Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Plein Air in La Plata Canyon

This morning, I met with fellow Durango pastel painter Jan Goldman, who is a member of the Plein Air Painters of the Four Corners group, as her guest, and we headed up to a private ranch property located along the beautiful La Plata Cyn, for one of the bi-weekly member paint-outs.

Tres Amigos
12x9 inches
pastel on black Strathmore

The property is set far off the road leading up the canyon, so we were afforded unique views of the La Plata mountains, as well as mountain meadows with blooming lupine, aspen stands and scrub oak.  This was an all-day event, with painting in the morning, a wonderful lunch provided by Doris, the sister of the property owner, followed by more afternoon painting and a group critique at the end of the day.  

Tres Amigos was my morning painting, of three aspen in a grassy field.  Scrub oak are the last trees to leaf out in the late spring/summer, and are in their warm yellow-green stage.  These aspen have lots of scarring on the bases of their trunks, resulting in the dark patches on the bark.

 Silvery Lupine in bloom

East of Parrot Peak
8x16 inches
pastel on matboard with Golden pumice ground + black acrylic

After I finished the first painting before lunch, I walked around the property to find a good spot to do this 1:2 format painting, and this was it.  Parrot and Madden Peaks are part of the La Platas and are on the west side of the canyon.  Madden Peak has just a bit of snow remaining, and some transient clouds showed up that of course I had to add.  The dirt road leading to the parking area and ramada can be seen, along with the colorful lupines.  

The day was uneventful, save for a minor mishap in the afternoon when a large hornet or yellow jacket got too close to me and I reacted by jerking my leg...and sent the pastels, which were in my lap, flying out of the box, on the ground, in my lap, and down the seat of the chair.  Thankfully, all were recovered and none damaged.  

In the afternoon, the group reconvened at the ramada and did a critique session.  Having peer critiques of one's work can be invaluable, I think.  A few people suggested I lighten the values on the lupine in the painting above, which I did when I got home.

Here are some of the paintings from the group, with most media (oil, w/c, acrylic, pastel) being represented:

I had a great time, and everyone was very friendly and welcoming, so I'm looking forward to attending more of their paint-outs and hopefully becoming a member.  And thank you again to Jan for allowing me to attend as your guest!


At the end of the day


  1. Gorgeous paintings! The birch bark looks so real! I'm glad you had a fun and productive day with your creative "tribe."

    LeAnn aka pasqueflower

  2. Thanks LeAnn - it was really a great day on all levels, and I look forward to hanging out with this fun tribe more often :).

  3. What great outdoor work....thanks for sharing.

  4. This "East of Parrot Peak" painting is, in my humble opinion, your best work of all the landscapes I've seen here. Superb. Truly.

  5. Thanks for your visit and comment, Cindy :)

    Thanks, Jala - I guess plein air work suits me well, then! Funny thing with that painting...no planning or thumbnails - just a quick sketch with a white pastel pencil, then started throwing on color. I was pleased with how it came together, so I appreciate your comment :).

  6. Gorgeous paintings!
    The aspens are wonderful, love the texture on the bark. And the Parrot Peak painting is amazing - love, love lupines and they look gorgeous in that painting!

  7. Thanks so much for your comments, Debbie! I was originally worried the dark areas on the bark might be too much, but they ended up lending lots of character to the trees. I agree about the lupines - they are beautiful and I should probably go paint them again before they are gone for the season.


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

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