Grand County Artist: Donna Lyons |

Grand County Artist: Donna Lyons

Donna Lyons.
Photo by Julia Grundmeier |

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“My Kawuneeche: An Artist’s Journal in Rocky Mountan National Park” was recently released and is for sale in the area. Lyons will be teaching two workshops through the Rocky Mountain Conservancy in RMNP this summer.

What is your day like when working on your art?

As a landscape painter who works primarily on location, I try to paint, draw or attend to activities that pertain to my art every day – if even for few minutes. I find that keeping a watercolor sketchbook is a good way to keep my drawing skills sharp when the day brings other commitments and it’s difficult to get a large painting project underway. Usually, when it is not windy or raining or snowing heavily, I am outside painting, especially from March on into late fall. I carry a very small backpack from Walmart that holds everything I need. I keep it filled with my watercolor sketchbook, a palette and tubes of paint, three or four of my favorite brushes, a pen and pencil, some paper towels, folding containers and water, tape and sturdy clips. I never forget my “anti-frustration medication” – chocolate! – and something for lunch and a snack.

The bag sits in it’s own corner in my studio, ready to be tossed into the car. I keep an old boat cushion in the car to sit upon when I am out. The small backpack is my quick and ready portable studio that always rides with me in my Jeep. More often than not, I have a special place in mind I want to explore, and it generally is a place I can hike to easily with this small set-up. My favorite thing is to head out with the anticipation of something new, or to revisit favorite haunts with new eyes. Many times it is the excitement of using new or different materials combined with a fine day that gets me out early. And then, there’s always the anticipation of being able to witness some of nature’s drama – a change in the sky or the weather, meeting up with a moose or other critters. On days when I am in the studio and have a commission piece or other larger painting to finish, I start in right after breakfast. Those are the days when I may need some special guidance, so I usually begin work with a small prayer. I work without distraction until I feel I am in need of a break. Or, if I run into a problem with a painting that requires more thought, I will stop and do something else for a while – go for a walk, shovel some snow, do the dishes. There are times when I need to put the brush down and just “sit” with the painting to see what it may need to work through the problem. It’s all work, and it’s all fun. I try to be always open, constantly recognizing, searching for and to be moved by the “poetry” of the landscape at the moment I am seeing it and experiencing it. My job then, is to somehow capture that poetry and paint it – discarding the temptation to paint too much into a piece, keeping it simple enough so that my reaction to the “poetry” is what others see when the painting is finished. It is a lifetime goal for me.

As St. Augustine might have said: “We live in two landscapes – one that is the eternal and the divine and one that is just the backyard.” I believe that there is a fine point or moment when we are able to get a glimpse of both. That’s what I hope to convey in my work.

What is the best part about being an artist in Grand County?

The best part about being an artist in Grand County is the stunning beauty we witness in every season, from one end of the county to the other. There is so much here to absorb and to see and to really understand what is happening in this landscape. The county is so varied in topography that there is never a lack of subject matter worthy of a sketch, a painting, a recording or description of some kind of the moments in the days and months that unfold through the seasons. There seems to be an increasing interest in the arts in the county that I hope will continue to grow and flourish. I’ve met very few people who aren’t moved in some way by the beauty that surrounds all of us here.

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