Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Plein-air paintout in Bayfield, pastel

Today, I went out again with the Plein Air Painters of the Four Corners to nearby Bayfield.  It's about 20 miles east of Durango and has tons of farmland, horses (including four owned by friend and accomplished equine sculptor Sarah Rose, and lots of scenic views that are quite different than Durango's.  

Our painting location was LaPlatte Lake - a privately owned lake that the owners allow public use of (including fishing), and fed by the Los Pinos river.  I'd never been there before, so it was a new place to check out.  It turned out to be a most idyllic place for painting, and since fishing is allowed, I know it will be easy to get Wayne over there.

Stream Reflections - SOLD
pastel on Strathmore, 12x12 inches
©2011 Sonya Johnson

I walked around a bit, but had no problem finding my first location:  the reflections in a stream running by the lake.  It was in shade, and had these great sky, tree and stream bottom patterns to try and paint.   Reflections are never easy, so I decided to give it a whirl.  I really liked the melodic lines created by the clumps of grasses along the edges of the stream.   

Amazingly, there were no mosquitos!  And not even a slight breeze, which was good, because I managed to lose the roll of tape in my bag and had to rely on used tape already on my board to secure the paper.    At the end-of-the-day critique, people thought the right side wasn't reading as water, so I came home, added a touch of blue and some more green on top, and I think that did the trick.  

My attention span for painting without stopping is about 2 hrs, and this I finished in about 1 3/4 hrs, I think.  Timing was good, because by then, I was in full sun (see below), and it was getting hot.  So, I had fun walking around and seeing what everyone else was working on; I should have taken photos, but didn't want to bug people for permission to post them (though I doubt anyone would have minded).

While casing the area for my second painting, I took a few photos:

My seated plein air set-up
lightweight, el-cheapo Daler-Rowny easel 
and folding chair.  Pastel box goes in my lap.

Small fish near the edge of the lake

Two-tailed Swallowtail feeding on common milkweed

Edge of one large field adjacent to the lake

Jan and Lori, both of whom invited me to this paint-out, were painting on the other side of this field along the dirt road and another stream.  Even though it was in full sun, I liked the view from the area, so I did this as my second piece:

East Towards Bayfield
8x16 inches - matboard with Golden pumice/black acrylic
©2011 Sonya Johnson

I could have used my French easel to better use for this painting; tall grasses and reeds from the stream obscured most of the field from a seated position.  I ended up finishing it when I got back because we ran out of time before I was done.  There was a really neat fence or corral on the left side that I tried to add in from memory, but it looked bad, so it got snuffed.  And, even though the horizon-level clouds were coming up behind the distal mountains as shown, I don't really like my version.  I think it could use a few more sky holes as well.  


  1. Stream Reflections is a very successful piece, IMHO.

  2. Incredible! The water looks SO real!

  3. love the stream piece, reads beautifully

  4. Great reflections in the water. Love the composition.

  5. Thank you Casey, LeAnn and Cindy for your comments; I really appreciate them! This was another piece that as I was working on it, I wasn't sure it would work out. It was nice to pull it off, I must say.

  6. Boy, you really captured this scene! I had to check if it was a photo the reflections were done so well. Nice job!

  7. Hi Pam - thanks so much for your comments - I really liked this section of the creek where it widened out a bit; made the composition much better.

    Thanks, Susan! I really like peaceful, quiet scenes like this, so when I saw it, I knew immediately I had to paint it. We should paint up here together some time (and it's not that far from the old truck and car near Vallecito, either!).

  8. The water in the stream painting is gorgeous Sonya. The reflections are just beautiful.

  9. Thanks so much for your comment, Ruth :).

  10. We drove by on Tuesday and I remarked how many cars were down there. Then I saw a few people set up on the road and remembered, it's Sonya's plein air group :) Glad you enjoyed your Bayfield day :)

  11. It was a perfect day down there, with a pretty big turn-out as you saw. We finished up the day shortly before it started raining in the afternoon. I'll definitely go back there again; tons of neat things to paint!

  12. Sonya,
    This is a wonderful post. I enjoyed all the photos and the story. And, my goodness, your painting is gorgeous!

  13. Hi Sandy - thank you so much for your nice comments! I sometimes wonder if the photos and stories bore people, but I'm glad to know at least some enjoy them :).


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