Studio and Plein Air Painter
Marilynn Brandenburger has been painting and exhibiting professionally since 1980. After teaching art workshops around the country for 40 years, she retired to devote full time to her painting. An enthusiastic traveler, she enjoys translating her sojourns into paintings and illustrated watercolor journals.
Marilynn’s artwork has been shown in more than 75 national juried exhibitions and her drawings and paintings have appeared in regional and national magazines, exhibition catalogs, national park brochures and five books, including The Best of Colored Pencil 5 and the award-winning The Island Within Us. She has received grants from private and public foundations, earned signature status in the Colored Pencil Society of America and won appointments as Artist-in-Residence at the Gratiot Lake Conservancy, the Smithgall Woods Conservation Area, the Ragdale Foundation, the Brush Creek Foundation and Glacier, Everglades and Isle Royale National Parks.
Marilynn works in ink and watercolor on paper, in the studio and en plein air. Her subjects are primarily landscapes that have been preserved and protected for their unique beauty or ecological value.
About her work, she says: ”I love sketching and painting on site! The natural world truly inspires me, and being outdoors makes painting landscape a fun challenge. So when my husband and I travel, I paint as we go. I also make notes about the places I paint and they become the basis for small stories I post along with my paintings on Instagram, Facebook and on my website.”
Marilynn holds a Bachelors degree in anthropology from Tulane University and a Masters degree in art education from Florida Atlantic University. A member of the Plein Air Artists of Colorado, Women Artists of the West and American Women Artists, she makes her home in Fort Collins, Colorado, with her husband, photographer and travel-buddy par excellence, Allen Brandenburger.
For the first time in 34 years of presenting its annual Tour of Homes, the Poudre Landmarks Foundation invited local artists to paint during the festivities, and members of my weekly painting group, PAAC (Plein Air Artists of Colorado), rose to the challenge. My assigned space was the historic Water Works, built in 1883 to convey Poudre River water to the fledgling city of Fort Collins. Currently being stabilized and excavated by volunteers, the Landmarks Foundation and Friends of the Water Works, the old buildings and grounds are playing a new role as a center for education about water use. The Water Works also boasts one of the largest cottonwood trees in the county, a 100-year old apple orchard and handsome outbuildings begging to be painted.
Home to elk, wild turkey, mountain lions and other wildlife, Bobcat Ridge features rolling hills, gorgeous red-rock cliffs and lots of trails that are extremely popular for hiking. When I arrived shortly after 9 am to paint, hikers, bikers, horseback riders and other artists were all jockeying for parking spaces, turns at the bathroom and room on the trails, but pretty soon the crowds broke up into small groups that drifted out onto the trails and disappeared into the foothills, and the fresh air and beautiful views everyone was seeking opened up for all.
Sunshine sparkled off the Poudre River belying the February chill of 28°. Surprisingly, the temperature didn’t deter my fellow plein air painters; almost a dozen showed up for our first outing at River Bluffs Natural Area. There was a lot to like about the place: an excellent view down the river, golden grasses playing off against blue water and ice fingers tickling the water’s edge. What pleased me most about the morning, however, was not the scene but the quiet camaraderie. Artists were scattered all along the riverbank, but you’d hardly know it from the silence. Here and there a comment or brief conversation rose up from the water but the words floated away like the drifting ice. Although the morning was bitterly cold, this quiet harmony of artists mutually engaged in their work warmed my day.
Sand Lily, Soapstone Prairie
Only 25 miles from the city, Soapstone Prairie is another world. Its expanse of rolling hills under wide-open skies still looks much as it did to native peoples who camped there hundreds of years ago, and it is still home to historic plains animals such as bison, black-footed ferrets, and pronghorn antelopes. Hiking in Soapstone in the spring is an immersion in wildflowers, birdsong, green-shrubbed hillsides and the crackle of grasshoppers. On the hilltops you can see west to the Rockies still blanketed with snow, north to Wyoming’s Medicine Bow Mountains and south and east to the flat expanses of the Great Plains. To be in the open air, virtually alone, with seemingly unlimited views is a luxury in today’s noisy, troubled world. But to drive out of that place at sunset and to watch a herd of pronghorns suddenly float across the road in front of you is a moment of magic beyond compare.
Reaching for the Sky
One of the things that excites me about living near the Poudre River is the canyon through which it flows from high in the Rocky Mountains down to the eastern flatlands. For much of its 40-mile length the canyon’s slopes are gentle and forested, but as the river approaches the last 10 miles of its run, it gets squeezed by high walls of granite called The Narrows.” Along those walls the river has carved magnificent rock formations, such as this one at a trailhead called Grey Rock, where fellow plein air painters and I found plenty of inspiration on a September morning.
Our recent hike at Red Mountain Open Space — via colorfully-named trails like Sinking Sun and Big Hole Wash and Bent Rock — took us over an amazingly varied terrain of rolling hills, sandy washes and twisted canyons. But the special joy for me as an artist was to see the incredible rich color there. Green sage and golden yucca; white, pink and tan rocks; red-orange hillsides and red, red washes that make you think you’ve been dropped off on Mars. Shove all of that up against brilliant cobalt-blue skies and you have something truly remarkable just 30 miles out of town.
Summer Morning Watson Lake
Pawnee Buttes Western Border