Skip to main content

BEACON Senior News

Artist Jack Denton paints Pikes Peak in 250 stunning variations

Sep 30, 2023 09:16AM ● By Rhonda Wray

“You go back, Jack, do it again,” Steely Dan sang in 1972. For Colorado Springs painter Jack Denton, 74, painting Pikes Peak on repeat is the driving force of his senior years. 

But make no mistake: this is not a catalog of clones. It’s the contrasts—vibrant or muted, large or small, day or night, from up high or down low, up close or far away, stormy or sunny—in all four directions and seasons—that lend astonishing variety to his work.

Tennessee native Denton first visited Colorado Springs in 2012 and was instantly smitten with Pikes Peak when it started raining, which turned to snow.

“She put on her dress whites for me,” Denton recalled with a smile.

He soon headed west and in 2014, through a series of “divine coincidences,” purchased a majestic home on the site of a former sheep farm and set up studios with colorful canvases competing for attention on easels and walls.

Though a large window boasts a spectacular view of Pikes Peak and Garden of the Gods, it is far from his only vantage point. 

Denton once chartered a helicopter whose pilot flew with the U.K.’s Royal Air Force. The doors were off and he hung in the air, shooting 250 photos with a stunning bird’s-eye view. He hopes to repeat the adventure or get a drone. 

Another adventure beckoned when he turned 70.

“I drove my motorcycle up the Peak. Ute Pass was pretty scary!” he admitted.

Denton has completed two volumes of books containing 100 paintings each: “Pikes Peak, America’s Mountain—100 Oil Paintings by Jack Denton.” 

“Once I did one book, I knew I had to do two more,” he said. 

He is halfway through his third. 

“After 300 paintings I’m either done, or it’s a good start,” he said.  

Denton has held shows at Garden of the Gods Resort and Club and Briarhurst Manor, where art appreciators could admire (and buy) his original paintings, see Denton at work and purchase his books and have them signed. 

A book requires a year and a half of painting, but even then, Denton’s work is far from done. He titles the paintings, photographs them and writes descriptions (each painting has an accompanying historical fact or statement). 

Artist of the Apex

“I feel blessed that nobody’s done this before,” Denton said of his series of mountainscapes, after an online search yielded only books of photos or journals.

The mountain teaches lessons on science, history and spirituality. Because of differences in Pikes Peak’s rock from its surroundings, geologists think the current iteration is the third mountain in its history. And Denton just learned it contained a sanctuary area where Native tribes agreed to abstain from war. It even reveals outlines of Jesus and Abe Lincoln at certain angles.

“There’s just so much to it. It’s full of ironies,” Denton said.

After 11-plus years of painting the Peak, Denton still paints most days, three to four hours at a time. He has five or six paintings in progress at any given time and completes a painting every two weeks.

He believes that “art is in the eye.” He eschews photographic realism, considering himself a post-impressionist.

“Sometimes cloud formations paint themselves,” Denton marveled. “I’m not a copier of nature. I want to let the color vibrate. I want to shimmer it. I want the paint to look good.” 

Denton often makes the darks darker and the lights lighter for stark contrast. 

“Luminosity is one of my big aesthetic aims,” he shared.

His oil paintings are astonishingly varied, even with the same basic subject. Each painting is preceded with contemplation. 

“I ponder, I think and then I attack it.” 

He uses a large brush at first, later finessing the details with a small, fine-bristled brush. 

He recently swapped out a bighorn sheep for a gully because the composition was getting “too tight.” Adding and subtracting elements is a normal part of his process.

“I’m not a piecemeal artist, I’m more holistic,” Denton said.

Though he’s painted in various weather conditions, “I like it partially cloudy, so the colors are a little richer,” he said, noting that bright and sunny light washes the color out. 

He signs each Peak painting with his font-like block signature and the year, which is especially helpful because when he finishes a painting, Denton said he doesn’t remember painting it.

“It’s almost like I didn’t do it. I want to problem-solve, but I want to be in the moment.” 

Crafting a career

Surprisingly, Denton didn’t even take art classes in high school. He left school early each day to work. 

“I was making 85 cents per hour at the drug store. I was the man!” Denton said. 

But after one art class at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, he was hooked. By his junior year, studio art was his major. He went on to receive his master’s. 

Denton recalled using house paint and whatever he could find for brushes in those early days.

“I’d use rags, elbows, my shirt, small woodland creatures,” he laughed.

He taught at various locations, including the prestigious McCallie School, an all-boys prep institution.

“I was never going to retire from teaching because it’s so much fun, but 40 years is enough,” Denton acknowledged. “Now every day is studio day.”

Denton has met presidents and has been honored by congress. He painted politician and pro football player Jack Kemp, as well as several presidential portraits that were auctioned off.

Travels to Morocco, Mexico and Russia provided rich inspiration for his art. When he was honored with an award for teaching, influential Russians saw it and commissioned him to create a sculpture there. 

He painted an expansive rendering of McCallie alum Ted Turner’s Montana ranch, and he has works hanging in the Hunter Museum of Modern Art in Chattanooga. 

“Every now and then, something fun happens out of it. But that’s one out of a thousand hours. I basically just drop out and paint every day,” Denton said.

"You've got to keep learning"

Denton’s artistic vision spills over onto his property. While most people his age are downsizing, he plans to add on to his studio, among other creative improvements.

“People are supposed to start paring down at 40, 50, 60, but I’ll be 75, and I’m like, ‘Let’s put a cabin over there,’” he said.

Fourteen years ago he started sculpting, using welding skills learned from his father. Now there’s a 10-foot conquistador standing sentry over his property made of farm tools, car parts and other found metals.

Denton also made animated films in Fort Collins and a series of “cows with attitudes.” 

“You’ve got to keep learning,” he emphasized. 

He lives with his “support team” of his partner Yvette and their rescue pets, dogs Disco and Belle and mostly blind cat, Tate.  He has one daughter who is an art teacher.

Art sustains Denton in these years. Even an ordinary rusty nail amazes him with its range of colors.

“I was basically killed in 1993, in a chainsaw accident,” he said. He still has three fingers that are partially numb, and one arm can’t fully straighten. “But I lived,” he said gratefully. 

Now he prioritizes his health, doing sets of 100 pushups and staying active. 

“We dance, and I play tennis four times a week,” he said. “I hope I have another 20, 25 years.” 

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s book “Outliers,” It takes 10,000 hours of intense practice to become an expert at something.

“I passed that 10,000 mark a few times,” Denton mused. He resonates with a sign he saw that said, “Avoid comfort.” 

“You get out what you put in. I don’t want  tp think, ‘Yeah, you just talked but you didn’t do it,’” Denton said of his artistic goals. “I’m not chasing fame and fortune. I’m just trying to make the most of my golden years.” 

“Pikes Peak: America’s Mountain,” volumes 1 and 2, may be purchased by emailing [email protected] or calling 719-639-0350.

If available, it may also be ordered on AmazonGracePoint Publishing (, 719-527-1404) or Ex Libris Online Bookshop (, or in person at Rock Ledge Ranch, 3105 Gateway Road, Colorado Springs.