Here are a couple of more moody paintings of lakes from my backpacking trip last week in the high eastern Sierras. It rained every day. It was also sunny every day. Often both were happening at the same time. Under the changing skies I saw wildflowers, bighorn sheep, lightning flashes and felt a flood of memories as the mountain smells were intensified by the rain.
This fallen spruce tree has become a landscape in itself as the forest reclaims it and it’s decomposition feeds ferns and mosses, beetles and butterflies and even young trees seeding in its layers of life. If you want to experience life after death, check out the rainforest. Here plants grow out of plants and embrace trees and rotting wood like sprouting verdant carpet. Since almost all the organic material is in the canopy rather than in the soil in a rainforest, a dead tree fall means the start of a new fountain of living greenery. It rained the day before we got here, but we got to see the rainforest in sunlight!
What a cool little town! Here’s Santa Barbara resting at the base of its chaparral mountains that smell of bay and sage, with it’s red-tiled roofs and sunny gardens and the peaceful blue ocean protected by the Channel Islands. I tried to paint her portrait from an angle that accentuates her best features.
I set up my easel downtown a couple of days ago to paint the light and shadows and activity on State Street. It was a painting sprint: an experience in painting fleeting moments as people breeze by and the shadows lengthen every minute. Just as you start to get focused and absorbed in detail a person walking by will strike up a conversation, which is good for the art… it keeps you painting only what is essential before it is gone. At one point a crowd marched by in support of the people of Ukraine and protesting the Russian invasion. It is good to see people raising their voices and walking together in solidarity against this madness and senseless violence.
Every UCSB student knows this path well. I stepped just off the trail to paint this one and enjoyed snippets of conversation coming from passing college students… walking, pedaling and jogging on their way to enjoy the last hours of sunlight.
I’ve been running at Lake Los Carneros many mornings this year, watching how the rising sun makes our local mountains blush.
It has been a wonderful winter for clouds this year, hasn’t it? Hopefully we can coax some more water out of them before the dry season.
So this is from healthy pots of succulents and imagination… no ceramics were injured in the making of this painting. I have had an idea to paint a crushed terra cotta pot, but with its inhabitants finding a way to thrive in the new situation. I find that sometimes titles are hard to pin on a painting, but for this one the metaphors were waiting in line in my imagination as I laid down the paint. “Catastrophe and Opportunity,” “Fragile Planet,” “Microclimate,” “Heroic Voyage,” “Hatched,” “Branching Out.” You get the idea… I let “Looking on the Bright Side” rise to the top.
The acorn that sprouted and started to grow into this Coast Live Oak many, many mornings ago sure picked a good spot to sink its roots. I wonder if it knew how many people would visit it for picnics and to share its grand view of Cathedral and Arlington Peaks, the rolling green hills and the Santa Barbara harbor on the horizon. I spent a pleasant morning before the easel trying to catch the atmospheric golden light we get on green winter mornings here.
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!
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.