For two weeks every year, Houston-based artist Joan Holcombe can be found somewhere on Paradise Ranch, standing before an easel capturing a magnificent view in oil paints. Her beautiful Impressionistic depictions of the Big Horns, aspen groves, Fan Rock and French Creek are scattered around the ranch, in the dining room and cabins; and there are some prints for sale in the office at an incredibly reasonable price.
(Joan's painting of Fan Rock on the wall in Tensleep cabin)
Joan and her husband Don have been coming to Paradise every year for 30 years. This makes them the longest-standing continuous guests; they’ve even been here longer than Leah! (“We’re the dinosaurs,” Don says!)
They bought their cabin, Tensleep, sight unseen from the Apache Corporation 31 years ago - fortunately they fell in love with this landscape and have come every year since, staying for two weeks and bringing their extended family to share their slice of paradise.
It’s these family members who choose which scene Joan will paint that particular visit.
“We go out on Monday and hike and hike and hike, and ‘what do you think, what do you think’ - we have to consider that after they leave, I have to carry everything,” Joan says.
This year, daughter Julie chose the far side of French Creek, where the horses cross on the trail rides.
“She said I needed a challenge. She said, you know you can do mountains, you know you can do trees. I’ve done water before, it’s just really challenging.”
Every day, Joan can be found down by the creek painting from life, working at exactly the same time of day for consistency of light. She’ll then complete the painting at home, using photographs to trigger her memory.
“Painting in the outdoors is my favourite thing to do,” she says. “I like landscapes, and photographs are great for finishing up at home, but you don’t get the feeling or the exact colour because you’re going from a photograph.
“The main thing is, I just love being totally out with no cell phone, no computer, nobody calling, just to be out there in the middle of this gorgeous landscape - it’s just inspiring.”
When Joan first starting visiting Paradise she was a full-time artist, represented in galleries in Houston, Dallas and Denver. Now a full time realtor, Joan now has limited time to paint, but getting out into the Paradise landscape to paint is still the focus of her visits here. And then there is the reward of other people appreciating her work.
“The thing that’s so fun for me - I’ve been coming for so many years, and selling one or two forever - and people come up to me and say, “We look at your print every day and think of the ranch,” she says. “And that makes me feel great!”
(two of Joan's prints for sale in the office)