Saturday, June 9, 2012

4CPAP at Blue Lake Ranch - pastel landscape

Didn't have time to post this yesterday as I'd originally planned.

Columbine Field and the Old Gate - 12x12"
pastel on black cardstock
plein air
This was one of those days where I wasn't sure I could pull off a finished, let alone somewhat successful [successful: something I don't have thoughts of immediately tossing] painting.  Despite those initial thoughts, and becoming bored with it on location, I managed to wrangle it into something I was satisfied with back in my studio.

The painting location - Blue Lake Ranch - is an incredibly scenic property located near Hesperus, CO, about 18 miles west of Durango.  The 4C group has painted there for years, I believe, and is where the semi-annual member meeting is held.

Anyway, having never been there before, I literally walked around for an hour before finally deciding on this location.  The options to paint were endless...and overwhelming, to an extent!  The La Plata river, small ponds, the attractive yellow B&B house, the various flower gardens, and an iris farm were all options.  The problem, for me, was that I was already on a bit of a "green burn-out", and the entire landscape was green.  I've mentioned this before, probably several times, but as much as I love summertime here in CO, it is the most challenging season for me to paint because I just don't enjoy painting all those foliage greens, at least in pastel.  So, I was a bit dismayed that I wasn't finding anything appealing to paint in such a beautiful area.

Then, someone opened the gate to the flower fields, and these rows of blue columbine were right there, in all their CO state flower glory.  There was red earth, dramatic shadows, and a really neat old wooden gate.  Painting subject issue solved.

This was one of those paintings that I was mindful of the often-heard advice to take ownership of the scene (and, subsequently, the painting), and ask what elements can be kicked to the curb.  In this case, it was a row of huge shrubby trees, similar to the one near the gate.  They crowded the view, and detracted from the composition.  Eliminating them allowed me to add those distal cottonwoods and that network of shadows in the middle ground cast from trees unseen to the right, and play up the foreground shadow detail on the grass and dirt.

The side-effect, however, was that the middle ground tree I did include ended up being...right in the center of the composition, which I happened to not notice until I looked at this photo of it.  Darn - I hate it when that happens!   As painters, we are akin to jugglers, and there are so many different balls to keep in the air at the same time that it's inevitable that one or more get dropped from time to time.

I mentioned that I wasn't sure I'd actually finish this painting, and after about 1 1/2 hrs., I'd had enough, and was distracted by all the neat things I wanted to take photos of, so I packed it up with about 10% left, and later that evening after a mental break from it, I sat down and finished it off.

Enough about the painting - here are some photos from the day:

Karl, working on his second painting of the day

Western Tiger Swallowtail on blue flag iris
Wanda working on her watercolor
Marilyn also painting the columbines

Kathy at work
Helen's almost-finished painting of the red poppies
Sharon forgot her pochade box, but she didn't let that deter her, and did her painting on the ground.
My back hurts just looking at this photo!
Rhonda painting at the pond


  1. what fun to see the photos of you artists at work. And the flower photos are gorgeous. I especially like the one with the butterfly.

  2. Thanks LeAnn. I always have a great time painting with this group, and it's fun to share photos of them here.


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