Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer Garden - plein air, pastel painting, 9x12 inches

Summer Garden
9x12 inches - pastel on Strathmore
©2011 S.Johnson

Today I went out with the Four Corners Plein Air Painters group, as a guest of Jan Goldman, one of the group's few pastelists.  Location was another private residence located in the Animas river valley, but to the east of the river.  The stand-out features of this property were the amazing landscaped gardens with this lush, perfectly manicured green lawn.  

I absolutely loved the boulders and flagstone steps leading up to an upper tier of the yard, so that became the focal point.  Hollyhocks, daylilies, Russian sage, daisies, yarrow, hosta, purple coneflowers...this garden had it all.   

This originally started out as a 12x12, and while no one suggested it at the critique session, I brought it home and Wayne thought there was too much lawn...and there was, as you can see in the photo below.  A good reminder about how just a simple crop can improve the composition significantly.   They had other very good suggestions (like sky too dark, same value as lawn) that I was grateful for, and when I got home, I finished the piece up and made those changes.   It was tempting to try and add some of the billowing cumulus clouds forming to the north over the distal mountains, but with all the busy detail from the garden, I felt it might be too distracting.  

I feel very fortunate to have met artists in both the Four Corners group as well as the local Friday painters - all are so friendly and it's just nice to go out with a bunch of artists to socialize and get helpful critiques.  

Here are some photos from the critique session, along with a couple from the gardens:

We all loved the vignetted look of this unfinished [oil] painting

A beautiful watercolor of orange daylilies and hosta, my painting, and a close-up of daisies, yellow lilies and the fence, done in acrylic glazes - the photo doesn't begin to do those paintings justice

More oil paintings of different garden perspectives, and a more distal view of the mountains

Mary Ellen is the group's abstract and palette knife painter, and this was a small piece by her standards - isn't it fabulous?  It is an old barn down the road a bit.  

Two more oil paintings and part of Jan's pastel to the left
Lori was painting right behind me and we both were really into the dark tree shadows behind the pink hollyhocks.  Her view is standing and mine was seated...after a night of insomnia, I wasn't feeling up to standing for 3 hrs.  In fact, I was pleased that this painting turned out worthwhile; it did take a lot longer to complete than usual.

Daylilies and Russian sage


Purple coneflowers (Echinacea) and yarrow
I am so delighted to see coneflowers growing in gardens here - they were one of
my favorite garden flowers when I lived in CT


  1. Wonderful painting Sonya. I love all of the reds and muted greens and browns that you use. That is so funny and true about cropping. I always leave extra space around mine because I never seem to be able to draw in a standard size. I'll crop my photo to what I think it should be and then after the line out, I discover it needs a little expansion one way or another or a cut back somewhere else. But you have to do what looks the best in the end anyway. The focus here is definitely on the flowers and stairs and not the lawn.

  2. Beautiful piece, and I enjoyed seeing the other works, too.

  3. Thanks so much, Ruth. Your comments are interesting, because as much as I'd love *not* to paint in standard sizes, I generally do because of framing issues. When I am working in my studio from photos, it's a bit easier, but I know exactly what you are saying. There is much more leeway when working on paper, luckily. I'm glad the 3" crop worked for this piece!

    Thanks as always for stopping by and commenting, LeAnn, and I'm glad you enjoyed seeing the other paintings :).

  4. Nice job.
    You have been quite the busy girl lately!
    There's something about the hollyhocks photo that looks really surreal and intriguing.

  5. Thanks Jala :). Yeah, between hiking, painting and fishing trips up in the mountains, and these outings with the plein air groups, it's been a busy summer! And one of the best summers I've had in years.

    I think it's the huge cumulus clouds that give the surreal edge to that hollyhock photo.


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