Monday, October 9, 2017

Workshop Report: Durango, Colorado

Two Aspens Study 6x8 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Few places in the world are more beautiful than Colorado in the fall.  The mountains,  quilted with pink, blue and gold, buoy up the heart.  Hike up into some mountain meadow, and the splendor of aspens will wipe away the cares of the world.

Animas River, Durango, Colorado
This past weekend, I had the honor of teaching a private workshop for a group of plein air artists located in Durango.  This historic town hugs the Animas River between two mountain ranges, the San Juan and the La Plata.  From my host’s house and our meeting place, I enjoyed a stunning vista.  On our first morning, thick clouds surrounded the peaks, but as dawn broke, orange and pink seeped into the grey, overpowering it and drenching the world with autumn light.

Looking for something to paint - not so hard!
After a short morning lecture, we headed up to the Silverpick Lodge, located at 8900 feet, to paint the aspens.  A rather chill wind was blowing, but we found a sheltered spot for my first demonstration, which was in pastel.  After lunch, the wind began to blow harder, but I found a little road that led to a spot on the lee side of a hill where it was comfortably sunny and warm.  I set up at the edge of a meadow, in a gathering of aspens that was like a golden chapel.

Silverpick 9x12 Oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Location shot for "Silverpick"
The next day, because the weather was forecast to be cooler, we decided to start at a lower elevation (7000 feet or so), along Lightner Creek.  Here we had a broad view of a meadow with views of Barnroof Point.  We’d gotten an early start, so the sun was rising over the hill and playing games with the light on the aspens.  It was tough painting, because the effect was so brief. Later, we headed up hill to the Hesperus Ski Area for lunch at the Kennebec Cafe.  From there, we had beautiful views of clusters of yellow and orange cottonwoods and aspens.

Aspen  Grove Study 12x9 Pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson

The happy group, minus one
My students were experienced outdoor painters, and it was a treat to work with them.  They were diverse:  a retired physical therapist, a fiddler/potter, an allergist, a geologist...I could go on.  But gathering them together was the common thread of painting in the beautiful outdoors.   I felt privileged to be in their company in such a beautiful part of the world.

I think private workshops are the way to go.  This group made me feel like a guest, and, I am grateful for their hospitality.

If your group would like to me teach a private workshop, let’s talk!

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