Friday, August 23, 2013

2013 Sierra Packtrip, Part III: Getting down to work.

After hiking to Iceberg and the Nydiver lakes the first 2 days, I was ready to move less and paint more. Accordingly, after doing a morning painting in camp, and having another tasty breakfast from Kelly, our stellar cook, I shouldered up my pack and walked a very short distance over to one of the creeks that runs down from the upper reaches of the basin into Ediza. There were numerous small pools and waterfalls of varying size to choose from as I wandered along the banks. I found one pool that had enough depth to show the shift in water color, as well as having some whitewater, and a nice reddish, submerged boulder. The spot was surrounded by a thicket of trees, so I could work in the shade for quite some time. Just what I was looking for. This was a fun piece, though it didn't start to fully work until I put in the white water moving across the surface to give it a better perspective context. The water was rough enough that the rocks at the bottom were broken up and distorted in the deeper areas, so I had to generally depict them in fragments of the right color. There's an excellent oil by Sargent that I saw at a retrospective in Seattle over 10 years ago. It is about a 6 foot long painting, depicting a ship at a stone breakwater. When I was working on this piece, I started thinking about how Sargent had thrown down such loose and colorful paint to make a convincing depiction of underwater rocks.

I took a lunch break, sat down in the shade, nibbling on my usual fare of peanuts, dried apricots, an apple, and a stash of chocolate chip cookies. Then I poked around a bit, and walked down to talk to Julia Lundman, who I spotted working further down the creek. After chatting, I still couldn't figure out what to paint, and decided to head back towards camp, and maybe go for a (30 second) swim. On the way there I stopped and decided the view of the trail, and the lake through the trees below might work, so went at it. It still needs some work in the foreground.

Ernesto, Paul, and Eric had gone by while I was working on this. I finished up, turned around and spied this view between the trees with the boulders in the mid-ground. Hmmm.... I was getting pretty tired of standing at this point, but re-positioned, and went back to work. By now it was late afternoon.
I finally finished up and walked over to where Eric and Paul were painting. They were both aiming towards the afternoon light with varying views of the upper reaches of the basin. There was plenty of atmosphere and great shapes to play with. I checked my watch: 4:30, and resolved to come back tomorrow (Thursday) and work from that spot.

Thursday. This was the last full day before we had to hike out. I got up before 6, and saw Ernesto headed for his sunrise painting spot he'd been going to all week. I headed the other way around the lake, and painted a view looking towards camp from across the lake, which is the last image in my Part I post. I wrapped up pretty quick, and hurried back to camp just in time to get some breakfast (essential), then cleaned up, and headed out again to get the most out of the last day. Back to the creek I painted the day before, but I instead became interested in some sinuous granite forms running up a hill, in orange and green grass, interrupted by foreground trees, with a hint of a deeper, and higher background... Once again the brightest lights on the rocks were decidedly cool in nature, which I attempted to depict.

I took a break, moved to the shade for lunch, and  took a short nap next to the creek. This kind of working and resting in such an amazing place does not get any better. Though I was tired, I was exhilarated, and in the mood to paint. After about 40 minutes I left my pack, and walked up to check out the late afternoon view. It wasn't very atmospheric yet, so I debated... return to camp, continue resting, or paint something else until the light was better? Between some trees I spied a view of the jagged crest with a snow patch, with a good foreground mass of rocks, plus some bonus compositional tree devices conveniently beckoning... Egad, I had just painted a rock formation. One a day is enough. But time was running out, and I liked the zig zag to the snow patch, the orange grass... Back at it. I used up my energy on this one, as well as the clock, so by the time 4:30 rolled around I packed up and kind of shuffled over to my planned location...

This was the view I had spotted a day earlier. My eye was drawn to the light and shadow break in the distance, plus the steep, curving slopes running down from the upper right. I was pretty much out of energy and time at this point, but set up near Eric Merrell, who was continuing work on a piece he'd started the day before. I did a small study, that I may work into a larger piece in the studio. The light changed rapidly on this one, as cast shadows came down the slopes from above. 

That was it for me. I packed up and walked back to camp to clean up and hoist a beverage with the other artists that had been camped together in this great spot all week, wandering around the basin, and painting to their heart's content. Before it got too dark, everyone went and laid out their work, so we could all see what the others had been up to. Its a part of the trip that I truly value and enjoy, as one gets to see the world one has been studying intently all week, through someone else's eyes, and can draw inspiration and insight from the shared, multiple points of view. The impromptu art show had us wandering around the camp looking at groups of work laid on the ground for our perusal.

Nothing left to do but dig into a steak dinner, with sautéed veggies from Kelly's garden on the side.
Another great week in the wilderness drawing to a close as dusk settled in. But wait, there's more. 

"Professor" Eric Merrell had been painting nocturnes in camp for several nights with his own unique laboratory setup of gooseneck LED's, dutifully taped with a color correction gel and a diffusing filter (wax paper), augmented by the light of a waxing moon. It seemed a daunting task, primarily because the undisciplined flock of well-lubricated painters who stayed up to watch him work, wandering about and yakking, were likely a distraction more than anything else. But perhaps we unwittingly functioned as a DEW system for the bears. Eric offered to let me use one of his LED's, so I took him up on the offer, and gave it a shot.... a very quick shot. For the astro inclined, that's part of the tail of Scorpius floating above the Minarets.

 One thing I immediately learned is that any strong light on your work, under such low light, will kill your vision for the subject you're trying to see. Kind of like the paradox in quantum mechanics...(the act of observing/measuring, effects the outcome of the event) yeah, just like that! I love science. Regardless, I could see value differences in the scene, and the low level of the light on the colors in my box only allowed me to see them as values. I had a general idea of where my hues were, and so, just grabbed values with some bias towards hue selection. I hammered away, then spent a little time trying to see deeper, or adjusting some shapes. Much later, at my tent, I was looking at the stars for awhile, and in the absence of white light, I could get a subtler sense of what color was visible in the scene. I think you could augment observation in the dark, with written impressions, memory, as well as direct effort with the aid of low light, and perhaps get a deeper, more personal color sense going. Or, you could just borrow Remington's nocturnal palette, or someone else's, and paint it in the studio. It is an interesting problem, and I give Eric credit for pushing the perceptual envelope, and setting such an inspiring example for the rest of us sleepy heads.

That wraps it up for this year's summer adventures. I'm already looking forward to the next one. My deep gratitude to the artists and friends who came on the trip this year, as well as Kelly, our cook, and her son, Cole. It was the collective spirit and good will that made it such a good one. 

 Meanwhile I'll be in this years Sonoma Plein Air event, barring any unforeseen complications. 2 other upcoming events are my one man show at the Studio Gallery in October, with the reception on the 6th.
And, lastly, I'll be teaching one more weekend workshop this year at the Lifeboat Station in Pt. Reyes.


Heather Holian said...

Bill! This entire body of work offers so much for the eye and mind to delight in and your joy for the location and particular subjects is obvious. Thanks for sharing all of these along with the photos and commentary. It makes me feel like I was there without the tired legs and sunburned face, but alas also no bacon.

Bill Cone said...

..or sausage!
It was a great trip, with a great group. All the soreness and sunburn (I stayed out of it, and slathered on the sunblock) was worth it. It is not what you see in your own backyard in a place like that. Much to celebrate and explore. Thanks for you kind note.

Sergio Lopez said...

Great job on those rocks! You got a lot of interesting color in the cool shadows of the rocks in the shade. Just enough peachy warmth that really gives a sense of all the sunlight bouncing around the scene reflecting off of everything. Great colors in that shallow pool. Where was that one painted?

Bill Cone said...

Thanks Sergio, The pool was in the creek coming down from the waterfall(s) that the log bridge crossed. When you hike out of camp, and then go down the hill, if you just follow the creek, there's a bunch of 'water features' to consider.

Ida M. Glazier said...

All are just wonderful! I do love your work, and hope all is going great guns for you in the art world.I love these sights, and you always capture the light so well. Always. Its like being there, with you, veiwing the scene.

Nathalie said...

What beautiful scenes ! My favorite is the one of the mountains at night.