Monday, June 11, 2012

Cascade Creek - plein air painting and more

Yesterday was the kind of day that reminds me of why I love summer here in southwestern CO.

Creek Cascade - 8.5x11" - plein air
pastel on sapphire blue cardstock
© S.Johnson
At my suggestion, we decided to take advantage of a perfect summer day and head up to Cascade Creek north of town to hike, paint and fish.  We hiked this trail a few times last summer, but not more than about  5 miles RT.  I'm sort of on a roll with the river rock paintings, and was in the mood to paint, so I brought my streamlined plein air set-up along (pastel boxes, apron, and stadium chair), figuring the odds were good I'd find something to paint.

As is typical for most of the trails along mountain watersheds in this area, it basically parallels the creek, passing through sections of forest and open meadow, and periodically returning closer to the water when the topography allows for it.  We pulled off the trail around the 3.3 mile mark, and I had no problem finding this subject to paint.  I was drawn to both the large limestone boulder on the edge of the shore, as well as the water cascading down the sequence of rocks.   A perfect fishing hole was about ten feet behind me, and Wayne caught (and released) three Brook trout he caught in it.

The more plein air work I do of moving water, the more I realize I probably won't ever be able to paint it from photos.   Which is a shame, really, because there just isn't enough time to paint all the scenes I'd love to on location.  I did take photos of other areas, but ended up deleting all of them, because the photos fall so short of what you actually see, and I can't see myself wanting to paint from any of the photos I took.

I imagine that the idea of painting moving water is intimidating to many artists, which is understandable.  After all, it seems like a parlor trick to make dry pastel pigment look like wet water.  Really, though, the same principles apply to painting whitewater and underwater rocks as everything else:  you aren't painting "rocks under moving water", you are painting abstract bits of color, that, when placed together, look like rocks under moving water .  Release yourself from left-brained thinking, and it's actually pretty straightforward.  Not to say that it's "easy", but it's not a complex magic trick, either.

After finishing up with the painting and fishing, we decided to hike a bit further up the trail, and the views just got even better.

Some photos from the day:

My new favorite photo of our lovely state flower:  Blue and White Columbine

Painted Lady butterfly visiting a dandelion

Aspen cluster and shadows along a forested section of the trail

Shooting Star Columbine

Photo highlight of the trip:  finding this lovely Calypso Orchid - a CO native!

Brook trout just before its release

Canadian Violet

Grizzly Peak - the view five miles into the hike

Arrowhead Blue


  1. You really captured the feel of movement. Love the photos too.

  2. Hi Sheri - thanks so much for stopping by.

    Thanks, Leann - glad you enjoyed them.

  3. I love this painting! I've always loved paintings of rock and water for some reason and I think you captured the sense of rapid motion Of the water so well...

    I also love the photo of columbine -- it happened to be my favorite summer flower too! I was wondering whether you would be so kind to let me paint it? (If you don't feel comfortable to do this, I won't be offended :-)

  4. Hi Arena - thanks so much; there was a lot going on here, but I really wanted to paint it anyway.

    Also, you are more than welcome to use this photo, and any others here on my blog, for your paintings :D. I just ask you credit me with the reference material, and be sure and send me a link to the finished painting so I can post a link to it here on my blog!


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