Editor’s Letter | The Beauty of Nature

By Kristin Hoerth

We’ve had some strange weather here in Colorado lately, in a pattern that can perhaps best be described as feast or famine. Weeks—no, months—went by with zero precipitation; forecasters delivered dire reports of declining snowpack levels and record numbers of days without moisture.

But then, as though Mother Nature had heard the concern in their voices, the tides turned with a vengeance. Perhaps you saw news reports about the mid-April snowstorm that dumped up to three feet of snow on the higher elevations. Here in slightly lower-lying Boulder, the accumulation was a fraction of that amount, but the storm was remarkable nonetheless, lasting for three days and alternating between rain, sleet, and snow. The day after the wet stuff finally stopped falling? Bright blue skies, brilliant sunshine, and the fastest snowmelt I’ve ever seen. It seemed like the snow was rushing to melt, like it couldn’t turn to water fast enough. The following day revealed grass that had turned green literally overnight; all of a sudden the trees were budding, too, and spring was in full swing.

Such are the challenges and delights of nature at an especially volatile time of the year. And it seems fitting that nature is demanding so much attention just as we here at Southwest Art are putting together this special issue on plein-air painting. For many (but not all) plein-air painters, of course, the natural world is at the very heart of their pursuits. Their concerns center on natural features such as the sky, mountains, trees, and rivers, as well as the effects of sunlight, shadows, and the weather. Some are drawn to sweeping vistas—the Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons—while others are inspired by more intimate views like a quiet stream or a stand of aspen trees.

Regardless of their individual outlooks, plein-air artists find nature to be an endlessly compelling subject, and one that speaks just as strongly to viewers, as well. Perhaps more than any other subject, the landscape is something we all share and relate to. Who among us hasn’t marveled at a sunset or the reflection on the still surface of an early-morning pond? The artists featured in this issue experience that sense of awe first-hand and translate it to canvas on the spot. I hope you can feel the immediacy of their work and marvel, in turn, at the beautiful natural world that surrounds us.