42. Bench Lake Sunset

Bench Lake sits in the Sawtooth Mountains of central Idaho, a steady five mile climb from the trailhead at Redfish Lake. My stepson and I ran this trail on a chilly day in June of 2018. We’d expected warmer weather that day, but spring arrives late in Idaho’s mountains. From the lake’s edge, we enjoyed fantastic views of the Sawtooth Mountains. The following day, he ran the route again at sunset and snapped the photo I used for this rendition.

In this piece, I pair two contrasting images. The lake shore foreground is a study in gentle pastels – reeds, a gentle breeze on the surface of the lake, the reflected colors of a spring sunset. Looking just into the foreground, it’s easy to be seduced into thinking spring has arrived. Yet the sky holds more ominous textures. As you scan into the background, there are dark, foreboding grays, the threat of storms, strong vertical lines in the clouds, banks of fog between the mountain ridges, the threat of a surprise spring snow.

Hikers would be wise to reconcile these two opposing perspectives of this mountain scene (and pack accordingly.) This is the mountain’s duality – serenity, balanced against an ever present possibility of sudden change.


Although I love the bold colors and textures of oil pastels, I’d found it difficult to render thin lines – oil pastels don’t have any hard edges. So for this piece, I experimented with a new technique. On a piece of plexiglass, I mixed smudges of oil pastel with mineral spirits to the consistency of ink. Then using a stiff paintbrush, I painted the lines – distant tree trunks, ripples on the lake, foreground reeds.


This piece is part of my #ArtForGood project, where all proceeds from the sale of this piece are donated to a nonprofit organization – in this case, the Sierra Club Foundation.


  • Medium Sennelier oil pastels on Canson Aquarelle Rag, 240gm
  • Dimensions 8″ x 10″, mounted, double-matte (in colors, as shown), 11″ x 14″, unframed, cello-bagged
  • Donation US$50, excludes shipping, preference to Seattle-local sales
  • Availability Date March 8, 2019
  • Status SOLD

~ by Delfino on 2019/02/12.

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