Steamboat Springs While many birthdays are spent dining at a fine restaurant surrounded by family and friends, Joan Hoffmann's idea of a middle-age celebration included paintbrushes and hiking shoes.
As a 50th birthday gift to herself, Hoffmann took a 500-mile trek along the Continental Divide in 1999.
Originally, the hike brought her face to face with scenery she could not let escape her memory, and watercolor paintings is how she chose to reproduce those images.
But as time grew on, Hoffmann's interest in oil paintings grew and she turned those watercolors into oils.
The series of oil paintings on her "Colorado Odyssey" will be exhibited in a one-woman show at the Depot Art Center beginning today with an opening reception from 5 to 7 p.m.
"Watercolors are like a visual diary. That is my diary that is my original," Hoffmann said of not displaying her diary at the upcoming reception.
Prints of the original watercolors will be for sale for $30 but the larger original oil paintings range in price from $600 to $2,000.
"Colorado Odyssey" is a series of impressionistic original oil paintings that were inspired by the watercolors, which originally were inspired by the black and white sketches in the daily journal she kept.
Hoffmann and six others with the Sierra Club hiked about 10 miles a day for about 47 days from the outskirts of Denver to the outskirts of Durango.
"The specific focus is the Colorado High Country and the Colorado Trail," Hoffmann said. "(I tried to capture) the feel you have in the High Country. I always try to capture the emotion and feeling."
Although viewers may recognize exact spots along the Colorado Trail, Hoffmann said she wants people to take in the awe of being in such a high place.
If art lovers don't get to meet Hoffmann at tonight's reception or want to understand the technique and thought process more, she will hold a discussion at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Depot.
A road map at the discussion will show people the paintings she did along the way at certain points on the trail.
"I'm about preserving the wildlife and the land I explore. It's a talk on oil painting technique and the environment and the landscape we enjoy," Hoffmann said.
Hoffmann's plein air painting techniques have allowed her to get in touch with landscapes, birds and other wildlife, but she's also found she can be just as creative in her studio.
She spent 30 years painting watercolor landscapes and wildlife while living in Colorado before she moved in January 2000.
Hoffmann moved from Pleasant Valley to Petaluma, Calif., to follow the other love of her life, architect Jeff Morse. Although this was not her first choice of towns to move, Hoffmann said she's investigated elements that give her suitable subject material for painting.
But about every two months, Hoffmann returns to the Yampa Valley to teach oil and watercolor workshops and provide open critiques for painters.
Hoffmann studied painting at Colorado State University and at the Banff School of Fine Arts in Canada. She continues to enroll in various professionally taught workshops and display her artwork in various galleries around the country.