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.
I’m was out in the garden painting in my sketchbook with gouache today. That is my go-to medium when I don’t have a lot of time and just feel like drawing and moving some colors around. It is portable, cheap, versatile and fun to use. Working on paper without the commitment of a canvas, I find myself taking more chances and trying out compositions or subjects that I would otherwise shy away from. Here are a couple of recent gouache studies…
This was a beautiful hike, making paintings between hiking passes, swimming in lakes and eating cereal in epic breakfast locations. I’m working on a large oil painting based on this gouache backpacking painting of Garnet Lake and Banner Peak. There is so much richness and beauty out there…. does anybody know what bird has the most melodic song in the Sierras with a series of sad notes followed by metallic trills? It’s song enchanted me several times but I could never lay eyes on it.
I’ll be having an open studio show on Labor Day weekend if you’d like to see these and other recent paintings in person.
I love the high elevation pockets of pines that hikers can find in the Los Padres National Forest. Just an hour and a half drive from Goleta and a few miles of scratchy chaparral and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain and you find yourself above six thousand feet and wondering if you are in the Sierras. When I got to the top, I waved across the valley to my folks in Tahoe at the same elevation, but 300 miles away.
I’ve been fortunate to go backpacking almost every weekend this past month. These are all small (about 5×8″) gouache sketches made during hikes in the Sespe Wilderness. It has been so good to be experiencing all of the wildflowers and flowing creeks of spring.
My family and I snuck away to get into the back country this weekend. I made a couple of gouache sketches in my sketchbook of the same rock formation… one on a misty, grey afternoon and the other on the clear sunny morning that followed it. It is remarkable how much the atmosphere and light conditions affect the colors we see.