Sierra Backpacking Paintings: Part 1

There is a place in Mammoth that is really special to my family and growing up in Tahoe, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to walk there. A couple weeks ago I finally connected those dots, leaving a 180 mile trail from my parents’ backyard to our favorite camping spot. I was hiking long days, but still managed to make a gouache painting each day. I had fun crossing paths with the main bubble of northbound PCT hikers floating on the trail on their way up to Canada… one of these days I want to hike and paint that whole journey!

Warm Breeze–Ellwood Bluffs

18×38″ oil on canvas

I’m teaching landscape painting to my students this week and as I look around at what they are creating, I’m struck by the fact that arrangements of light and colors have emotional tones to them. I guess other senses do this too. For example, smell is said to be the sense that links most closely to memory and that’s why certain smells can transport you back to your childhood. I think that certain qualities of light and color are similarly evocative, connecting us back to past moods.

State Street Stroll

16×20″ oil on linen

State Street Stroll– 16×20″ oil on linen– It turns out that streets are much nicer without cars on them. Since the pandemic pushed the restaurants and cafes out into the lanes feet and bikes are the only mode of transportation down State. We learned to slow down last year in so many ways. As the speed and busyness of life is ramping up, I hope we hold on to our inner and outer pedestrian mindset. 

Open Studio and Creek Light

Salamander Playground –16×20″ oil on linen

Hi Everyone! This Sunday is a casual Open Studio from 10am -3pm in my backyard studio at 1128 Via Regina. I’ll have my paintings out and arranged by size and would love to chat and share my work with anyone who wants to come by! If anyone is interested in a belated Mother’s Day gift, I’m throwing in a free 6×8″ painting with any purchase over $500.

I saw an auspicious friendly rattlesnake as I hiked Rattlesnake Canyon for this view a week ago. The summer is going to be dry, but the water is still flowing, at least in some parts of the creek. It is a challenge to catch the changing light in a dappled situation. Look at the two images below to see how quickly the light and shadow parts of a scene like this can swap places. It’s comparable to painting a portrait of people playing musical chairs. I made the small sketch you can see at the top of the easel to remember where I wanted the shadows to be.

Garrapata Atmosphere

18×24″ oil on linen– What I love about the Big Sur coast is how much edge there is. The fractal canyons and bays and multitude of islands make for an enchanted scene. There are so many folds for the ocean to peak into, for light to cling to and to hide secret shady coves. We got here just in time to catch those transparent cliff shadows still extending into the sea.

Big Sur Impressions

18×24″ oil on linen

This is painting paradise for me. It is actually so beautiful it is dangerous… big cliffs and unbelievable views combined. My knee is all skinned up from walking around on wet rocks with my eyes up on the view. The design possibilities are endless here… every few feet I want to start a new canvas.

Clouds Parting–Stearn’s Wharf

12×24″ oil on panel– The city was washed clean and sparkling after the last storm. Out on the wharf was a great place to take it all in. A magnificent rainbow appeared and I was tempted to paint it in, but usually paintings of rainbows look about as convincing as paintings of unicorns. I went with the unicorn instead– can you see him hiding behind the palm tree?

Painting in the Oaks

Rocky Nook Park– 14×18″ oil

Sandstone outcroppings and Coast Live Oaks… I’ve been spending several afternoons painting in oak forests the last couple of weeks. The acorns are ripening and the squirrels, scrubjays and a deer were all inspecting their progress as I was painting.

Sunny Oak Forest– 8×10″
Work in progress…

Space to Ramble

18×36” oil on linen

When Lauren and I were first married we used to spend most of a day walking from the distant eucalyptus groves, out over the bluffs, around the slough, through IV and UCSB, down the bike trail, out on More Mesa, through the horse trails in Hope Ranch, through westside and finally downtown. There we’d sit our tired legs down at a cafe, eat a big meal and take the bus all the way back home. It was our favorite date… so simple but so full of interesting people watching, nature exploration and places to appreciate the many sides of our town.