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Painting the Alps and the Himalayas en Plein Air

Inspiration and the Artistic Journey
From 2007 to 2009, while pursuing a painting series on ballet dancers at Florence Dance Center in Italy, I frequently flew to Florence at different times of the year. On clear-sky days, the aerial view of the Alps was mesmerizing. If the landscape was so beautiful from above it should be, I was certain, equally spectacular at ground level. I first traveled to the Swiss Alps in 2013 and, over the course of the next two years, I painted in different regions across Swiss, French, Italian, Austrian and German Alps at different times of the year.

I was equally fascinated with the world’s youngest mountain range: the Himalayas. The two mountain ranges have different flora, fauna and also diverse cultures. Just as I painted in the Alps, I then trekked across the Himalayas painting in different regions around Himalayan terrain; this journey of mine is still ongoing.

With vast areas devoid of human presence, serenity rules in both the Alps and the Himalaya. In both places, however, the impression of the landscape always seems to be fleeting. My aim was to try to capture the ephemeral moods of the Alps and Himalayas in my paintings. People who live in the mountains, I observed, love their environment and live in complete harmony with nature. That is the very essence of my paintings of the mountains–to admire, preserve and live in harmony with nature.

Pinpointing Places to Paint in the Alps and the Himalayas
I didn’t have any friends nor did I know anyone living in the Alpine regions or the Himalayas. Hence, in the beginning, I searched the Internet for places to visit. Often, on visiting these places I found they didn’t quite interest me; either the places were too commercialized or I simply didn’t find them inspiring to paint.

But the real start to my artistic journey was while traveling. By train, bus and boat, I came across stunning places from one Alpine destination to the next. These places fascinated me. They were often less traveled, at times completely remote. This led to paths where nature was at its best and spectacular. I noted these places on maps and came back to them to paint. Often I made day trips or if there happened to be lodging, I chose to stay near these stunning places. I could thus paint in these landscapes and be absorbed in their environments.

I traveled solo in all these different Alpine regions with the sole purpose to paint themes that challenged and inspired me to paint en plein air. Hence, I call it my artistic journey in the Alps and the Himalayas. My main intention was not to paint famous peaks or famous places frequented by tourists but rather to paint what caught my eye as an artist.

Landscape Painting Challenges of the Alps and Himalayas
The foremost challenge while painting on location was the rapidly changing atmosphere. Often the atmosphere would dramatically change halfway through the painting. My approach had to be very flexible and at times, direct.

When the atmosphere changed in midst of my painting session, I realized the change was equally beautiful to what I’d seen when I started my painting, so I made necessary adjustments to the work. Nature brings surprises that we often never imagine and I think that’s the most beautiful part of painting on location.

Let me cite an example of a painting titled Sun-break. It rained constantly the day I arrived in St. Moritz (Switzerland) and the following two days. Although I had already pinpointed subjects I wanted to paint I couldn’t begin due to the rain and almost zero visibility. The fourth day was highly overcast and since it at least wasn’t raining, I decided to paint outdoors. In the midst of the painting, occasional sun breaks created wonderful glowing light effects in the sky, on land and on water. It was so beautiful that I tried to add those light effects to my painting, attempting to retain the spontaneity and freedom through the application of paint. After this brief play of light, it again turned overcast and remained the same all through the day. As mentioned above, nature brings surprises; in this instance, fleeting movements of dramatic light effects in the sky, land and on water.