Star to Star

26th of Apr 2017

By Rachel Teannalach
April 26, 2017

My most memorable Idaho days have stretched from the last star to the first star, without walking more than ten feet in any direction. These days in which I created “time-lapse” paintings were filled with inner peace and gratitude for natural places. I will tell you about one.

The place is up Boulder Creek Road off Highway 75 in the Wood River Valley. On this particular summer day, I completed ten 8×8” paintings, one every two hours from 5am-11pm.


5am – An extra-terrestrial blue glow revealing the profile of the Boulder Mountains hints at daybreak. The base of the mountains also glows blue behind the dark silhouettes of pine trees. I am unable to distinguish exactly which colors I am using – only dark or light. My wax medium is stiff on my metal palette, and my paint application is thick in this cold, pre-dawn hour. The last star disappears.

7am – The morning sun bathes the tips of the aspens and pine trees, and the east side of Boulder Peak in golden light. Though the morning light hits me too, I am still bundled in a down jacket with a blanket wrapped around my legs, fingers stiff with the morning’s chill. I drink a cup of coffee and eat some dark chocolate. This is my favorite time to work, stowing away the best part of the day in paint.

9am – The early morning green of the sky yields to a lovely cerulean blue, and the light softens the angular facets of the characteristically pink peaks of the Boulders. This is the mid-day stretch, where a painter has to observe subtleties of light rather than brilliant contrasts. I take off my down coat and stretch my legs.

11am – The sun casts its warm hue gently upon the landscape before me. The first puff of a cloud inches its way into my composition from the east. My wax medium begins to soften and melt, making my paint more fluid. The temperature of the day records itself in my painting.

1pm – A lively cloud against the cerulean sky has grabbed my attention. It casts a refreshing shadow upon Boulder Peak, and I excitedly integrate the new compositional interest like a chef adding spices. I realize I am very hungry from all this looking and eat a sandwich.

3pm – The fluffy cloud has thinned, and the shadows have stretched long upon the foothills. The midday intensity of the sun has relaxed, releasing the landscape from its omnipotent hold. I take some deep breaths and do triangle pose to wake up my spine and waning focus.

5pm – The clouds have regained their vigor, this time their underbellies mirroring the pinks of the rocks below as they spill eastward over Boulder Peak. The east side of the peak is cast in indigo blue, while the westward facets glow a gentle gold.  The dynamic lighting of evening that a plein air painter covets has begun. Evening hours require faster work, so I have more time between paintings. I eat some of my dinner, drink a beer, and take a short nap between paintings.

7pm – The sky is bright against the darkening purple mountains and foothills. One hazy cloud fills the horizon. The top of Boulder Peak is still deep indigo, and the westward facet is glowing red. Color wheel foils green and red spar for territory on the peaks, while green trees and purple foothills melt together below.

9pm – Light and dark begin to meet in the middle. The sky is now moody and tinged with grey, the ember-like glow of the rock fading to a soft peach. The pine trees soak up light and emit an emerald green, trimmed by the chartreuse grasses. Paint thickens on the palette – my thermometer heralding the end of day.  It’s time for some hot tea and another layer of clothes, and a few minutes to warm up in the car.

11pm – The day is closing, much as it began, but with a warmer light. With my headlamp on its dimmest setting not to black out the landscape, I try to make out the colors on my palette. The green glow of morning gives way to indigo, and the last breaths of the sun fill the valley from the west with a Prussian blue haze. The stars of night shine brightly.

Rachel Teannalach is a contemporary landscape painter based in Boise. She has worked with Advocates for the West as well as Idaho Conservation League, using her artwork to promote the work these organizations do to protect the West’s wild places. Her work can be found at