Monday, November 29, 2010

Three Brothers

There's a rock formation here in the park called the Three Brothers. It's named for the three sons of Chief Tenya ... or so legend has it. It's interesting the way that the granite has formed throughout the park ... there are many domes, spires, and towers. They keep me in a constant state of admiration ... awe ... inspiration.
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I've painted Sentinel Rock a few times ... but the different light and the snow made it much more fun to paint today.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wintery Paintings

Lately I've been doing a bunch of smaller paintings to sell in an upcoming show. I had a lot of fun yesterday painting a diptych of the scene that I call "quarter view" as it's the one you see on the Yosemite National Parks quarter that was minted last summer.
It's an awe inspiring place that I've painted a few times already, but it looks so different ... and so much better, I think ... in the snow. El Capitain is on the left, and Bridalveil Fall is on the right (it was cast in shadow, but the formation around it is spectacular ... especially the Leaning Tower at the far right). The mighty Merced River ties the two paintings together nicely, I thought. More than likely, I'll do this as a larger project since it worked so well as a small one.
This is a look at Cathedral Rocks in a snowy landscape. It's also a place that I've gone to paint many times ... always refreshing to see these places in different lighting and with snow on them.
And then there's Mt Watkins again.
Mirror Lake was frozen over in many places ... so there was no reflection at this spot ... but it was still a stunning view.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving Journey

On Thanksgiving morning I went on a Photo Journey - in the footsteps, quite literally, of Ansel Adams. At 7:45 I walked Belinda to her store at Curry Village, then proceeded down the length of the Valley. I ended up going all the way down to Pohno Bridge and back ... somewhere around ten miles or more. Much of my excursion was off-trail; wading through snow up past my knees.

What a work-out! It was very cold when I started, but the amount of energy that I had to expend to get through much of the wilderness, kept me nice and toasty warm (that and the winter gear that Belinda had the forethought to get for me on sale at REI on my birthday in June). The day was clear and sunny and the scenery was absolutely fantastic.


I had debated that morning if I should go out to paint or do this photo foray. But, the thing is, the days are getting so much shorter that the light is already waning by three thirty, and much of the valley is in shadow all day because of the angle of the sun and the height of the towering granite. In a few weeks I'll be either painting scenes that have no sun in them at all, or sitting in the cabin, painting from photos, while the storms and winter gloom prevail without.

There were many times along the way that I had wished for my easel ... but all I had to do was stand still for a few minutes, while taking pictures, to realize just how quickly the light changes when the sun is at such a low zenith.

It was an extremely exhausting adventure, and took me until well after three, when the gloaming was rapidly approaching. The mission was a great success; I had wanted material for those long, dark days to come ... and I took over 700 pictures!

Ironically, it was Thanksgiving and I hadn't eaten a thing all day, nor had I carried along any water. I was quite depleted. Thankfully, DNC (Delaware North Corporation - which owns all of the concessions in the Park) gave a big banquet for its employees and guests! I don't remember when I've appreciated a meal more. Great food!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Yosemite in the Snow

The power went out early on Sunday morning at the Mariposa studio ... probably caused by the heavy snow. I had an instant dilemma! It wasn't that I really needed the electricity for warmth or anything ... I'd been doing without heat ... the studio has been staying fairly comfortable ... with sweatshirts on, anyway. And, after seeing the snow, I knew that I would be outside for much of the morning, so I wasn't really in need of lights or anything, but what I couldn't do without was coffee!

I had never fired up my wood burning stove until that time ... but, well, gotta have the java! Fortunately, I use a stove top peculator for coffee at the studio. Unfortunately, my coffee grinder is electric ... so, I had to improvise. Heck, humanity has been grinding coffee by hand since the first caffeine addict to discover the coffee bean. So, I put the beans in a large bowl and used the base of my coffee mug (a two cup Pyrex measuring cup) to grind the beans. It was only a matter of twenty minutes or so before I was enjoying a cup of rich, bold, coffee! Ahhh. My excitement to get out to paint, though, didn't allow me the pleasure of just sitting and enjoying the morning brew ... I put it in a thermos and took it out to paint with me.

When I was done painting, I went back into the dimly lit studio. Hmm. Took dark, really, to get much painting in by then. I began to wonder what I would do when it got dark. There might have been a candle or two lying about, but, well, what was I supposed to do by candle light? I know, I know ... Rembrandt probably did his best etchings by candle light ... and people all through the ages have worked by such things. So ... I looked about for my headlamp and some candles. Couldn't' find either right off hand ... and it was getting darker quickly.

So, there was nothing for it but to pack it in and head back to the park ... which made me happy anyway! I've been chomping at the bit for it to snow in Yosemite so that I can start my winter paintings of the great valley.


This morning found me out there, standing beside the meadow, painting Tis-sa-yak (Half Dome), and the North Dome/Washington Column rock formation. Two separate paintings from the same spot. I could have turned to my right and painted Glacier Point, too ... but after three hours or so of standing there, the cold began to take effect. Good thing that it was only a half mile hike back to the cabin.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Snowy Mariposa

I know, when you think of California, you probably don't think about snow. Where we live, though, there's plenty of it throughout the winter... and well into the summer in the higher elevations. This weekend I spent at the studio in Mariposa, and this morning I woke up to a little over 6 inches of the lovely white stuff.
Manzanitas grow around here. I'm not sure if they are classified as a bush, a shrub, or a tree ... or what. What I am sure of, though, is that they are beautiful and unique. Their "bark" is red and very smooth to the touch. In the fall, this red "bark" peels like old paint. The leaves, too, are different ... thick, almond shaped, and a pale, dusty green. I've been wanting to paint them for a while now but have had so many different things that I've wanted to paint. This area just has so much beauty ... where do you start. When I saw them covered with snow, I found them irresistible ... I had to get out to paint 'em. Meecah came out and watched me. She refrained from criticism, though I could tell that she had some ideas of her own. She loved the snow, too, and ran around crazy all day.
This is not a picture of my painting ... it's a photo of some of the Manzanitas that I've been on about here. The painting needs a lot of help before I show it to anyone.
While I was working on the painting, I remembered a snowy landscape painting that Del and I worked on together out near Reardan, WA. He taught me some cool stuff about painting winter scapes.
When I got back inside I took a look at the Reardan painting. It made me smile, thinking back to that sunlit grove of trees in the snow. I thought that I'd learned a lot that day. Today I felt that I showed little signs of improvement. It was a very pleasant outing, but, clearly, I'll have to do it a few more times to get it. No problem there; I'm looking forward to it.

Guitar Girl

Last Friday morning found me, once more, with the Yosemite Western Arts group. This week they had a young woman playing a guitar wearing a Spanish-ish costume. A beutiful young woman.

Oil on prepared cardboard 16" x 20"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

John Muir

One of America's most noted naturalists was John Muir (1838 - 1914). He's still a big deal here in Yosemite, which he helped to preserve. If you like great biographies, his life makes fastening reading.

A few days ago, I got the idea to do a portrait of him ... without doing a copy of any photos of him. Well, it was a good idea that I still need to work on. I set up my camera and took several pictures of myself in similar poses as he was wont to take ... then I was going to do a self portrait as Mr. Muir ... use some of his well know features ... adapted to my lighting and such.
My first attempt, went awry,as you can see. The pictures of myself that I set up were not great. I ended up doing a colourized version of a photo of him --- superimposed over a painting of the valley taken from a painting that I did last summer. It was a fun little project ... and John may have been happy to know that it was one of my "green paintings" ... prepared, recycled cardboard.

Perhaps I'll have to get someone else to set up the shot and extrapolate from there.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Especially in Michigan

Belinda and I flew over to Detroit yesterday. Tim is visiting from China -- surprised his brother, Ben last week ... then we also surprised him. Ben's birthday is this week. It's the first time we've all been together in about six years.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hetch Hetchy

Hetch Hetchy is part of the Yosemite National Park ... with a valley that was once as beautiful as the Yosemite Valley. In the early part of the 20th century, though, a dam was put at the western end of the valley, and it was flooded ... to provide water to San Francisco. It's a heart breaking story, but fastening history.
There are some amazing paintings from the late 1800's of Hetch Hetchy ... most notably, those of Albert Bierstadt. Google him and check them out ... worth the look, for sure. I had the idea that I would like to try and find the same spots from which he painted and do a before/after thing ... but, unfortunately, most of those places are under water. I just finished this painting from photos that I took last spring. Well, it's mostly done, anyway ... I'm still poking at it.

As tragic as it is that this amazing valley was flooded ... it's still a breath-taking place. I visited in the spring and fell in love with it. With soooo many great places to see in and around Yosemite, though, it's difficult to go back to any one spot. I do hope to make it back to do more work there.

Monday, November 1, 2010

On Sale Now

This last week I've been busy doing the actual business end of my business (with MUCH help, prodding, and advice from Belinda - and I thank you sooooo much!). I had to drive to the printer in Fresno several times ... then we packaged things, signed and numbered prints .... whew. I'm glad that it's done. This whole project was for the Ahwahnee resort here in Yosemite National Park. We had 500 cards made, which are being sold in packages of 12 - 3 cards each of the four scenes. We also had 50 prints made on stretched canvas (12 of three of the scenes, and 14 of the Ahwahnee Hotel), which I signed and numbered. They also purchased the original oil painting of the hotel. The whole thing came together nicely, and I'm excited to have my work on display, and being sold in such a prestigious venue.

This has been a long time in the process ... we started talking with them sometime in the early summer. Summers in Yosemite, though, are insanely busy -- for everyone working here. It doesn't help that I'm not the best business person in the world, either. I'm going to have to work on that. We finally delivered the products to the warehouse this morning. Whew, I'm glad to have it done.

For availability, purchasing, pricing, and all of that stuff, you will need to call the Ahwahnee Gift shop ... probably later in the week.

Living in California

Every now and then I just stop in my tracks and say to myself "I'm living in California!" I still haven't gotten used to it after almost six months. Mostly I say this to myself when I'm driving to a destination outside of Yosemite, like Fresno or San Francisco, because they seem much more like California to me than the park does.

This was taken along the highway on the way to Fresno.

I don't know; it's a strange thing, really, that preconceived idea about what a place is supposed to be like. And when a state is as vast as California, any preconceived idea can be both right and wrong. When someone talks about California, most people think about the muscle beaches, the Beach Boys, surfing, and all of that. Others, though, I'm sure, just think of the High Sierra Mountains ... while others may think of Hollywierd, L.A., or San Francisco.

Yosemite seems to me like it should be located in the North West ... with the higher elevation, mountains, snow, and forests ... it almost feels like I never left Washington sometimes. Now Tioga Pass and Glacier point are closing for the season because of snow. I'm really looking forward to the winter ... painting lots of snow scenes.