Saturday, October 30, 2010

Vote for Abe

Yesterday I went to the YWA (Yosemite Western Artists) figure drawing session again. I was delighted to see something different and creative in the model. As I walked into the room I was greeted by Abe Lincoln and his aid d'camp. Although I don't remember the Colonel's name, he made a great model.

I laughed when I saw Abe and, prompted by the memory of one of the sayings that Del Gish likes to use now and then, I went up to him. "Other than the obvious," I asked, "how did you like the play?" He enjoyed the joke and told me that he had recently seen a version of that play locally. He also informed me that he is related to the former president. He sure looks like it.

Again I enjoyed a morning of drawing with a bunch of nice, talented artists.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Figure Drawing

Last week I went to join a bunch of local artist who get together every Friday morning to do some figure drawing. They gather in an old school house near Oakhurst, CA. This school house was active from 1878 - 1962. It's a cool old building and it was fun to go in just to see what a school house from the old west looked like.

I met a bunch of nice people and had a decent morning of drawing. Unlike most places where I've done figure drawing, these were not nudes ... which I would have preferred, but it was great to be amongst a group of artists doing something other than landscapes.

Next week, I'll take my paint, though, it was great to work with charcoal again.

Monday, October 25, 2010

More Green

Last week I made another assault on the Yosemite Falls trail. This time, I made it to the top before I sat down with my little paint box and did a sketch of the river (which was then down to a trickle - right now it's raging again after several days of rain and snow) just as it came to the brink of the cliffs, becoming Yosemite Falls. A few days later a friend, Kelly, and I hiked up to Old Inspiration Point, which is just above the Wawona tunnel. It was a beutiful and easy trail. I can't really say that for the trail from there up to Stanford Point. Kelly is about 20 years younger than I and he's in better shape ... he set a blistering pace up the steep trail. I was really huffing and puffing by the time we reached Stanford Point ... but, man, the hike was worth it.
Kelly then proceded to climb out onto the cliff edges ... freakin' me out. I'll have to go up to that place to paint sometime ... but late in the afternoon as it was, everything was washed out in direct sunlight.

Green again

Another "green" painting ... which actually has a lot of green in it. A fun little still life done from apples that my friends next door provided me with.

Harold Gower

A few weeks ago, Belinda's grandfather, Harold Gower, ended his 96 year stay here on planet Earth. He is missed. I didn't know Harold well, but the times that I did get to share with him are cherrished memories. Once, while sitting around a campfire in Maine (in 2004), he did a spontanious recitation of the Robert Service poem, "The Cremation of Sam McGee" that was perfect. I loved it; that's one of my favorite poems, and I loved his telling of it.

I was happy to do this painting for Karin, his wife. May it bring her some joy.

Liberty Cap

Due to three straight days of rain, I finally got around to finishing the pastel of Liberty Cap that I started a few weeks ago.
It's not often that I do pastel, but I always wonder, while I'm working on one, why not? It's a fun and very forgiving medium. It's also a lot easier to carry around than an easel and all of the accouterments thereof. I think that I'm going to start doing a few more of these.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Last Miwok

In the Yosemite museum there is an old Native American woman from the Yosemite - Miwok tribe who makes baskets. At first look, she apears to be a static display. But, her slow, methodical method - handed down, no doubt for generations unknown - produces stunning baskets. Museum quality, for certain.

I understand that she is the last of her tribe. What a shame. Alas, so it goes. As humanity marches on, it tramples on the paths of those who came before. Sometimes we stand on the shoulders of those who have reached new heights before us ... and then, sometimes, as the collection of organisms that we are ... we obliterate the very things that helpped us grow and blossom.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Back to painting in the park

Since my return from SF, I've done some nice hikes in Yosemite.

The first was a simple hike about half a mile from the cabin, along the Merced River. There were a bunch of kids playing in the river and jumping from the rocky banks. If I turn the sketch into a studio piece, I'll probably include some of those youngsters.
White Pines Bridge
A few days later, I set off to do some painting in the Little Yosemite Valley, a 4 mile hike up the Mist trail to the John Muir Trail. I was a bit disappointed when I got there, however, because you can't see the valley for all of the trees.

Along the JMT. From l to r: The back of Half Dome, Mt Broderick, Liberty Cap, and Navada Fall.
So, I figured that I would go up the John Muir Trail (JMT) a little way to get a better vantage place. And, indeed, I found the view up there much better ... but still, not quite what one would want for a painting. So, I started up the Half Dome trail, which branches off of the JMT at just about the same place where one can see down into the Little Yosemite Valley.

I was very curious about this trail anyway, and was excited to be on it. From where it splits from the JMT it was only another 2 miles to the top of Half Dome. Now, I didn't want to climb the Dome quite yet -- I need to psych myself up a little more for that, besides, I don't really want to do it alone. Things like that are much better as an "experience shared". Belinda has never done that trail, either, and I think that it would be so much better to do it together. Okay, so, that's one of my excuses for turning back when I was about a third of the way up the so called "Sub Dome".

It was a bit scary even there. It's a winding, dangerous trail, hewn out of the living rock at almost a 45 degree angle. Yikes.

The views, though, from up on the ridge before the Sub Dome are among the most spectacular in the park. Unfortunately, it had taken me the better part of the day to do the 8 miles from the cabin to this point - so, I'd actually cheated myself out of the opportunity to paint ,,, if I wanted to get off of the mountain and out of the woods before dark (which I certainly wanted to do - having no flashlight on me, and not wanting to worry Belinda, who would be expecting me at about the same time that I turned around and headed back from my perch on the rocks by the Sub Dome -- where I took a cacophony of photos).
The North side of Half Dome and the Sub Dome from the ridge (at about 7,000 ft, looking up to 8,800 ft). If you look close, you can see the line of people climbing the cables up the side of Half dome. One day I'll find the cohonies to do this!
It only took me a couple of hours to get back to the cabin ... going down the mountain is sooo much easier than up.
A few days later I took Belinda up the trail where Jeremy, Jarrod, and Tara started their climb up the face of Half Dome. She, being less afraid of heights than me, climbed up quite a bit farther than I had on my previous journey there. It prompted me to go a little farther than I had ... but not that much, having retained my brain (and, I'll admit, having read a little too much of the book "Off the Wall: Death in Yosemite" by Ghiglieri and Farabee - ex Yosemite Rangers. It's a very fascinating history of Yosemite ... and lists all known deaths in the park - some 900+ up to 2006 - many of the deaths are from exactly this kind of thing .... scrambling). That's not to say that Belinda was insane to go up farther ... it's just to say that I would be insane if I did ... knowing that I would probably freeze and signal for a helicopter evac if I were to go up any farther. To quote a Clint Eastwood line: "A man's got to know his limitations" (Dirty Harry).

Our next adventure was up in the High Country on the other side of Tioga road. It was a 45 mile drive for us ... down the length of the valley, then up Tioga pass ... then a long, winding road up to the trail head of May Lake and the High Sierra Camp. As the crow flies, though, it was only about 10 miles from the cabin.

It was only a 1.2 mile hike from the trail head with an elevation gain of only 500', but it was some spectacular scenery. I know, I say that about all of the views here in the park ... and, well, it's true of almost every hike that I go on. It's just so mind boggling that there could be so much wonder in one area!

That's part of the problem here. There are so many places to paint and so much to see that one doesn't want to repeat the same hikes -- but one is drawn to explore all of the wonders and seek new vistas to paint and enjoy. It's for sure that I want to return to many of the places I've been when the weather changes and snow covers the rugged countryside. Especially the high country ... and definitely including May Lake, with Mt Hoffman rising straight out of the lake.
It was a relaxing, easy-ish hike up to the lake and there were very few people up there; the high camp having closed already for the season.
We set up by the lake; I with my little Pachade box (one day I'll figure out how to spell it correctly - the spell-check has no idea) and Belinda in her hammock. It was a perfect early autumn day ... warm but not too much. I had brought my umbrella - just in case. I need to do that more. It's a little bit of a nuisance to carry, but, by having it with me, I'm not as limited to where I can set up due to direct sun light.
It was a fabulous experience. The next time I paint up there I hope that there is ice on the lake and snow on the mountain.