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It is a cold day in the Rocky Mountains. Two Ute horsemen are out hunting, keeping eyes out for the dangers around them. They watch for neighboring tribes, perhaps foraging or hunting in the mountains. Wolves ran freely during this time period--a distant howl, although disconcerting, would not have been unusual. It is freezing and the two must keep moving.
These two Ute travelers are prepared for both the environment and any strangers they might encounter. The front rider, clad in elk hides, keeps a vigilant lookout and carries his arrow quiver. The back rider, covered in a buffalo robe, has a gun case for a Kentucky long rifle. The rifle case dates this image to the early 1800s, as does the Hudson Bay blanket used by the front rider.
The Ute dwelt in the massive rugged realm of the Rocky Mountains and were known as the “Blue Sky People” by surrounding tribes. Their domain extended across the eastern Front Range covering all of Colorado and westward over the Continental Divide into central Utah spanning as far north as the Green River in Wyoming and south into northern New Mexico. This shy yet powerful people once roamed freely across this expanse of plains, mountains and high desert. They were one of the last tribes to be forced off their ancestral land by westward expansion.
Due to my research, this is one of the most time-intensive paintings I have ever created. To properly capture what it must have been like for the Ute to travel in their homeland in the middle of the winter, I started by hiking near Pikes Peak on a windy day after a winter snowstorm. The craggy rocks covered with snow made for great visuals. I climbed up high, past the pines, so that I could get clear photographs of the mountains without the obstruction of trees. In the painting, I further enhance the mountains by depicting snow blowing off the peaks and mixing with the clouds. After getting inspiration for the mountains, I traveled to a ranch to look at horses with a heavy winter coats. Native American ponies would get wooly and fuzzy in the cold months and I wanted to make sure that the horses in this painting had the right texture to their coats.
Please contact me at James Ayers studios with any questions you might have.