Sunday, July 29, 2012

Quartet of plein air paintings - pastel

Today, I was on a roll, and pushed my plein air total for 2012 past 70.

First, the large one, from a park south of town:
"Passing To the North" - 12x12", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
Then, smaller, 10-minute cloud studies:  one at the same location as the above painting:

Cloud Study with Slopes - 6x6"
And, two more at home, from inside my studio looking west:

Cloud Study - from deck - 6x6"
And east, with an attempt at the moon:

Waxing Gibbous Moon with Cloud - 8.5x11"

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Monsoon sky - pastel, plein air

Colors of Earth and Sky - 12x12", plein air
pastel on sanded black cardstock
 © S.Johnson
This was just plain fun to paint.  Near the river and looking south with a peek of the Purple Cliffs.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Hermosa Creek - plein air, pastel

Hermosa Creek - 12x12", plein air
pastel on brown cardstock
© S.Johnson
Today was one of those days I was in a bit of a quandary as to what to paint, and didn't think I'd end up going out at all - nothing local sounded really appealing to paint.

But, today was an absolutely beautiful day, weather-wise, so at least a hike was in order.  Wayne suggested Hermosa Park, which is a river valley that is due west of the ski area, Purgatory, also known as Durango Mtn. Resort.  

I remembered this very location from earlier visits, and even a photo taken in '09 before we lived here, of the red creek bank, so it was an easy choice to paint.

Beautiful cumulus clouds filled the sky, but I chose to leave them out for this painting to simplify things.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Painting and hiking around Lizard Head Wilderness

Back from our trip.  I spent part of the afternoon doing finishing touches on two of the paintings, by which time a monsoon storm had moved in, forcing me to wait until today to photograph them.

From this trip, I learned how to work around heavy monsoon activity:  1) paint near the car; 2) wait for any window of opportunity, no matter how small, to head out with the easel; 3) be prepared to return at a different time when the weather is amenable, to finish; 4) small paintings at camp.

First up, is my favorite from the trip.  Started Sunday afternoon during a short break in the weather, and finished up yesterday morning before we headed home, it was a "two-for-one", so to speak:

San Miguel Colors - 8x16", plein air
pastel on board with Golden pumice ground + black acrylic
© S.Johnson
This is painted from the area I mentioned in my last post:  "the meadows".  The meadows themselves were striking, with a variety of summer grasses and small meandering stream passing through.  Hills with scattered groups of spruce/fir, and aspen lead up to the base of the southern edge of the San Miguel range.

I'm always struck by the colors of the mountains within the southern San Juans (of which the San Miguels are part of).  A geology query of the San Miguel range tells me that the colorful purples, greens reds and yellows are due to the sandstones, breccias, tuffs and claystones of the San Juan Formation and Telluride Conglomerate.  Volcanic intrusions into these sedimentary layers, referred to as "stock", are what form the mountains themselves.

So, having the colorful southern edge of the mountains combined with the meadows was like being handed a gift as a painter.  But, I had to work fast:  less than 40 minutes after I set up my easel and began painting, rain started suddenly, and I was thankful I was set up 2 feet from the car...and not painting on LaCarte paper.

view from the driver's seat...two minutes earlier, I had been painting
Earlier in the day, I'd painted just down the road from this rainy view - a cabin complex situated at the end of the meadows.  I got most of it finished on location before the rain started, and pulled it out later at the campsite to work on it more between rains.

 Morgan Cabin and Dolores Peak - 12x12", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
I didn't take any photos of this cabin, but at some point (as we will be returning to this area - a new favorite for everyone), I plan to revisit this building complex from a different compositional approach.

Finally, two small pieces done from the seated comfort of our campsite yesterday morning - fun and fast, while I chatted with Sarah, and before I headed out to finish the San Miguel Colors painting:

Mountain Morning - 6x6", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
Morning Sky - 6x6", plein air
pastel on brown cardstock

Saturday was spent hiking (and dodging lightning storms).  The Kilpacker trailhead was a mile up the road from our camp, so the four of us headed out on our chosen methods of transportation:  foot and horseback.

Morning along the trail

falls along Kilpacker Creek
Sarah and Jypsi in the meadow near the Navajo Lakes trail junction
Ominous skies and tree appropriate to the mood along the steep switchback section of the trail (Sarah and Todd opted to turn back before this section, thinking it might be too narrow and of loose scree)
Navajo Lake, from the basin, almost 6.5 miles from the trailhead.  Mt. Wilson,
one of CO's fourteeners, is visible from the saddle 
We were lucky that the thunder and hailstorm we got caught in on the way back didn't last more than about 25 minutes before fading off to the west.  Lightning flashing overhead, followed by immediate loud cracks of thunder, were a reminder that hiking in the high country during monsoon season is not to be taken lightly.

Approaching the trailhead (cars in stand of trees to right), with another storm over the Yellow Mountains.  Thankfully, we were back to the RV by the time this 3-hour rainstorm hit us.

More photos from the campsite:

Saturday sunrise 
Dramatic afternoon light over the Yellow Mountains (the same in the small paintings above)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Cottonwoods near the river

Summer Cottonwoods - 12x12", plein air
pastel on light brown cardstock
Yesterday afternoon's painting, down at one of my favorite locations behind the mall.  A fenced off field containing some sheds or buildings of a bygone era are right next to the section of the Animas River Trail.

The view faces to the north, slightly west, and the La Platas can be seen in the distance.

Wayne fished while I painted this, and while this cloud changed forms while I painted, it remained in essentially the same location...until about 10 minutes before I finished, and suddenly, the sky was filled with clouds.

A few sprinkles hit the windshield literally seconds after I put the easel in the car - talk about timing!

From our top deck yesterday afternoon:

We are leaving tomorrow for yet another three-night trip in the mountains - this time, over by Rico.  Our Bayfield friends, Sarah and Todd, are already camping in the area with their horses, and we'll be rendezvousing with them in an area known as "the meadows".

As always, the painting gear is coming along, and the river to paint this time will be the Dolores.  I might even see if I can drive over and paint in Rico itself.

Everyone have a great weekend!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More from southern Utah - plein air and canyons in photos

With so much local/regional CO painting going on, the Utah trip got a bit sidelined by the paintings that needed some final work or adjustments.

A while back, I did sit down and finish up a couple of them, and this seemed like a good time to post them since I didn't make it out to paint today.  

Not in chronological order here, but best one first:

Gathering Storm over Duffrey Mesa - 8x16"
pastel on board with Golden pumice + black acrylic
© S.Johnson

Duffrey Mesa is located right near the town of Boulder, UT.  I had this view a short walk up the hill from our campsite, which was about 5 miles east of Boulder along the Burr Trail Scenic Road.  I was the one who found this campsite, and Wayne and I have determined that we will be returning to it - the views were incredible, and I could literally paint in 360 degrees.

I painted this the morning we left to drive up to Torrey.  The storm that was to produce the record high winds over the Memorial Day weekend was starting to build, and the clouds made for a perfect addition.  Boulder Mtn./Aquarius Plateau is visible in the distance.

A rare photo of me + easel in the same shot.  And, it's a bit breezy, which always adds to the excitement of painting on location.  Or not.

Next is the painting done two days prior, while camping on a pinyon forest plateau near Bryce NP.

Table Cliffs and the Old Juniper - 8.5x11"
pastel on maroon cardstock

This painting is one I'd like to revisit in oils; I think it would be more likely to have met with my pre-painting expectations (and we all have those, right?).  Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the location, so it would have to be done from this pastel.  Also about 50 yards on a hill from our campsite, it looks east towards the Table Cliffs, with the town of Escalante probably about 30 miles as the crow flies beyond.

And now, I get to share some of my favorite photos from the trip, and the reason I will never stray far from the Colorado Plateau:  the canyons.  Skinny, wide, dry or wet - I love them all!

An unassuming entrance... Zebra, an aptly-named and true slot canyon, located off Hole-in-the-Rock-Road:

Next, in Cottonwood Wash, located on the east side of the Waterpocket Fold in Capitol Reef NP - hiked later in the day after my Duffrey Mesa painting:

Holy Batman - another photo of me (hiking in Tevas for the win!)
The chockstone that ended the day's hike for us that day...

And, finally - White Canyon, located on the western edge of Cedar Mesa and not far from Lake Powell:

Climb down into White Canyon

 Abstract reflection in pool

 Wayne under old log...which was deposited there by flood water, a reminder that narrows like these are deathtraps during flash floods

The money shot:  beginning of the narrows section known as the Black Box, and the end of our hike that day:

The next morning's hike down Gravel Canyon, a tributary in White Canyon, and next to last day of the trip:

Thank you, dear readers, for allowing me to share my canyon obsession with you via these photos.  I hope you enjoyed them!

Monday, July 16, 2012

More Skies on the mesa - pastel, plein air

Because the clouds are amazing, I need more practice painting them, and I can avoid using much green.

Both done from Pastorius SWA.

Today's painting, looking south.  It was time for some turquoise skies and a bigger size.  I forgot that there are certain pastels that don't handle well on this paper, and oops - those would be the turquoises.

Florida Mesa Sky - 12x16", plein air
pastel on black construction paper
The entire area surrounding the lake is farmland, with distal mountains, so almost anything can be incorporated into the landscape:  grain silos, sheds, fences, roads, green fields, etc.

Saturday's painting, looking to the northwest.
Convergence - 12x12", plein air
pastel on yellow cardstock
I decided to try a piece of the yellow cardstock that comes in the packs I have purchased.  Using it for a high-key sky painting seemed a logical choice, and aside from the effect on the relative values of the pastels I used, it was a surprisingly easy transition from the darker colors I'm used to using.

I did this in probably 30 minutes, if that.  As usual, I waited until mid-afternoon to go out, at which time the clouds were really starting to kick into high gear.  When I set up my easel, the sky above was blue, but a wall of rain was falling to the southwest, probably in New Mexico.

Within about 15 minutes, these two cumulus clouds had merged, wind had kicked up, and by the time I was finished, the sky was almost completely filled with rain-laiden clouds that looked to burst at any moment.  If not for the impending threat of rain, I'd have definitely done another painting.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Painting around Silverton, CO

We got back yesterday from our three-night trip to Silverton, which was centered around the 4CPAP paint-out on Tuesday.

In terms of painting, it was the most productive time I've had on any trip this year:  five paintings, four of which were completed.  I decided to take on some more challenging subjects that tested my ability to correctly (or not) handle two-point perspective, and an old truck - something detailed that I've never tried to paint on location.

Here they are, in the order painted.

From Monday evening, done at Molas Lake, which is near where we spent the first night:
Clearing Skies Over the Grenadiers - 12x12", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
 On Tuesday, in town.  If you want to paint old buildings and attractive buildings, there are probably few better places than Silverton.  There were fancier houses, for sure, but for some reason I was drawn to this modest red house with corrugated siding and roof.  And, the weathered facade of the historical building to its left.

West 13th Street, Silverton - 12x12", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
Despite spending a significant amount of time to make sure the perspective was accurate, guess what:  there are still areas that were off.  It was helpful to have people look at this during the critique session because errors, even small ones, are more apparent to fresh set of eyes.

Night two was spent at the Mineral Creek campground, about 8 miles west of town.  It's also where the trail to Ice Lakes begins.  The area right around the campground is scenic, but not for painting purposes.  But, following the dirt road west brings you to this open view:

Last Light Along the Road to Rico - 12x12", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
This was one of those many times my pastels just weren't cutting it, in terms of value and temperature needed.  That conifer-covered slope to the left?  The top part is in sun, while the meadowy slope on the right was in shade.   It was the best I could do with what I've got to work with.

Wednesday morning, we headed back into Silverton so Wayne could work and I decided to try and paint one of these fabulous old trucks that I'd seen Sharon painting on Tuesday.  Her painting, in oils, turned out great, and I was inspired to try it myself.

Not finished, but I wanted to share it anyway.  And, I got photos of the rest of the trucks, and I'm thinking they will be great to paint in the studio this winter.

Retired Workhorse - 8x16"
pastel on board with Golden pumice ground + black acrylic
For night three, we headed east of town to an area known as Cunningham Gulch.  It's popular with everyone:  hikers, equestrians, trail runners and those who prefer to use gasoline-powered vehicles.

We hiked up the trail towards Highland Mary Lakes, which are above timberline and not something we were enthusiastic about doing with the threat of a monsoon storm, but it was a great hike anyway.  I brought my tripod and ND filter, and got some good waterfall photos.

After we got back, I decided this view a few meters down from our campsite warranted a painting:

Cunningham Gulch - 12x12", plein air
pastel on black cardstock
Silverton is so named for all the mining that took place in the area.  Some of the orange areas along the side of the mountain are from mine tailings.  The mountain itself presented an interesting challenge to paint, to balance detail with the need to simplify things.

These paintings, along with a few others that are finished, nearly finished and not posted, brings my total to 60 so far!  So, I'm well on my way to my 100-painting goal for this year.

Photos from the trip:

Rare pink version of the Colorado columbine

Two of the old trucks in town

Falls #1 - Cunningham Creek, along the trail to Highland Mary Lakes

Falls #2 - Cunningham Creek

Gathering of Coronis Fritillaries

Final falls on Cunningham creek, just below timberline

View of Cunningham Gulch from the creek near the trail

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