Friday, September 11, 2009

Sequoia National Park

Late last month, I was fortunate enough to be part of a group of artists, writers, naturalists, former park rangers, and educators who were invited to spend a few days camping near the Giant Forest in Sequoia National Park as guests of the Sequoia National Park Foundation. A group of us would head out and paint every day, meeting up periodically with the others, some who had extensive experience in the Park. We were taken to some wonderful spots to paint, fed well, and had stimulating discussions (fueled with poetry and wine) at all hours of the day. It was quite a wonderful experience to be a part of, and I hope I can do it again. The mix of individuals and viewpoints made for lively interaction. This is the kind of retreat, with no fixed agenda, that stimulates creative potential of all sorts. It was a very positive and thoughtful experience for me.

This year also marks the 5th year of an annual painting packtrip that I have put together with the help of my artist friend, Paul Kratter. Paul, and another packtrip stalwart, photographer Bob Watters, were also invited to the above mentioned event, so we planned our back country adventure to dovetail with the one in the front country. For this part of the trip, we invited 4 other artists, Suzanne D'Arcy, Carol Tarzier, Sharon Calahan, and Ann McMillan, to come along. We hired a cook and mules from the Horse Corral Pack Station, run by Charlie and Judy Mills, to haul a field kitchen and most of our gear, up to Pear Lake out of the Wolverton trailhead for 5 days of painting in glacially carved granite at 9500'. It was quite a nice spot to work, and the company was good. I've posted below a range of studies from both trips in a general chronological order with a few notes appended.

We were camped at a boy scout camp about a quarter mile below the trailhead into the back country. This was painted in the parking lot of an old ski area that has been closed and overgrown. It was a nice spot to walk to in the morning and get in a study or two before walking back for breakfast.

I looked at a lot of Sequoias, but this is the only one I painted. They had a marvelous bark color, bordering on orange in direct sunlight. The light on this day eventually became completely overcast, and I became more interested in the 'tree holes' of sky poking through.

Painted in a rather deep, granite lined creek bottom, looking at a reflection of trees up the slope that were well illuminated by morning light.

After breakfast that same day, we hiked up this granite lined drainage full of small pools, boulders and streams of shallow water pouring down, one after the other. This boulder at the bottom of one of the descending ramps of granite caught my eye.

I stayed there most of the day and kept doing studies. This is fairly late afternoon. While the color is not so interesting, the collision of forms, made an interesting composition to my eye.

This is painted looking South towards Morro Rock in early morning light, one of the icons of the park.

One of the studies of Alta Peak I did the first afternoon at Pear Lake. The whole basin was almost entirely formed of solid, streaked and fractured, glacially polished granite, along with erratics and many boulders that had tumbled down the steep walls surrounding the lake. Alta Peak sat at the far end of the lake from where we were camped.

You could pick out a section of the steep walls surrounding the lake, and find interesting compositions. This area had some 'survivors'... trees that have toughed it out in a harsh place.

We had one day with a white sky that just flattened all the light. I hiked around and became intrigued by the patterns of solid rock running down to the lake. Even in flat light they were interesting.... to me anyway! Perhaps I was desperate. I did several studies of this type. They may yet bear fruit.

A midday painting. Below the lake, there was a lengthy sloping drainage covered with fractured slabs of granite, some vegetation, trees, and periodic boulders.

Late afternoon, looking northwest down the drainage to the opposite slope of the valley.

This view stayed fairly stable for a long period of time in the morning, as the light would slowly creep over the far rim of the drainage on the east side, while the foreground was bathed in warm light. The main surface of the drainage was patterned with cracks and fissures. I painted a few of these views.