After almost three and a half decades of Alaska winters, I do sometimes get tired of the cold and the dark, but I have yet to ever see it start snowing and wish it would stop. For the last several years, since I finally discovered some ways of painting falling snow that were both convincing representationally and satisfying for me in a painterly way, I have painted snowfall of many sorts, in all seasons and locations. First flurries of the fall, at Smith Lake on the University of Alaska campus. Soft snow drifting down in the boreal forest of interior Alaska in deep winter. A blizzard at the face of Child's Glacier, just outside Cordova. And many more.
I stood in the very spot on which the viewer in this large--4' x 5'--painting would stand, looking in this very direction, just last week. And in today's Fairbanks newspaper, there is a brief note that a snow squall like this one covered the ground at this locale just yesterday--July 18. But I began this painting two months ago, not on site, but remembering the way this view of Sunset Peak from Eielson Visitor's Center in Denali National Park looks in the fall, and thinking about harbingers of winter. Darkness, absent for months in summer, is coming. The brilliant fall color, so gorgeous and so startling, is fleeting, and is a reminder that winter is about to descend. I've watched squalls of snow like this fall in Denali Park in all seasons, but for me they are most dramatic, most portentous, in the fall.
I finished this painting at 11 p.m., night before last, and was so excited when I lifted it upright onto my easel and stepped back, after days of working on it while it lay horizontally. Each time I paint falling snow, I think while I'm working of other snowfalls, and of other ways of conveying the magic I feel each time I see it come down. The panorama south of Eielson Visitor's Center, across Gorge Creek toward Sunrise and Sunset Glaciers, is deep and expansive, and I wanted snow not just plastered on top of it, but swirling through it, filling the air. I love the summer, lament the brevity of fall, but look forward, too, to the winter.