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A piece of high-alpine inspiration

Shauna Farnell
Dominique Taylor/Vail DailyOil painter Cindy Harlan Youse paints at the Betty Ford Gardens Wednesday in Vail.
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VAIL – Painters don’t have to travel far in the valley for a sea of colors. Not only is the entire landscape of the Vail Valley in bloom at the moment, but every shade of the color wheel is spurting from the ground at the Betty Ford Alpine Garden. This week, passerbys will find oil painter Cindy Harlan Youse at work in the garden. Youse specializes in landscapes, and during her time in the garden, she’s rendering several snapshots from the myriad of alpine varieties.”Painters and artists really recruit us, because it’s such a beautiful place to come and create,” said Betty Ford Alpine Garden executive director Jim Brandmeyer of the gardens, which are located behind Ford Park in Vail. “It’s a very inspiring place.”

Youse, who studied with Western painters Ralph Oberg, Matt Smith and Wayne Wolfe, has contributed to the gardens’ art and flowers fundraiser, and hopes to provide some wisdom on painting for anyone who would like to improve their own work on canvas. “I’ll be out here all summer,” said Youse, who hails from Cincinnati but is in the process of moving to the valley full-time. “I’ve been painting all my life, but I’ve really just gravitated to Colorado and the West in the last seven years. I’ve been in love with the Rocky Mountains since I could walk.”Youse said the array of colors offered by the Colorado landscape were a large part of the allure. When she sets up her easel in the Betty Ford Garden, she targets a particular visual window, puts her composition down, and tries to capture the light of the given time of day.”I try to get my composition and the foundation values down the first day, because the light changes constantly,” Youse said. “You have to work very quickly. I’ll sometimes come back the next day at the same time to put on the finishing touches. I’ll look for the most fully bloomed areas.”

Youse also tries to incorporate figures into her composition. She’s been known to flag down individuals to be captured on canvas.”Hopefully this week, someone will walk by in a dress and a garden hat,” she said. “I’ve always been drawn to putting figures in my paintings. It makes them more interesting.”Youse, who will have a reception at her local studio July 15 and who also does commissioned work, is working on a composition of poppies for the first of her Betty Ford renderings. Since opening in 1985, the garden has drawn several painters and photographers. It is open to the public with its official season running from Memorial Day to Labor Day.



“The gardens are opened to the public, so anyone that wishes to come and paint or photograph is welcome to do so,” Brandmeyer said. “If there is a photographer using the gardens for commercial purposes, we ask for a donation to the gardens. It was the first demonstration garden, and now we have over three acres of rock gardens, manicured grounds and high alpine plants.”Youse, while appearing to be hard at work in the gardens, is very open to questions for those who see her in mid-rendering mode. “I know people sometimes feel they shouldn’t disturb an artist at work, but they should feel free to ask questions. It doesn’t bother me at all,” she said. “I love to talk about art. Since I was about 2 or 3, all I ever wanted to do was draw and paint. If I’m not doing that, I’m not fulfilling my destiny.”

Oil painting demonstrationWhat: Oil painter Cindy Harlan YouseWhere: Painting in Betty Ford Alpine Garden in Vail

Participate in The Longevity Project

The Longevity Project is an annual campaign to help educate readers about what it takes to live a long, fulfilling life in our valley. This year Kevin shares his story of hope and celebration of life with his presentation Cracked, Not Broken as we explore the critical and relevant topic of mental health.



When: Through Sunday, with a reception at her local studio in Edwards from 12 to 6 p.m., July 15Information: 926-1333Staff Writer Shauna Farnell can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or sfarnell@vaildaily.com.Vail Colorado


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