Saturday, August 9, 2014


Last June I mentioned our drive through the Colorado San Juan Mountains and one of the adventures we had on our scenic drive along the twisting stretch of two-lane black top between Durango and Ouray also known as the “Million Dollar Highway.”

Most of the watercolors I paint are landscapes of favorite places.  There is not enough lifetime to paint souvenirs of all the scenery we saw on this trip through New Mexico and Colorado, but this is one I just finished.

 I started with a value sketch using a combination of photographs I took of a huge mountain we could see across the valley as we climbed out of Durango and over Coal Bank Pass, elevation 10,640 feet.  I think this one is called Twilight Peak.

I transferred the sketch to 140 cold press watercolor paper, stretched it, taped it and put down a couple of washes over the drawing and some masking I applied to save the white snow.

From there I added details to the mountain and more colors to the hills that drop down into the steep valley.

The final piece is 11x14 inches and would look really good matted and framed and hanging on a wall in our living room.  But for now I have it listed for sale on my Etsy site, Watercolors by Leenie to see if there is anybody out there with a similar appreciation for this classic Colorado scenery.

A quote from a web site about US-550 which includes the Million Dollar Highway:

 Even the origin of the “Million Dollar” name is clouded in myth. Some say it was first used after an early traveler, complaining of the vertigo-inducing steepness of the route, said, “I wouldn’t go that way again if you paid me a million dollars.” Others claim that it derives simply from the actual cost of paving the route in the 1930s. But the favorite explanation is also the most likely: When the highway was first constructed, the builders used gravel discarded by nearby gold and silver mines, only to find out later that this dirt was actually rich in ore and worth an estimated “million dollars.”


Alica said...

Those majestic mountains! :)

fishducky said...

It's beautiful!!

Val said...

Watercolors mystify me. I like the sketch. I suppose you might say I am a sketchy kind of gal.

Jenny Woolf said...

Oh my I bet they were sick when they realised they'd used that stuff for building a road! :D

Anonymous said...

I so admire folks who have mastered the mystery of watercolours.

Linda Sue said...

I still do not even have the slightest idea how you do this magic you are a sorcerer, me thinks. That is a magnificent painting, better than any photo ever.

Carla said...

Next time you're up that way, take the steam train from Durango to Silverton. Gorgeous doesn't even begin to describe the trip. Be sure to sit in an enclosed car though, otherwise you'll be covered head to toe with coal soot. :)
Your art is so beautiful. It truly captures what the area looks like.