Saturday, November 26, 2011

Back from the Valley in the Sun

We had an enjoyable time down in southern AZ, enjoying the mild, sunny weather that the desert region is known for at this time of the year, and thankfully no travel mishaps (bad weather and accidents usually being the issues).

Our lodging location plans changed due to logistical reasons - namely, that the White Tanks Regional Park we'd planned to spend the trip closes its entrance after 8 p.m., which wasn't going to work for us.  So, my plans to try and get some painting in most days also changed.

But, on Wednesday afternoon, we did manage a trip out to the area north of town so that I could paint.

Morgan City Wash
12x12 inches - pastel on light brown cardstock
© S.Johnson
We decided to go back to an area we'd hiked on Christmas day last year, near Lake Pleasant.  Lake Pleasant is a large reservoir that serves both as a recreational area for boaters and as one of the water sources for the sprawling cities of the Phoenix area.  Water from the Colorado River via the CAP canal also flows into the lake.

Last year on our hike, we discovered this neat wash right off one of the roads leading to the lake, which is apparently popular with the OHV crowd and people who like to shoot at things, at least based on the number of empty shotgun shells littering the wash near the road.  Looking on the AZ Gazetteer, I discovered this particular wash has a name, albeit a puzzling one.

More interesting, however, are the wild burros that also inhabit the area.  We didn't see any on this hike, although we did hear some braying off in the distance, quite possibly this same trio of bachelor jacks I photographed last year:

I've only ever painted the Sonoran desert landscape from photos, and only a couple of paintings at that. It certainly presents its own unique challenges, especially at this time of the year when the vegetation is in its somewhat drab winter state.

And unlike the last wash I painted in Farmington, which was comprised of sand from the sandstone cliffs, these washes are often formed from completely different rock, often volcanic and more gravelly in appearance, that washes from great distances during flash floods.

Looking back through last year's photos, I realized when I got back yesterday that I had taken a photo of the exact same location I chose for this painting!  Clearly, it struck a chord with me.  It was a good thing I brought my backpacking straps along, because this was a mile from the car.

Normally, I don't post reference photos that I paint from, because it's just not that interesting.  But, this is different, and it was interesting to see that, well, not that much has changed here in a year.  The main difference is that - ironically - there is more green in the Dec photo.  And, it was taken earlier in the day.

Christmas Day in the desert
Nelson enjoys the ultimate in cat TV:  the view from the RV 


  1. Love your shadows in Morgan City Wash.
    The cat photo made me laugh. Nelson reminds me of our cat, Tux.

  2. Thanks LeAnn - the shadows are actually my favorite part of this painting ;). I hoped the photo of Nelson would give people a chuckle - we laughed when we saw him sitting there.

  3. Your pastel is anything but drab! I like how you enhanced the colors from your reference photo, yet the quality of the light still has that winter feel to it.

    Thanks for sharing Nelson. I love going camping and seeing cats in people's RVs.

  4. Hi Gabrielle - thanks so much for your comments!

    Oops...I probably should have clarified this better that the painting was done on location last week, and the photo was taken last year, so it's really more of a comparison photo than reference. But, it's a telling example of why it's so good to paint from life than photos because so much is lost in a photo.


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

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