Sunday, July 24, 2011

River Curves - plein air pastel, 12x12 inches

Finally, another finished painting to show...

River Curves
12x12 inches - pastel on Strathmore
©2011 Sonya Johnson

The stack of unfinished plein air paintings continues to build, but at least I did some touch-up work on this one today in my studio to post.  It's from the paint-out I went to on Friday with the local plein air painter's group, and is of a view of the Animas as seen from a choice piece of private property in the beautiful Animas river valley.  

I normally try to avoid standing in direct sun, but honestly, this view was just too good to pass up.  Embankments in shadow and the sparkling reflections off of the river as it rounds the bend, with some of the current curving across a rocky stream bed, and producing the mini area of "white water".  When I first started the painting - around 8:30 a.m. or so - the angle of the sun was low enough to cause the distal 1/2 of the river to be almost entirely white from reflections.  I painted it that way initially, but as time went on, more blue showed up, and I altered the painting accordingly.  The view is looking directly to the east (oh, how I need an easel umbrella!), and the distal cliffs were deep in shadow.  When the light hit the edges of the sandstone cliffs and the green slopes, I knew that was the light I wanted to capture. 

Later that same day, Wayne wanted to go fishing in Cascade Creek, up Hwy 550.  We had been there on a hike the week before, and I found two "must paint this" sites.  So, I did another afternoon painting, not finished, of course, from one of those locations.  I got decent photos of the other, and may break down and do some studio work to paint it.  

In the meantime, here are some photos taken from last week's hike along Cascade Creek, along with a couple taken up the road at Coal Creek, finally allowing me to get my "smooth water" fix with the camera:

Skyward aspen silhouettes
Monsoon clouds passed overhead for much of the hike, but no thunder and we got no rain at all.  By the time we were heading back to town, the clouds had significantly broken up.

Old farmer's cabin.  No date posted anywhere on its windows, but it is considered a historical building by the FS.  I don't think it's maintained, but it's in really good shape.  

As delicious as they look:  wild strawberries!
One of the perks of mountain hiking in the summer is finding some ripe berries in a forest meadow that's also full of wildflowers and butterflies.  

A view of Cascade Creek
Turns out, there are wild, non-native Brook trout in this creek.  Most too small to eat, but Wayne caught several on the second outing.

Coal Creek waterfall
My favorite of the wide-angle shots @31mm

Boulder cascades
My favorite of the standard shots - @48mm
Artsy-fartsy shot made more so by use of edge blur filter and punching up the saturation, which I normally don't do.  I think it works here, though, and I may just print out a 10x14 print of this baby and hang it on my wall.
I've always loved the look of shots like this, and until last Saturday, I'd never taken any myself.  They require a tripod and a slow shutter speed.  Since I don't have a N/D (neutral density) filter for my lens, I had to wait until the light was with an overcast monsoon sky.  Instead of tinkering around with shutter priority mode, I stuck with aperture-priority and stopped it down to f/25 - the max for my 18-70mm lens.  That resulted in a shutter speed of 1/4 sec and perfect blur of the water and the widest depth of field focus possible.  Whereas I don't want that when shooting wildflowers, wildlife or winged invertebrates, it's just what you want in a landscape scene like this.  


  1. Absolutely gorgeous! Nice movement in the water. I'm not sure what it is, but this works. Entry #1, but I'm not pushing or anything.

  2. Dan, you crack me up. Seriously, though - I'm glad you like it! The water was the most fun to paint, the distal trees and those on the slope the least fun (as I was unable to find the appropriate value and temperature of greens I needed....ASW order, get here today!). But, I managed to cobble it together in the studio.

    I also debated about whether to put the willow in; having things popping up from the corners of a painting isn't always a good compositional idea, but I felt it needed something. Scaling it back a bit and adding the rock seemed like the right thing to do.

  3. Thanks Sarah - I was quite pleased with the way several of the shots from this location turned out :).


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