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I saw several gems of lakes like this one backpacking this summer. There is no actual trail going here, but there are alpine creek drainages to follow or talus field passes that take you off of the most common routes and let you experience hiking in a different way. In some ways, there is more energy in way finding and more mindfulness of steps that aren’t graded and switchbacked for stock travel… and for this you get the reward of recognizing how many little secret meadows, glens, lakes, tarns, granite art forms and other surprises are tucked into the rocky arms of the Sierra Nevada. This little lake sits on the eastern flank of Seven Gables which you can see beginning to rise on the right side of the canvas.
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.
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.
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!
These are a couple more gouache sketches from our adventure in the Cascades and on the Olympic Peninsula. Such an abundance of water up there means that words like “creek” and “river” mean something totally different than they do in Southern California. What we call “river,” they would call a creek. What we would call a “creek” would be an unnamed random side-canyon spill up there. It’s interesting how people and landscapes adapt to and reflect the weather and climate they exist in.
We spent a couple of days on the PCT excited to see what it looks like as it bends its way through the Cascades. There is so much water up there, particularly on these long, warm summer days as the snowmelt is gushing through the creeks. We enjoyed the cool simple suspension bridges spanning their gaps and seeing the lush wildflower popping open trailside like fireworks and the deep green fern-filled forests.
Here are a couple of new ones recently off the easel. I painted a nice misty morning view from the cliffs above Hendry’s on the Douglas Preserve a couple days ago, watching the people on the beach play and walk around not unlike the ants that have been in our kitchen. : )
I also made another neighborhood painting with two small panels of a corner on Valerio Street and once again enjoyed chatting with the friendly neighbors and hearing a little bit of the story of place. It is interesting how this type of conversation is often about a tree… either one that’s there or one that used to be. Trees make a neighborhood, don’t they?
I love the variety of architecture, color and gardens in the downtown neighborhoods. A couple of the neighbors came out to say “hi.” One had lived in the house behind me for fifty years and said he remembered cutting the 50 foot tall palm tree with a six foot step ladder. I definitely saw many more houses with character that I want to paint portraits of…
This magnificent grove of sycamores drink from the mineral water that pours down from the Gaviota hot springs. Maybe that’s why they seem so vital. I love the calligraphy of their branches and the way they dance to follow the light…
Here are a couple of pleasant painting locals from the past week. The top one was made after a walk around Lake Los Carneros and a delicious sandwich with my family in Los Olives. (We brought a couple more small works to show at the Los Olivos General Store if you find yourself up that way.)
The second was made at El Refugio State Beach at the moment when the sun burns through the marine layer and it’s time to jump in the ocean. I hope you are all enjoying your summer days!