Sunday, May 8, 2011

Afternoon at Haviland Lake - pastel painting, 9x12

Lakeside Ponderosa
9x12 inches
pastel on black Strathmore

Yesterday was another perfect spring day, with temperatures in the high 70's.  Because it was predicted to be a bit breezy in the afternoon, I was planning on a studio still life painting....until Wayne said he wanted to drive up to Haviland Lake to toss a few lures and to assess the fishing situation (verdict:  not good).  Good excuse to head out with the pastels for more plein air work.

Despite the scenic views, it took me a while before I settled on a location to paint.  There is so much going on, and how to decide?  There is the lake itself, the cliffs to the west, nearby meadows with small ponds and streams running through them to the south and east.  

Ultimately, I was drawn to this ponderosa pine situated near the edge of the lake.  The afternoon light provided dramatic shadows and warm colors against the cooler, grayer masses of the distal Hermosa Cliffs in the background.  

In his book, Carlson talks about trees, their relative sizes, and reminds us that if the tree is large, you won't be able to see it all in a single view if you're close, so don't show it all in your painting.   This tree was large, and even though I wasn't that close - maybe 20-30 feet or so - including it in its entirety didn't work.  The viewfinder confirmed this, and cropping the top makes for a more interesting composition via the negative space elements formed by the sky.

A foot path circumnavigates most of the lake, and there are these wonderful outcroppings of marbled granite or schist that made for an interesting foreground.  When I think of master pastel painters and rocks, two contemporary artists immediately come to mind:  Albert Handel, and Bill Cone.   I am a self-admitted rock and geology geek, and I have decided I enjoy painting rocks.  I will continue to be inspired by these two gentlemen's work in that subject matter.

The painting was 98% completed on location, but I did make a few adjustments in my studio this morning.  

And, here are some reasons to always bring along one's camera on a plein air trip, even if you don't think you'll need it:

A Flower for Mom
[Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there]

Pasqueflower (Pulsatilla ludoviciana)
These gorgeous, early-blooming flowers are found in areas of recent snowmelt.  A whole patch of them was in a meadow area below the lake.

Wild Candytuft (Noccaea montana)
Found in the same area as the Pasqueflowers, this member of the Mustard Family also grows in large patches.  It also blooms throughout the spring and summer, growing taller as it produces more flowers and flattened, paddle-shaped seedpods.

Along Hwy 550 on the drive back, this group of elk cows were seen partaking in the spring grass.  Behind them, a stand of aspen is starting to get going with its leaf action.


  1. Great recent flower photos, awesome how you painted the rock, and photo of the chipmunk too cute.

  2. Glad you are getting out and taking on the big view.

    Reminds me to pick up this Carlson book that sits here by my feet.

  3. I absolutely love this piece, you captured the scene so peacefully and beautifully. I can't wait to visit places like this during the summer!

  4. Jala - thanks. It's the beginning of wildflower season here in our state, so there will be many more photos. The chipmunk was so funny and entertaining - running around right near where I was painting. They love dandelion flowers, I discovered.

    Casey - it is so good to finally be able to get outside and paint! I've been looking forward to it since before we moved out to CO.

    Hi Jill - thank you so much. This area is so beautiful - I hope you can make it out here some day to visit!

  5. This is a wonderful pastel plein-air painting. Do you use an underpainting at all--and what is the support used here? VEry nice work!!


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