Thursday, February 24, 2011

Up the Coast

Recently Belinda, Meecah, and I took a little camping trip on the coast. We went to the Point Reyes National Seashore and vicinity, not too far north of San Francisco. It rained most of the time that we were there (and snowed heavily in Yosemite while we were gone), but we had a blast, anyway.

Before we left, my laptop got a virus ... then while we were gone my camera stopped working. So, we had to make do the last two days with Belinda's camera, which has a broken view finder. One can't see what they're taking pictures of. Oy.

I'm using her computer now, which doesn't have much in the way of photo editing tools. When I get mine fixed, I'll put up a bunch more of the photos from our adventure.

I didn't get much painting done while we were out there because we were either busy hiking or being pelted by rain, and it gets dark early this time of year, but I did get to sit up on the bluffs above the ocean at the mouth of the Russian River and worked on a little 8" x 10" oil sketch (still in progress). I was undesturbed by the rain for almost a straight hour!

We saw many amazing things ... hiked on some very scary cliffs ... saw Sea Lions and Elephant Seals ... Tule Elk ... Otters ... and much more. It was a great change of scenery and I'll be happy to go back to do more painting sometime ... but it was also nice to come back to Yosemite to a lot of new, beautiful snow.


I recently lost my laptop to a virus ... hopefully I can get it fixed, in the mean time I'm using a borrowed computer with programs that I'm not real familiar with. I added a photo of the painting that Del and I did to the post about painting from Sentinal Bridge where I talked about our adventure. Unfortunately, I can't do much about the lighting in the photo that I took of the painting on this computer, but I wanted to add the picture to make the entry a little more complete. When I get mine fixed, I'll edit the photo to bring out the true colours.


For Valentine's Day I painted an Iris for Belinda - it's her favorite flower. It was done on cardboard which lent itself well to making it a part of a card.
The most difficult part, I guess, was finding the reference photos. I had taken some of Irises back when I lived in Medical Lake ... but it took me a long time to sort through all of my pics.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Horsetail Falls

Belinda and I went halfway down the valley to see Horsetail Falls tonight. Horsetail Falls is on the north-west side of El Capitan. This time of year the setting sun hits it just right and makes it look like it's on fire. We stood looking up at the falls from a pull-off for about 45 minutes. There were clouds on the western horizon and we didn't think it was going to do anything, so, we got back in the rig and started to drive back to the cabin. We took the turn near El Capitan meadows and crossed the bridge, heading east back up the valley. After about a mile the sun slipped below those clouds and I could see a brilliant red light up parts of El Cap. Oy. We had to find a place that wasn't obscured by trees quickly.
. We got a great view across the river ... actually a much better spot than we originally had. The colours were unbelievable -- almost pure cadmium red! I had expected something brilliant, but I hadn't expected as stunning a display.

Quarter View

Yesterday I made the long hike up the valley schlepping that heavy French easel ... and a bag of supplies. Oy. It seemed much longer than it really was. It was only about five miles each way - and the miles were flat - for the most part. It was a wonderful day and I hardly noticed my burden as I hiked on trails along the Merced river most of the way. Where the trail wound through heavy woods, I was glad that I had brought my "stabilizers" (rubber fitting for the shoes with little spikes in them for traction). The snow had been packed down by many feet and then it had melted and frozen on top. Man, it was some slick going before I stopped to put the devices on my boots.
It took me a little more than an hour and a half to hike up to "Quarter View". I call it that because it's the view on the new State Parks Quarter for Yosemite. The view is one of the last places to stop on the way out of Yosemite Valley - well, the main part of the valley, anyway, before getting to the Phono bridge. It is right next to the river and looks across at Bridalveil Fall and the huge collection of massive granite shapes that make up the Cathedral Rocks, including the impressive "Leaning Tower". One day I'd like to hike up a little closer to them. I've only been as close as Dewey Point, which is still a few miles away, through the wilderness and up some steep trails.
To the left, on the other side of the valley, is the world renown, El Capitan, the largest granite face in the world ... as far as anyone knows, that is.

I had thought that I'd paint the whole scene as I hiked up here, but I just couldn't get the angle that I wanted, really. I've painted it a time or two from photos, but it's just not the same ... and one of those times I had used two canvases, making it a diptych. As I looked at the 16' x 20" canvas I'd brought, I knew that the composition would be wonky if I tried to make it work, so, I opted to just paint Bridalveil by itself.

Next time, perhaps, I'll bring a canvas with an elongated format ... or a couple of canvases and make another diptych. It's a tough scene to capture all at once ... maybe I'll plan a two or three day composition at that spot.

The outing went okay, although I found myself in trouble right off the bat. As I was setting up I noticed that I had no paper towels at all. Yikes. The only thing that I had with me that would work was my handkerchief. I was not happy about it ... that was one of my favorites ... but I was glad that I had it on hand. Three hours later, though, it was one saturated mess!

The sun plays across the face of the mountains very quickly ... it's one of the places in the park where the shadows dance the quickest. For a little while I was trying to keep up with them, as I knew that, sooner or later, the sun was going to hit the face of that breathtaking waterfall. At least I'd hoped it would. I wasn't 100% sure, as I had not seen it on the face of the water in a while and wasn't sure that the sun would make it that far in the winter. It did, though, just as I was about to pack it in.

For a time, one could see shadows of the trees from the surrounding high country waltzing their way across the face of the vertical walls. I wanted to try to capture it in all of its phases ... but, well, I'll have to settle for returning to paint it in other lights.

The shiver factor got to me again. And I was kinda lucky that it did, as it took me more than two hours to get back to the cabin and the darkness was almost complete by then.

On my way back, I got to see the late afternoon sun hitting Horsetail Fall on the face of El Capitan. It wasn't quite at full effect, yet though. At this time of year it hits the fall just right at or near sunset to make it look like the falls are on fire. Hundreds of people come to the park just to see this spectacular sight. I didn't really have time to stand around, though ... it was getting dark! I did have a flashlight with me, but flashlights don't always work against the monsters in the darkness. Veloseraptors are the worst; flashlights just seem to antagonize them.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Painting from Sentinel Bridge

Once again I painted Half Dome today. I'm not sure how many times that makes ... sometimes it's way in the background ... but, still, I've painted it as the main subject a zillion or so times (including all of those Christmas ornaments that I've been making for next year). Today I painted it from the Sentinel Bridge.

While I was working on another project the other day, listening to the music on my computer, my itunes started playing a recording that I made while Del and I were out painting in the woods near Reardan, WA a few years ago. At that time, we had started to set up our easels and I had issues with mine ... one of the legs broke, making it almost impossible for me to work. I thought that it would be a great opportunity for me to just sit back and watch the master at work, take notes, and record the whole thing with my little handy digital recorder. Del informed me that I wasn't getting off that easy ... we would work on a painting together. I was a little intimidated (okay, a lot intimidated) working on the same piece with Del, but it was a blast. He had me rough out the composition, then he worked on it a bit ... then had me do some ... and then he "finished" it up. It was remarkable. I'm posting it below - first time it's been seen by the "public". It's the only painting in existence that we both worked on.

The recording that I made is only about thirty minutes, but it brought the whole thing back to me and I had such a great time listening ... and I relearned a lot of lessons - mostly about painting in the snow. Today, I reflected back on that recording and that nice afternoon out painting with my good friend. To my great delight, I used a lot of the things that I got from that long ago day. Thanks for the lesson, Del ... all eight million of them, you've helped me so much!

As happens from time to time, the painting that I worked on today was sold before I was even done working on it. That's always great for the ego. Why don't I sell something every day? Hmm, I'll have to work on that ... stop hiding from all of those potential patrons. Thanks again for your patronage, Floyd.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Another Fritag at the Old School House

I went to the WYA painting session again on Friday. Our model was a beautiful Indian girl who did a great job of modeling. I had searched for a canvas on which to paint that morning, but I didn't have any that were tinted, so I had to resort back to my prepared cardboard.

There were a few things that kind of conspired against me, and I was not happy about it at all. I felt like I was at a great disadvantage. But, I decided to just work through the things that were bothering me, to paint outside of my comfort zone, and not make others around me miserable as well. It's tough enough to paint in a room full of people sometimes ... there are some things that one can mention ... and other things that are best left unsaid ... or said later when in a cooler frame of mind ... and other ears aren't privy to the conversation.

I wasn't happy with my results ... and, as always, reserve the right to rework it until I am.

Painting from the JMT

It never sat well with me that the last time I hiked up the John Muir Trail, I stopped at Clark Point, rebuffed by the "trail closed" sign. It is only another mile or so up to Nevada Fall from there. So, when I headed back up there on Thursday, I was determined to go 'round the sign and determine if it was possible to make it to the waterfall. Well, the way up to Clark Point was much more difficult than last time. There have been many avalanches and the snow is packed on them ... then covered with ice ... then, there's also a recent accumulation of fresh powdery snow on top of that. Still, I was going to paint up there ... no matter how far up I got stuck - that was another thing that bothered me about my previous trip ... I had returned without painting! I had only done a sketch in my notebook.
I was happy to reach Clark Point. There were a few places along the way that I didn't think that I'd get even that far. Looking past the "trail closed" sign, I saw that no brave souls had ventured farther ... and the snow looked deep. Even though I carried a pair of snow shoes, I didn't put them on when I went around the sign. It was deep snow ... but it was also very uneven ... someone had trekked this way before the last snow and had left deep prints in the now frozen, crusty snow beneath. The snow was also covering very rocky terrain ... and steps carved into the rocks by trail crews in the summer. Snow shoes would have been very difficult in that condition.
I trudged upward, winded and wet from the snow melting against my pants. Dang, I had forgotten the gators for my legs. My feet were also kinda wet, even though I was wearing my winter hiking boots. I pushed myself on, though, telling myself that I would turn around if I didn't find a good painting spot in the next five minutes or so. After five minutes I changed it, and decided that I'd turn around at the next switch-back or the next five minutes ... whichever came later. About half a mile beyond the sign, I came to a part of the trail that had a wonderful vantage point. No sense in beating myself up to go any farther.
I cleared some boulders of snow and sat down. I pulled out my little Pochade Box and began to paint the wonderful scene below me. It was a great view of Nevada Fall ... and the surrounding area. It made it difficult to narrow the focus down to one subject, but, after all; it was Nevada Fall that had prompted my journey in the first place.

After only about an hour, the shiver factor began to take its toll. My concentration dwindled and I had to abandon my work. Knowing that I could finish it in a warm studio from photos was some comfort, but, sometimes I think it's really a hindrance. It kinda promotes a laziness, really. I'm going to have to work on that; force myself to endure a little more discomfort and take the work as far as possible out in the elements ... without subjecting myself to hypothermia, that is.
This is the landscape, highly retouched in the studio. I must admit, though, it does capture the feelings that I had while working on it.