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


  1. What a wonderful p;ace. Love the red barn and the old turquoise truck.

  2. Beautiful photos! I especially love the waterfall and butterflies!

    I always love seeing your landscapes, but it was fun to see your paintings of old buildings, and especially that old truck. My brother and I used to play "Driving to Disneyland" in an old abandoned truck like that when we were kids.

  3. Sonya, I found a photo from the same vantage point as your painting showing the location of the boarding house:

    Pretty small, a speck really, but what a crazy place for a building!

  4. All of those paintings are SO beautiful Sonya! I really like that truck, you captured personality and it's mechanics perfectly, which I think would be super hard to do from location. And the Cunningham Gulch one is so beautiful too, I love the motion in the clouds.

    And of course your photos are so beautiful that I'm envious I didn't get to go too. :)

  5. Thanks Helen, for your comments - it is a neat little town, especially in summer. I hope to go back at least once more this year and paint.

    Hi LeAnn - thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos and my truck painting :). I have long been wanting to paint these old vehicles I see so often on drives and elsewhere, so I am glad I finally did. There is just something so...nostalgic? about them that I find appealing.

    Sarah - holy cow! Nope, I never would have known that was way up there, and I definitely couldn't see it when I was painting, either. What was someone thinking to put a building way up there? I'm surprised it's still standing.

    Hi Crystal - you are so kind! I don't generally expect much when I paint on location, so it's always a bonus when the paintings have appeal to others :). The truck, despite being time-consuming to draw, was super fun to paint. Your job is to find us some old cars or trucks to paint in your area when I do make it up there, so we can paint them together!

    And see, now you know all the cool places to visit when you and your family take a vacation to CO, right ;)?


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