”

“Mt. Elbert,” by Lisa Dianne Martin, 2014, acrylic, 12 x 24 in.

Martin practiced painting quickly outdoors, aiming for an hour limit for a 12″-x-24″ panel. She studied photos from the summits she was ascending and premixed colors to speed up the process, taking only the premixed colors and the primaries up the hill. “I have four different painting kits, depending on how difficult the mountain is,” she says. “If the round trip is only eight miles, I can carry more, and it’s nice to have more options up there.”

Martin’s painting at Mt. Lincoln

The artist says she finds the website to be a tremendous resource, with information on how to plan your trip, choose a route, know the geology of the mountain, check the weather, and crowdsource information. “It’s pretty great to be able to tap in to that resource,” says Martin. She is gearing up for some difficult climbs. Martin has already reached the summit of Pyramid Peak, a Class Four mountain, but there are harder ones to come. She’s quickly ramping up her mountaineering skills. “A few peaks are really exposed and dangerous, like Capitol Peak,” she says. “I’ll go with experienced climbers. But I will do the easier ones by myself — they are really populated and I feel pretty comfortable at this point.”


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