Capturing the landscape

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— She has painted landscapes in China, Turkey and New Zealand, but most of her work is inspired by scenes right here in Routt County, where she lived for 35 years.

Joan Hoffmann has a special love for Colorado, and while living in Routt County, she found a unique location to paint in Hayden at the Yampa River Preserve on the Carpenter Ranch.

Hoffmann uses oils to paint colorful plein-air (open air) portraits. Her work has been displayed in several regional museums and she will soon share her painting knowledge at a workshop at the historic Carpenter Ranch to benefit the Yampa River Preserve.

The Nature Conservancy purchased the 900-acre Carpenter Ranch in 1996 for its unique access to the Yampa River, which contains a wide array of wildlife. Geoff and Betsy Blakeslee run the ranch, which has a one-mile trail along the Yampa River and a small museum that tells the history of the old, culturally rich ranch and its wildlife.

Hoffman is friends with the Blakeslees and has held painting classes on the ranch before.

This year's workshop will last five days, June 11-15, during which participants have the option of staying at the ranch. The workshop's $390 fee largely benefits the Nature Conservancy and the ranch.

Also, Hoffmann will host an art show the last day of the workshop, selling her own paintings. She will donate 50 percent of the proceeds to the preserve.

"This is a nice opportunity to draw awareness to the uniqueness of this globally rare ecosystem," Betsy Blakeslee said.

Many of Hoffmann's landscape portraits look realistic upon first glance, but further investigation reveals surreal, bright colors.

"I'm inspired by the power of nature," Hoffmann said. "I feel extremely dedicated to the landscapes I paint. But I find special beauty early in the morning and late in the evening."

Over the course of the workshop, Hoffmann will instruct participants on the essence of oil painting as well as capturing simplicity. One day will focus on "catching the morning light," Hoffmann said.

Hoffmann said she wants to preserve the beauty that inspires her, and doing a benefit for the Carpenter Ranch seemed logical because it is one of her favorite places.

Wetland, riverside areas cover 1 percent of the western United States, but they support the majority of wildlife species, according to a pamphlet from The Nature Conservancy. Sandhill cranes, bald eagles, minks, red foxes, migratory birds and many species of fish depend on the Yampa River and its unique habitat.

Nearly 150 species of birds have been observed near the Carpenter Ranch.

The Nature Conservancy owns another preserve across U.S. Highway 40 from the Carpenter Ranch. And, with the recent donation to The Nature Conservancy of a nearby 160-acre conservation easement from John and Nancy Merrill, a large stretch of the Yampa River near Hayden is protected from all future development.

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