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Ridge where the west commences

River valley in the mountains
Ridge where the West Commences, 40 x 30 in, Oil on canvas, 2022.

As soon as I saw this place I instantly thought of the song “Don’t Fence Me In” as sung by Gene Autry. It’s a view, looking due West, towards the headwaters of the of the Rio Grande river (in the distant mountains). The view is from Brown’s Lake Overlook (AKA Weminuche Wilderness Vista) along the Silver Thread Scenic Highway (CO 149).

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Moonrise over the San Luis Valley, Colorado

Moonrise over the San Luis Valley, dark sky, dimly lit Sangre de Cristo MOuntins, moon in sky at left, scrub brush in front of mountains.
Moonrise over the San Luis Valley (Michael Liebhaber, Oil on canvas, 40×30 in., 2022)

On a cool evening, the feeling of a moonrise over the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Looking East from near Alamosa, Colorado. Three 14,300+ foot (4359 m) peaks are visible towards the right: Ellingwood, Blanca (Sisnaajini), and Little Bear.

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Distant View of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains

This very distant view is from the Bluff Overlook in the Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge, just south of Alamosa, Colorado.

Sangre de Cristo Mtns from Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge; Michael Liebhaber, Digital Drawing, 2019.
Sangre de Cristo Mtns from Alamosa National Wildlife Refuge; Michael Liebhaber, Digital Drawing, 2019. [© Michael Liebhaber, 2019]

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White River at Keeps Mill

Apparently, Keeps Mill was a stop on an alternative route around Mt. Hood on the Oregon trail. If that’s true, how people got wagons in and out of here, I do not know. The hillsides rise quite quickly from both sides of the river. The White River flows from the White Glacier on Mt Hood. Keeps Mill is a primitive, secluded campground at the end of Forest Road 2120 (note to self: Watch for speed bump at end of pavement). The last mile is down a rocky, narrow, steep, exposed hillside. Did I mention a really tight switchback and talus fields?

Oil painting of White River in a forest
White River at Keeps Mill, Michael Liebhaber, 2019, Oil on panel, 40 x 30 inches
[© Michael Liebhaber, 2019]
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Behind the scenes – Preview

Here is a sneak preview of a big watercolor I started today. This piece is kind of an “experiment.” I’ve never painted a watercolor this big (30x22in; 76x56cm). I’m also applying the paint in a way that combines watercolor and oil painting. Unlike watercolor,

  • I am not painting big areas of solid color.

  • I am mixing some colors on the paper (not before I use them).

  • My painting is standing upright instead of lying down.

The last point is interesting and has caused me to make some adjustments; mainly not using as much water as I normally would over a large area. All of this combines to give it a different “look.” We shall see what happens.

Fez start
Michael Liebhaber, untitled as of now.
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Artist Tired After Painting Two Phoenix Mountains.

It’s true, and I’m working on a third mountain. I work out at my local YMCA to stay in shape.

Thankfully, the mountains are small, 8 by 10 inches. They are part of my new project: A tribute to Phoenix mountains.

The project did not start as “a project”. It grew out of a visit to the Phoenix Art Museum. I looked at the buildings near the museum. I have painted many buildings in many cities in the world. I wondered if there were any Phoenix buildings I should paint. I really hate to look for things to paint, but I threw caution to the wind and began a series of short-range travels around Phoenix, searching for interesting scenes that defined Phoenix, and the larger metropolitan area.

Driving from one end of metro Phoenix to the other is not easy. Roads and highways go up, down, and around many hills and mountains. Then it struck me. The mountains around Phoenix define the city. They influence roads, city and neighborhood boundaries, the location and orientation of buildings, parks, and golf courses, property values, and more. Yet, they are often taken for granted by many of us who live here.

A project was born. I picked some of the better-known mountain peaks to begin the project:  Piestewa, Camelback, and Superstition. More will follow. I welcome suggestions. The paintings are done in oil. Piestewa and Camelback are finished. Superstition is in progress. Artists debate the value of showing incomplete work, but this project began by throwing caution to the wind, so here is Superstition as it is at the moment. It will look different by the end of today.