Peace Valley Guest Ranch

The Peace Country is beautiful all together, but some places have reserved a particular, timeless beauty that seeps into your pores.  Such a place is the Peace Valley Guest Ranch, a haven of peace, quiet and nature maintained by the Allen family of Grimshaw, Alberta.  I’m going to use big pictures and few words to show you we were excited to visit the Ranch for  a watercolour retreat:

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The Ranch House (where guests enjoy superb meals made without electricity, dining by candlelight) is a 100 year old log structure that originally served as a post office.  Mail was delivered by steamboats via the Peace River.  In the evening, a fire is built in the yard and guests tuck in to hot biscuits and jam while taking in the moonlight, owls, bats, fireflies and northern lights.

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The ranch decor is authentic: the washtubs, saws and buckets are original to Peace Country settlements.

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Washstands and candlelight in the cabins recall simpler times, but the quilts, mattresses and pillows are luxurious for modern hips and heads.

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Lovely objects and flowers offer plenty of photography and painting opportunity.

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Friendly dogs greet guests and patrol the area for deer, cougars, bears… but mostly squirrels.

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The Peace River is vast and offers more material for artists.  The changing fog, clouds, and colours are a lifelong study.

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The river vista offers wonderful opportunity for wildlife viewing.  These young males had a splashing good time in the morning mist.

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The hills are never ending.  Keep an eye out for birds, saskatoons, wildflowers and elk.

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Two hours riding in the glorious hills, drinking in sweet warm air in vast, peaceful landscapes is simply incredible.  Imagine in this picture the soft thud of horses’ hooves, the squeak of leather, the gentle walk of a creature who knows its job well… on this ride we saw billowing clouds, distant lightning, and a rainbow.

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Painting Expedition

Wind.  Rain.  Just really cold.  Welcome to painting in the great Alberta outdoors!  Still, it must be done.  This is really good for bulking up one’s artistic know how.  The thrill of painting in the elements is unmatched by any studio experience.  The paint and paper and water doing uncharacteristic things builds patience, technical skill, and the acceptance of mistakes…  sigh.  The practice is what makes it perfect.  This is our first plein air expedition of 2019.

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Painting at a local pond along the highway and railway tracks, there isn’t much to choose from as far as subject matter goes.  The train was colourful and horizontal.  Judy managed to fit the historic NAR building in as well.  Actually, just now there is quite a dirt pile around the building, which is still under construction, so we have both made the dirt browns a little nicer than they are.  Both Carolyn’s and Judy’s sketches are done in pen, then painted with Cass watercolourcolours.

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It always helps to have a critic.  Once the camera started coming out Pip took off for a walk around the pond.  Spying a muskrat, he jumped in the water up to his belly and enjoyed himself very much.

A Sunset Drive

Actually, it began as an afternoon walk with Yorkie and Beagle, and then the sun began to set because it was 4 p.m. in Northern Alberta.  As we drove down the road we had just walked on, the low light made rainbow sun dogs out in the field.  The deepening of the colours was the fading of the day’s last warmth.

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And the sun is down within ten minutes. No more sun dogs, no more walking dogs.  Time to see about supper!

Outdoor Art

‘Tis the season to pack up the knapsack and roam without a care, painting with ease all day while roaming the friendly outdoors, returning at end of day with charming sketches and, indeed, spontaneous masterpieces…

Reality check.  Ants.  Wind drying up your wash.  Sunlight glare.  Mosquitoes.  Falling debris.  Sitting on rocks.  Sunburn, stiffness, moving light source, spiders, curious onlookers.

“Outdoor painting is &%#@! hard!”

What a pleasure to hear someone else voice one’s frustration 🙂

Outdoor painting is not indoor painting.

After a couple of hours of annoying myself with a rose bush (I don’t paint flowers well at the best of times; why would I choose such a subject for outdoor painting?!), sketching with some wild, heavy lines was a restorative action.  Here’s my 30 second sketch of Pippie, who knows looking for gophers is a far better way to spend some time outside.

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