Snowmelt Journey— 15×30” oil on panel— This is the result of the other canvas that I hiked up to Lamarck Lake. I loved the way the warm morning light on the cliff wall reflected into the rocks across the creek and the meandering path the water takes on its journey to the lake.
This is probably the hardest earned outdoor painting I have made yet… It started with carrying all of my backpacking gear, oil painting gear, easel and two large canvasses a couple thousand feet up to Lamarck Lake. It wasn’t the most practical venture, but I had romantic visions of standing before this breathtaking view with a two foot by three foot canvas over two afternoons of painting. The first day, the wind nearly blew this sail of a canvas and my entire easel into the dirt. I lashed the easel to a heavy rock below and a pine tree windward and held onto it with my left hand (to keep myself from blowing away.) It wasn’t the peaceful experience I was imagining to say the least and the painting made a very effective mosquito trap, with hundreds of the little guys finding themselves impaled in shades of blue and turquoise. In the future, if they ever need to clone a foolish artist, they can extract my DNA Jurassic-Park-Style from this painting.
Day two I spent exploring the tributaries to this lake and anticipating painting like a storm tossed sailer again. Rather, there was a pleasant breeze all afternoon… the experience I was hoping for. To top it off, I made it back to the trailhead without tripping and face planting on my wet painting once.
I spent a little over a week tramping around the sierras with my family and then solo for a few nights. Here are some of the gouache backpacking sketches made in a watercolor sketchbook I brought along. Is there any place on earth as stunning and magical as the Sierras? I know there are– we live on a planet with such amazing diversity and beauty and everybody should have their own favorite environment. We’re lucky to be alive with this awesome earth to explore, aren’t we?
I went backpacking for a few days last week up in a new pocket of the Sierras for me. I was intrigued by some of the lake names: Disappointment, Hell-for-Sure, Mosquito. Sometimes the less inviting the lake name, the more spectacular the lake… someone, in naming it, wanted to keep it from becoming the overcrowded Yosemite Valley. I couldn’t have been any less disappointed with Disappointment Lake and if that’s what Hell-for-Sure looks like, I know where I’m going. They were right about one thing, though. The mosquitos were hungry everywhere this season, as are all the late season wildflowers from the heavy snows this year.
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.
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)