Friday, October 1, 2010

Early Fall - pastel

Since embarking on this new series of roadtrip paintings in oils, I've realized that I have no reason to stop working in pastel, and I cannot resist the urge to paint the aspen in their splendid fall colors.  So, here is another fall color painting, also based on a photo taken during our Purgatory Flats hike 1 1/2 weeks ago.

When I consider what I'm going to paint, there is always some purpose behind the choice.  It is either inspiration or a chance to solve problems and try new techniques, or a a bit of both.  When looking through my photo collection, I never have a problem remembering what it was that inspired me to take the photograph initially, and for the photo that this painting is based on, it was the contrast of the trio of smooth, pale aspen trunks set against a grassy field and a stand of aspen in deep shade.  Since I spend the time composing my photos before I take them rather than relying on taking multiple shots of the same scene and just hoping for something good, my editing process is fast and usually is limited to either resizing the photo for the paper and eliminating distracting or non-essential elements (in this case, a small aspen sapling to the left of the photo).

One of the challenges of painting a stand of trees is how to address the problem of all that detail and distill it down so it: 1) doesn't distract from the POI; 2) doesn't become exasperating to try and paint.  I have found that it takes practice and training to look at a scene, whether in real life or a photo, and just break it down into simple shapes and abstract forms.  This concept is mentioned in probably every landscape painting book worth its salt, including Carson's guide to landscape painting, but I see failures to do this often, and there's definitely a fine line to walk between TMI and not enough in one's painting.  It's a never-ending quest as an artist.

So, that was the challenge for this painting.   I started it last night after doing a batch of oil wash underpaintings for upcoming Four Corners roadtrip oils.

Early fall
9x11 inches
pastel on 400#-grit sanded paper mounted on matboard

Even looking at this now, I think the distal trio of aspen against the treeline needs to be re-worked and either thinned out or just darkened, as do the shadows of the right proximal aspen trunk.  I seem to have a real problem at times drawing straight lines (too much coffee, perhaps?), especially if they are fine, so that was another thing that could be improved.  Working on a sanded surface makes it easier, though.  

I'll probably keep on interspersing the fall color pastels in between the oil series.

And, here are some photos from today's drive down into northern NM, from Aztec over to Navajo Dam and the San Juan river.  Beautiful clouds graced the drive and it was raining to the east as we hit Hwy 160 back to Durango.  

Building storm to the north
Taken from just east of Aztec, these clouds are actually over the San Juans in CO

Cumulus towers over San Juan basin
The cliffs of the distal mesa guide the direction of the San Juan as seen along the highway

Navajo Lake & marina
Late-blooming rabbitbrush is found throughout the region

Approaching the storm
Back in CO and on the southern Ute reservation south of Ignacio, the storm continues to grow to the north

Poor planning
A center pivot irrigation system is busily working away while rain falls not too far away

Now that I've geared up and have been painting almost daily, I am thinking that I'll continue to relegate photos behind the paintings.  Perhaps the more consistent content will be better appreciated by readers?  


  1. These are incredible photos - you live in a magical place and I like your paintings too!

  2. Love the cumulus towers and storm photos.
    As to content, post whatever you like--it's all great to see/read.

  3. Hi Helen - I'm glad you enjoyed these photos; I agree that this part of the country is magical...I feel blessed and privileged to live here.

    Hi Jala, again ;) - aren't those cumulus something else? I don't see them in Durango, because they are either right over head or much further away! NM has the most amazing skies.

    Thanks for your comment re the content. Sometimes, I wonder if I'm too "all over the map" for readers. Your blog is hugely popular because it's got good "everything" - paintings, Rumi, written content, *and* it's consistent. I enjoy every one of your posts even if I don't get a chance to comment on them all.


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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