Painting at Extreme Altitudes

Beauty and Fear–From Seven Gables at 13,000 feet– gouache on paper

I was dizzy and wobbly with vertigo as I painted this one. I wished I could have stayed a couple hours on the peak to decipher the distant peaks that stretched for what looked like hundreds of miles before me, but cumulonimbus clouds were materializing by the minute and I wanted lower ground before the lightning started. I had a healthy amount of fear… can you sense the urgency in the sketch?

I was able to get down to this lake at the northern base of the peak and make this sketch before the raindrops fell. Dramatic holes of sunlight in a mostly clouded sky created spotlights on a dazzling stage. Every now and then they would find me and I’d be in the sun for a few short moments as rain fell in the distance.

Before the Rain–Below Seven Gables– gouache on paper

Backpacking Paintings

These are some gouache backpacking sketches made while camping with friends recently in the San Rafael Wilderness. You find elevations of over 6000 feet just a condor’s flight from the coast. The “Sea of Clouds” one above is of a 4000 foot deep fog layer blanketing the coast… it was drizzly and grey at down at home, but we were up in the sun with the Jeffrey pines, Sugar pines and other pines whose names I couldn’t quite catch as they whispered in the wind.

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!

Watercolor Sketches– Santa Barbara Backcountry

The pencil is there for scale.  The crack in the sidewalk reminded me of what they say– that when you find a fault, you shouldn’t dwell on it.  But here we are dwelling in earthquake country and quite happy about it.   I had fun backpacking Memorial Day weekend with a fun group, several of whom are geologists and point out really cool things about the shape of the land and the fossils hiding in plain sight.  Here are a couple of watercolor and gouache sketches that I snuck in between the rains.

Rae Lakes Splendor

16×20″ oil on canvas– This is one of my favorite spots on the John Muir Trail– which is saying something because there are so many gorgeous lakes strung like turquoise beads on the path from Whitney to Yosemite.  But these lakes just below timber line at the base of several granite peaks and the play of light on them is dramatic.  Have you hiked this section of trail?  You might recognize Glen Pass in the top right corner.

Liquid Light

25 1/2 x 34″– oil on canvas– I had my dad in mind when I made this painting.  He loves to drop a fly into small mountain streams like this and catch and release the native trout.  Can you spot the three fish swimming in the painting?

Also a reminder that this weekend is my open studio and art sale.  If you would like to come by it is  at 1128 Via Regina this Labor Day Weekend.  Saturday and Sunday 11 am-5 pm, Monday  11-2pm.  I will have special sale prices on paintings for the weekend and the first buyers of paintings over $500 will get a free 8×10 casein painting.  I’ll have my easel set up and be doing a demo over the weekend as well.  Hope to see you there!

 

Radiant Sunset– Big Pine Camp

16×36″ oil on canvas– This was a sunset to remember… layers of mountains dissolving in to the light and particularly speedy clouds racing and changing colors across the sky.  Thirty minutes earlier and the day was still afoot– a thirty minutes later and the stars were glowing behind the clouds.  This area burned eleven years ago in the Zaca Fire and it has beautifully risen from the ashes like a true phoenix.  Nice work, mother nature… : )

Suncatcher

24×36″ oil on canvas– I made this from a small backpacking sketch of an oak tree by the trail.  To my right there was an incredible cliff formation with all kinds of caves and crevices and hawks soaring above, but that will have to wait for another day…   What captured me was the beautiful way the light was reflected and filtered through the bonsai-like leaves and branches of this small, gnarly oak.

Hamilton Lake Sunrise

20×48″ Oil on Canvas– This is a big studio painting I have been working on based on a sketch of Hamilton Lake in Sequoia National Forest this summer.  My tent was in a flat spot near the pines on the right and I woke up and watched the warm light crawl across this wonderland.  There is another lake at the top of the cascade in the center of the painting that was still snowbound… and miles and miles of mountains and lakes for us still to explore to the north and south beyond.     (Detail)(Detail)