Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Recent work from a Sierra Packtrip

A group of painters and photographers spent a productive week up in the Little Lakes Valley at Chickenfoot Lake the last week of August. Paul Kratter, Terry Miura, Carolyn Hesse-Low, and Michele De Braganca were the painters, while Bob Watters and John Fernbacher comprised the photographers. This trip marks the 6th year a group of us has packed into a wilderness area to paint. Following our traditional modus operandi, we hired a pack station to take the bulk of our gear in on mules, as well as supply a cook (Kate, along with her trusty dog, Cody) for the trip. The goal was to focus on painting and not be responsible for the food, or running the camp. We were blessed with decent weather for the most part, though some high winds at night, and during the day, had a way of cutting short our sleep, and sapping the motivation to paint at times. Overall it was a great trip, with some wonderful scenery to work with, as well as a good group of fellow artists to commiserate with in the mornings and evenings over some tasty meals. Here are some images below with notes.

Bear Creek Spire
Pastel on Canson Paper
This was the first piece I did on the afternoon after our hike in. We were camped near a meadow, which is visible in the bottom of the image, surrounded by high peaks on 3 sides. This view shows a slice of the horizon looking towards the south, across the meadow where the inlet came in.

Morning Light
Pastel on Canson Paper
I never sleep well the first night out on these trips. This one was no different. It is sometimes a relief to get out of the tent at dawn, and do something... drink coffee, complain about not sleeping, and get to work! This was a view looking towards Morgan Pass, where the morning sun was cutting through. The eastward facing slopes of the valley reflected warm light into the shadows quite powerfully, adding a lot of subtle temperature variation.

Mt. Morgan Talus
Pastel on Canson Paper
I had spotted this small cliff surrounded by talus across the lake the day before and thought it would make an interesting subject. The pale local color of the rock in shadow allowed for a range of warm and cool relationships from the warm bounce of the rocks in light, the color of the lake, and the cool sky illuminating different planes of the rocks.

Upper Gem Lake
Pastel on Canson Paper
Gem Lake was tucked into a steep bowl surrounded on 2 sides by talus and cliffs. There were several large distinctive snow patches on the north facing cliff walls. This was painted in late afternoon on the second day of the trip.

Pastel on Canson Paper
There was a low ridge of cracked and faceted granite across a dry inlet from our campsite. Behind this small ridgeline lay an arm of the lake, and beyond that an absolute wall of talus forming the West slope of Mt. Morgan. I am attracted to the colors of granite in shadow because it beautifully portrays the range of colors coming from secondary sources... in this case the sky, and the warm reflected light off the mountain walls catching the morning light across the valley. The backlit trees added to the range of color, and the background, shadowed, rocky slopes were the last part of the equation.... one I couldn't quite figure out! You can see me 'testing' different marks and values in there, trying to indicate some boulders in the distance. At a glance, I perceived a blue field of color, but a second look always revealed some detail back there. I did four studies of this area trying to decode rocks, trees, and that distant shadow. This one is a candidate for a studio piece.

Gem Lake Shoreline
Pastel on Canson Paper
After struggling with backlighting and shadows, I hiked up to Gem Lake again and found Terry Miura finishing up a nice portrait of Mt. Morgan with some erratic boulders in the foreground. We were getting a lot of clouds blowing over, so the light was changing quite a bit. I found some shade to work in nearby and spotted this distinctive rock formation across the lake. While I waited for the light to move to one side and give a better light and shadow pattern, I painted a study of some trees huddled against a small cliff. No go on that one. Was this one worth the wait? The light that day was rather pale, as the cloud cover tended to dull the blue character of the shadows, but I still was attracted to the graphic pattern of the rock. You pick, you commit, and you pay the consequences! There's always another day.

Pastel on Canson Paper
This kind of subject matter has been intriguing me more and more this last year, so it was on my radar while I was wandering about up there. I am interested in using foliage patterns as graphic elements of an image, and am happy to combine that with other qualities of form and light that attract me, such as water and rocks. There were several small drainages that ran out of the upper lakes down through boulder choked meadows, with small willow shrubs lining the banks. Even in these narrow creeks, brook trout could be seen racing about for cover as one approached. There was just enough depth in the water to see the range of color moving towards green.

Another variable that may have helped me with this image was the weather. The clouds were building up all morning to the south, the light was coming and going, and it looked like rain was going to finally come. In fact, a few drops did come down at one point. Consequently, I worked much faster on this piece, and had no time to noodle, as I am prone to do at times.

Wet and Dry
Pastel on Canson Paper

I always enjoy painting rocks and water, as I love the richness of color as a rock is immersed in water. I confess to noodling on this one, but I felt it needed that sort of attention to snap into focus. There was also periodic, strong gusts of wind hitting me, so at times I had to stop working, and just hold onto my easel and umbrella.

The High Country
Pastel on Canson Paper

This was my view to the south while I was painting the water and rock image. The end of the Little Lakes Valley just goes up and up. I was interested in the cliff area in the middle, as well as the tree leaning up into the distant peak silhouette on the right. I first intended to do two separate studies, but then realized they were all connected, so decided to paint a fairly wide angle of view, which I don't do very often. It was late afternoon, and the gusts of wind were a constant assault on one's gear and senses. I was tired, and really wanted to get out of there and back to camp, so I worked as fast as I could, just indicating shapes and values. Its a fairly 'soft' image, but manages to get down what interested me.

Inlet Wall
Pastel on Canson Paper
This is another crack at the rock formations across the dry inlet in the morning. A lot of interesting shapes to play with.

Another late summer painting trip comes to an end. When we hiked out, clouds were building up again, and by the time we reached the trailhead, snow was blowing down out of the sky in direct sunshine. Meanwhile, I have an upcoming show in October at the Studio Gallery in San Francisco, and will be cranking away the next few weeks. Plenty of work that has been posted on my blog this past year will be in the show, along with some new studio pieces, as well as a few 'surprises'. Stay tuned!


ddd said...

Bill, these are all looking awesome! I really like the rocks and water paintings that you do, and can see why one would be attracted to study them...

Are you planing on having another workshop in the Sierra Buttes for next year? It is a long way from Toronto but I would love to attend it if you decide to do it again :)


JimmyG said...

Beautiful, Bill. I'm particularly drawn to the pieces with water in them, something about the contrast of textures and the proportions you chose is really striking. Can't wait to see these in person.

Bill Cone said...

Hi Dalibor, I am hoping to do another workshop next summer. This one went well, and I really enjoyed doing it. I've been meaning to do a post on it, but have been too busy.

JimmyG- Thanks. Hope to see you at the opening. Your work from your Big Pine Lakes trip looks real nice.

Carolyn Jean Thompson said...

I hope you do Sierra Buttes next year. I had other committments this summer, and I too would like to try for next summer!

Randini said...

Hey Bill,
Great to see your work posted --Wish I could have joined you this year...whine ,whine weep..
Awesome paintings!
Your compositions are "brilliantly -bill" as always. My faves are Upper Gem Lake, Fringe, and Mt . Morgan Talus - just killer work.
All the best,

Anonymous said...

Another great expedition, Bill! And your paintings are very inspiring. Educational, too~

David Campbell said...

I am constantly amazed and delighted by your ability to capture light so perfectly in your paintings. My favourites out of this post are "Wet and Dry" and "Mt Morgan Talus" - I'd love to sit for an hour or two beside the water in the latter...

Always look forward to new posts :)

Kim Lordier said...

Aaaaahhhh, thank you.

TREVOR Simonsen said...

delicious thanks for sharing!

Eden Compton Studio said...

These are such beautiful pastels! The way you paint water is incredible -- thanks for the post!

belindadelpesco.com said...

Amazing and beautiful and such a great lesson for the rest of us in mark making, color and composition. You are the Master of Values. I wish I could sit behind you for a month and watch you work. Thanks so much for sharing these. They make me try harder.

Scott Paterson said...

Subtle, breathtaking handling of light. Masterful!

Brenda Boylan said...

Beautiful work as always, even when the elements tried to chase you back to camp. I love your bold modification of green over blue in your skies! Makes the sky look very clean and clear.

Bill Cone said...

Carolyn: If I commit to another workshop next summer, I'll post an announcement. Probably in January.

Randy: There's always another summer. Thanks for your comments.

Terry: Thanks for coming on the trip this year. Part of the fun is observing how everyone sees something different in the same location.

Cal: Thanks. You might want to sit in one of these places, but be forewarned, you'll need a lot of sunblock, and protection from the periodic blasts of wind as well!

Kim: You are most welcome.

Trevor: Thanks for visiting.

Eden: Much appreciated

Hi Belinda: Thanks for your kind remarks. I don't think it would take a month...

Hi Scott: Thanks for your comments. How is your weather in the east?

Thanks Joe!

Brenda: I am accused by some of making skies green, but that's how I see it a lot of the time. Maybe more an issue of 'moving' color towards a perception of something. If I let my eye travel any distance from a horizon to another part of the sky, one part will feel 'greener' than the other to me, so that's where I push it. Others may not call it 'green', but to me Cerulean Blue can perceived as an expression of green, while Ultramarine moves towards violet. The secondaries are a lot more interesting than the primaries, especially blue-green and violet. They have a fascinating dual nature... warm and cool at the same time. Thanks for your comments.

Michael Reardon said...

Bill, truly magnificent work.

Gracia said...

Your work is absolutely amazing! they are all so real, the light is so well done... incredible! thanks for sharing!! :)

Bonnie Luria said...

Terry Miura was so right to send us to your blog. Your work is utterly beautiful- hard to imagine how you capture such crispness as well as softness with pastels AND out in the rough too.
Thanks for posting such a complete travelogue/painting process.
I thoroughly enjoyed looking at your work.

SKIZO said...

Thank you for sharing
This fabulous work with us
Good creations

geraldo roberto da silva said...

Nice! Fantastic!

Caroline Peña Bray said...

This is a stunning collection of works, Bill. Mt. Morgan Talus is my favourite - you've negotiated the simplicity of the composition and rocks beautifully. There's so much texture, colour and interest in such simplicity - remarkable.

Shane Pierce said...

simply amazing work as always!

Nicola_DAmelio said...

They are so beautiful. I was hit by Upper Gem Lake in particular. I wish I could see nature with your eyes.

Nicola_DAmelio said...
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Marcos Mateu said...

Beautiful sense of light and color temperature!

Unknown said...

We were the guys camping nearby way back then. Nice to see your work finally appeared.