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.
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!
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.
I love looking back at this sketchbook from backpacking this summer. When you take the time to sit down and make a drawing or a painting of something, all your senses are absorbed. The sketchbook becomes a time machine and can flash you right back to that vivid moment… even years later as I’ve found with my old college sketchbooks.
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!
Oil on Canvas 25.5×34″ –This is the first backpacking sketch that I’ve turned into a finished oil painting. Lauren named this place on the east side of Sawtooth Pass “Marmot Paradise” for all the happy groundhogs who call this place home who were whistling, running amok and eating the vibrant grasses in these high meadows. I took pictures of the original sketch and my backpacking painting kit so people can see the setup. I used a lightweight sheet of corrugated plastic as a laptop desk with a clip-on water container. Notice the wet paper towel that I squeeze my paints onto… it wicks water up into the paints to keep the dry mountain air from solidifying them. No stand up easel this trip, but after hiking fifteen miles over a pass, who wants to stand?
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)
So, the lakes out of Big Pine don’t have the most creative names. (First Lake, Second Lake, Third… through Seventh.) This has nothing to do with their beauty, though. Don’t judge a lake by its title. My daughters took the liberty of renaming them all and swimming in most on a recent backpack adventure. I snuck away three times to paint Third Lake, our base camp. (all are 10×20″ acrylics)
Lauren prefers her flowers wild and unpicked in the meadow… it is one of the many things I love about her. One nice thing about painting is I can still bring them home for her.
16×20″ Oil on Canvas– This bend in the creek was down the hill in my backyard growing up. I have known it for thirty-three years now. This winter the meadow flooded and I got to see first hand how oxbows form and a creek finds a new path. It could be seen as distress to the landscape or it could just be seen as change. I think of many of my favorite places over the years that have been subject to avalanches, forest fires and other setbacks and have realized that in most cases this is a way of setting the clock back and allowing those areas to spring back and regenerate. Nature is patient and distress simply provides a blank canvas.