Thursday, April 26, 2012

Plein Air along the Animas River in Durango - pastel, 16x12

Our trip to Cedar Mesa was absolutely fantastic, and I have paintings and photos to share from that trip.  I've decided to split that into a few contiguous posts just to keep each a manageable size and hopefully not disinterest more readers than I maybe already have...

So, in the meantime, here is yesterday's painting done with the 4CPAP group right here in town:

The Purple Cliffs - 16x12 inches
 pastel on acid-free construction paper
Durango is surrounded by a series of tilted, eroded ridges, known as hogbacks, including this one, known by locals as the "Purple Cliffs".  And purple they are - colorful shales of what I believe is the Morrison formation.   I've been wanting to paint them for probably as long as I've been living here, so I was happy to finally be able to do that.  The cottonwoods are now leafing out in force, and in that beautiful shade of pale green that I enjoy painting.  Also, green + purple = winning combination.

This is the view from the terminus of the Animas River Trail, although I ended up standing on a slope next to the trail to paint.

I got this 90% finished on location, but when the wind started kicking up around noon, blowing my hat off and forcing me to hold the easel while I painted, that's when I usually decide it's time to pack it in.

The two challenges were trying to make the very muddy Animas look not so...unappealing.  The warm temperatures we've been having accelerate mountain snowmelt, and the river is at a seasonal high, and much siltier than normal.  Also, I'm not sure the foreground cliff reads very well; it is in fact probably 20' above the river and not at the shoreline.  Ditto the middle "island", which I decided to keep because it had neat things going on and helped to break up the otherwise solid mass of the river.

At any rate, I'll certainly be back to paint the purple cliffs again, and will at least have a better idea how to handle these issues.  Painting the same location repeatedly is a common practice amongst landscape painters, both past and present, and this subject in particular makes me appreciate why.


  1. Good color play! This is a very nice pastel, Sonya!

  2. Thanks so much for stopping by, Casey. I had fun painting this because the colors were so appealing!


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