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.


Katy Hargrove said...

Inspiring as always. I love the way you use color.

Bill Cone said...

Thanks Katy, This was one trip where I seemed to be missing a few colors. Some of my dark values for doing water were the size of chocolate chips.

Carolyn Jean Thompson said...

Your work is so awesome. Even your studies are gorgeous paintings.

Unknown said...

thankyou thankyou thankyou for posting these up! I gasped at every scroll i scrolled on my tiny mouse wheel. Inspirational indeed

TJ said...

Oh, my, Bill, don't, can't quite get the words on paper. I could live easily with these all. You catch that reflection of the stones in the water so well, and the view across with the cedar in the front left is awesome! Just love them all!

I think what is hitting me finally is that you know when to stop. So fresh they slap me in the face!



Anonymous said...

Oooh lala~ Sounds like you guys had a fabulous time! And the paintings are beautiful - so inspiring. Thanks for posting!

Bill Cone said...

Carolyn and Nori: Thanks for your kind remarks.

TJ: I've been working smaller a lot of the time, and not trying to render so much, I'd rather try to get more quick studies done, shoot reference images, and then have 'inventory' for studio work in the winter.

Terry: Thanks for the comments. Come with us next time.

Leigh Rust said...

I've been waiting patiently for your next post and this one certainly didn't disappoint!

Your studies are amazing - the balance of suggested detail and brilliant colour control which has made you my idol.

I can't wait to see the next works

karlsimon said...

Nice work as ususal! I'm liking all the browns

Andy Mason said...

I was messing around with a digital scene of some redwoods moments before i logged on and saw this, it was kind of an eerie feeling... sequoia color study

i love what you've done. how do you do it? i'm taking a trip two weeks from now, planning on trying my hand at plein air (spelling?) and i was hoping to get some tips. i was wondering what you bring along with you? how many pastels, what colors? what colors of canson paper do you use? how big? what brand of pastels? how long do you work on each piece? you bring a french style easel? i'm sure there's more i would like to know, but the questions aren't coming to me right now. any tips you could give would be great, thanks for taking out time to blog, it's been inspiring to say the least. :)

Bill Cone said...

Thanks all for the notes.

leigh, Sorry to make you wait for more posts. I have a fulltime job, so am not as productive as many others.

karl- Some of the brown comes from one of the paper colors I use, called 'tobacco'

Andy- too many questions! If you read through my other posts, AND read the comments, you'll find most of your answers. There's even a picture of my setup in a previous post. They have been asked many times. Maybe I should put up an FAQ.

Leigh Rust said...

I completely understand what you're going through. I work five days plus each week as well. It's just great to see any new work from you. As I said previously you are pretty much at the pinnacle of inspiration for me art wise due to your control over tone and balance of stroke economy with suggested detail.

Looking forward to the next updates

Andy Mason said...

sorry bout that. i actually did read them, i was really more interested in striking up a conversation. i just didn't do such a good job. i'll try a less obvious question...

on the second drawing, the large boulder is sitting all the way against the bottom of the page. i have an instructor who insists that this is a terrible idea, claiming that it flattens out the composition. i'd like to hear another opinion, because i'm not sure if i agree. what inspired you to make that decision?

Nick Sung said...

bill cone, you're unstoppable. amazing!!so glad to be learning with you!

Bill Cone said...

Andy asks about compositional choices:
The world does not 'end' at the border of a painting, and many elements of an image continue beyond that border. If something originates or ends 'exactly' at the edge of an image, I'd call that a tangency, and it may be unnecessarily distracting to the eye. We chase stuff like that out of shots in film set-dressing all the time. 'Flattening' of an image is a choice... not necessarily right or wrong.

In the image you're referring to, the boulder continues on below the image, as the tree trunk to the right of it continues upward out of the frame. For me, the boulder was an 'interruption' of the rest of the image, similar to two different sized and shaped continents on a map sharing a common border. That's 'flat' thinking right there, and it is/was intentional.

There was a fine raking light/dappled, cast shadow on the boulder that evaporated before I could get it down, which would probably have given the boulder more dimension, or made it more interesting.

Nick: Thanks for the note. Dress warmer next time!

Andy Mason said...

Thanks for the comments... i've got to admit that i feel a bit redeemed after hearing you say that it isn't right or wrong, just a choice. Truly, anything you could possibly imagine doing is just another tool to convey your message. My quest is to understand what the message is that you're saying and learn to have control of it in my own work. i suppose even the tangency that you might chase out of a composition could be used, as roadrunner bolts off the screen and wile e coyote promptly smashes into the side of the television set.... though that likely doesn't come up too often :P

speaking of raking light, you surely caught a nice spritz of it in the last composition of your post. i think my favorite piece of the bunch may be the fourth one from the top. the two granite slopes converging under the boulder seem to give the boulder an incredible amount of weight, like a portly man happily napping in his hammock. how do you think the weight of the boulder would be effected by moving it up, down or horizontally in the frame?

thanks for taking time out to respond to the comments. i understand that you're busy and you certainly are not obligated to, so i would like you to know that its priceless to me to have a chance to pick your brain about this kind of stuff. i cant thank you enough :) it's certainly giving me a second wind while i'm pulling all nighters during finals... huff and puff and crank those projects out...

David Westerfield said...

Wonderful work. I'm really envious of the trip.

PastelGuy said...

Bill, I saved this entry for a time when I could sit down and really take it in. I'm impressed with your bold strokes of exactly the right value. I'm constantly trying to get myself to simplify. I would be interested to see the process some time - ever thought of videotaping a study rendering? I go canoeing in Canada annually, and visit family in NW MT - perhaps I'll take some small boards and a few colors with me next time. You seem to manage so much with so little!

Michael Mercer said...

Your fantastic posts, images, and paintings are very educational to the budding artist. You take my dream vacations! Thanks a bunch for your blog!

Miggy said...

wow... so many drawings online these days, color studies and paintings are literally a breath of fresh air... the pastels are fantastic.

Tom Jones said...

wow! These are amazing! They make me want to go out and draw scenery right now :)

Is there a particular type of pastel and paper combination you use and would recommend?