Sunday, May 15, 2011

Animas River plein air pastel painting - 9x12 inches

Spring Runoff
9x12 inches
 pastel on Strathmore paper

From Friday, done at the same location along the river as the earlier river cottonwood painting.  I knew I wanted to come back and do a painting that focused on the rapids and river rocks as abstract forms.

The Animas River drains a very large portion of the surrounding San Juans, with its headwaters found about 50 miles north above the mining town of Silverton.  With the warmer temperatures, the snow melts off the mountains rapidly, cascading down hundreds of small mountain ravines and canyons, into smaller creeks before entering the main drainage of the Animas.

Between the time I was last at the river painting 10 days ago, and Friday, the river went from about 800 cfs to 1800 cfs.  The river went from its usual green/gray appearance to a frenetic churning muy colorado (very red) condition.  A cooling trend a few days ago knocked the melt back a bit returning the river to a state more favorable for painting....and river running.  Several kayakers and rafting trips passed me while I was painting on this most perfect day.

I chose this large boulder as the focal point for this painting, with its interesting patterns of whitewater.  I had to stop and consider how to paint the foreground water, which was more shallow and composed of reflected light from the bottom as well as ribbons of light along the diagonal ripples.    I find river hydraulics of rapids to be both mesmerizing and fascinating to watch, and interesting to paint.  I could probably do a whole series on this subject alone.  

With the window of good weather, we are heading out to the Needles district of Canyonlands NP early tomorrow with plans for a 3-day, 2-night stay.  I'm bring my pastels with me, and with luck, will have time and good weather to paint between the hikes.

I'll schedule another post or two for the days I'm gone from some previous work not posted before.  


  1. Hi Sonya--This is one beautiful effort. The foreground drives me nuts, with the shallow bottom just visible. The reflections, the light, the movement: all are just right. Wm

  2. Thanks, William - I really appreciate your comments. Water is always a challenging subject to paint, I think, and that it reads well for someone else pleases me!


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