Friday, October 21, 2011

Animas River fall colors - plein air, pastel

Since coming back from Moab:  1) the riverside cottonwoods have come into full color; 2) I've felt even more energized to do plein air painting since the season here will end soon.

I haven't painted every day, but here are two paintings from the three outings this week.  As much as my enthusiasm for painting from photos has diminished, I did take many photos as well that I can use later when the color is gone and it's too cold to go outside.
Riverside Trio
9x12 - pastel on Artagain
© S.Johnson
Behind our local shopping mall is access to the paved multi-use trail, and a small dirt foot path leads directly to the river nearby.  I'd taken photos on Sunday during a long walk Wayne and I took along the trail, and decided to come back and paint these three cottonwoods.  The three tiers of slopes are separated by a road (top) and a singletrack path (lower) on the east side of the river.

River Boulder and Bridge Shadows
12x12 inches - pastel on Pastelmat
© S.Johnson
Today's painting, done a bit further down river at a small park.  Local pastelist Pat Smiley  and I were finally able to plan to paint together, and we had a great time.  Back in July, she had given me this piece of Pastelmat to try, as I'd never used it before.  I used it for a painting not long after that which didn't work.  I brushed the painting off and used rubbing alcohol to stain the rest into the paper to try again.

For some reason, it suddenly worked better for me, perhaps because the surface was darker?  I don't know, but I found the amount of tooth it had to be probably perfect for me.  A sanded paper like Wallis is probably too much, and this surface was nice in that it allowed more layers than my usual sanded Artagain does and worked really well with the light touch I am used to.

It's funny...I'm not sure how well this painting reads to anyone but myself and Pat, since we were both there.  The two large shadows - the upper one from a bridge, and the one across the water from a large cottonwood - were two of the things that attracted me to this scene, along with the boulder and lone yellow sapling.

I'm not super happy with the water reflections in this one - they were very cool, but difficult to render because of all the reflected yellows and browns from the trees.  Plus, this paper handles differently than the Artagain which I'm used to doing water reflections on.

Pat and I have planned to go out for at least the next two days in a row, so more fall colors to come!


  1. The cottonwoods are amazing!
    Looks like you found a great spot - and that is great you found someone to work with! I'm hoping there will still be leaves on the trees by the time I get back outside to paint.

  2. Thanks Debbie! The great thing about the Animas is that there are access points to the river all along the urban trail, so not only a variety of views but I don't have to lug my gear very far. I hope you're able to get out and paint before the leaves fall off the trees - I remember fall color season being very short when I was in CT for just that reason.

    Thank you so much LeAnn and Helen for your comments :)

  3. Your painting adventures sound like so much fun. And looking at your artwork, days well spent.
    Keep smiling and creating.
    Thanks for dropping by

  4. Thanks so much, Pam. They have been an adventure and fun most of the time, and definitely time well spent! Thanks for your your visit as well.

  5. I love your bright, bold golds.

  6. Thanks, Sheri - I love the chance to use all these bright yellows and golds I have in my pastel box :).


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