Friday, September 23, 2011

Early fall in Durango - plein air, pastel

I've been slacking on location painting lately, partly because of recent bad weather and partly because we have been taking advantage of the current amazing fall weather to get up in the mountains and hike before the season ends.  

These paintings are part of an agenda I have, which I'll discuss in a later post.  Suffice it to say that my plan is to paint on location as often as possible for the next few weeks.
Dry Fork Cottonwoods
pastel on Strathmore Artagain - 12x9 inches
© 2011, S Johnson
 Today's plein air painting, done from the trailhead near Dry Fork, which is west of town a few miles.  We hiked there yesterday afternoon, and these small leaf cottonwoods were in nearly full color, and despite taking some reference photos yesterday, I decided this would be the ideal place to paint today...after missing the rendezvous with the Friday plein air group this morning.

Remember the Barnroof Point painting from a few days ago?  The eastern edge of its cliffs can be seen in this painting.  The orange/rust slope is the scrub oak that form amazing patchworks of color on the steep slopes around town.

Riverside Colors
pastel on Strathmore Artagain - 9x12 inches
© 2011, S Johnson
Painting from Wed late afternoon, along the banks of the Animas.  The cottonwoods aren't turning along the river yet, but these bushes were.  Plus, it was another excuse to practice painting water and reflections.


  1. Beautiful job on the cottonwood. It just glows!

  2. Thanks so much Sheri. It was a challenge, because I didn't have the exact colors of yellow I needed, particularly the shadowed areas.

  3. Ooohhh......I'm looking forward to seeing what autumn looks like in your neck of the woods. Those cottonwoods are amazing! Love the depth of that cliff and the orange scrub. Very nice!

  4. Two really great works!! Signature Sonya, and very, very well done.

  5. Debbie - thanks so much :) And, you won't have to wait long for more fall colors a la southern Colorado: the aspen are peaking in parts of the San Juans and photos will follow really, with today's blog post.

    Casey - you think my work has a signature look? That's excellent! Thanks as always for your comments.

    Hi Liz - thanks! We get outstanding fall colors here, that is for sure.

  6. Both of these really grabbed my attention. It's fun to wander around through them and explore the different colors and edges. It seems to me that you have a special knack for high-key paintings.

  7. I love the yellows in both of these, Sonya. Fall must be so beautiful where you are. I am afraid, here in Indiana we are going to go straight from green to brown because of the drought, although we have gotten some rain recently.

  8. Thanks Dan. I really appreciate your comment re the edges, because they are something I consciously think about when I'm painting now. I guess all the sources I've read and heard about their importance and quality has finally been drummed in, at least to a certain extent.

    Hi Ruth - thank you for your comments. I'm actually glad to get a break painting the greens of summer, so I really enjoyed these. I do wish the fall color season lasted longer than a few weeks, though. That is unfortunate that you are getting cheated out of a decent fall color season in your area; that happened a couple of years when we lived in CT.


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

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