Friday, September 2, 2011

Sierra Pack Trip

This year marks our 7th annual painting packtrip into the Sierra back country. We were a group of ten this year, nine painters and one photographer:
Terry Miura
Daniel Aldana
Paul Kratter
Sharon Calahan
Ernesto Nemesio
Timon Sloane
Michele deBraganca
Jim Wodark
Bob Watters
Terry, Timon, and Sharon have already posted reports about the trip, so check out everyone's sites to see their work and impressions. We reprised our destination from last year to Chickenfoot Lake at the southern end of the Little Lakes Valley, a glacially carved groove about 4 miles long, surrounded by high ridges and peaks on 3 sides. The trailhead starts at 10,000 ft. and climbs another 500 over 3 miles to our campsite. As we have done in the past, mules carry the bulk of our gear, and we have a cook in camp to prepare our meals, so the focus of our labors is on painting, hiking, sleeping, and... eating! Next year, its oatmeal for me at breakfast, is all I can say about that. The pack station is Rock Creek, and our excellent cook was Gene.

We hiked in on a Monday morning, and were at the campsite probably around 10:30 a.m. As the mules hadn't yet arrived, we took a hike up to Gem Lakes to sight-see. I found a new shortcut to the lakes from last year, and was able to explore the lower lakes carefully, running into a family camped on one of them. We talked for awhile, then I moved on. I met up with some of the group and we decided on the spur of the moment to hike over a high ridge to the Treasure Lakes basin, probably a mile or so aways. We traversed granite benches, and scrambled up a few areas before coming out on top of the ridge. We explored the three lakes for awhile, then hiked down the outlet, which was a lot of boulder hopping and squeezing between rock walls and willow shrubs... not a fun descent. On the way down we observed an avalanche chute that had a mass of trees piled up at the bottom. Trees still standing further up the slope only had their tops broken off, as they must have been partially buried/protected by the snow.

When we got back to camp, it was fairly late, but I had still had enough energy before dinner to wander around near camp and find an alignment of a foreground boulder and a snow glazed peak to explore.

The next morning, I hiked up to the lower Gem lakes via my shortcut, and painted near the family that was camping. They periodically would come by to assess my progress, and we would chat a bit. Other artists were within sight and earshot as well.
I did one view of the shoreline near my feet, enjoying the color range of wet and dry surfaces, as well as the added colors in the reflection of water from sky and trees.

After taking a break and eating lunch, I painted a view across the lake of part of the rocky shoreline that had a pink and pale green color, with oddly irregular sediment 'ribbons' passing through it. This may be one of those things that end up perplexing a viewer too much. It was perplexing enough to paint, but there you have it.

Wednesday already! I slept in a bit, then hung around camp, rinsed off in the frigid waters of Chickenfoot, and took a solar shower afterwords. Then I painted this view of a rocky inlet from a spot very close to my tent. I took my time, concentrating on edges, and even used one of my umbrella extensions as a maul stick, as suggested by Pat Kellner, of Best Brella. I hiked up towards Gem in the late afternoon, and tried painting a ridge to the west that resembled a pipe organ, but it didn't separate very well from the foreground. Ah well.

Thursday. Here's a typical morning study, looking a fg and bg temperature and value relationships that are specific to that time of day. Also thinking about the spill of color around fg edges that seem to occur in certain situations. The boulder is a bit silly, being practically a cube, but I went with it.

Back to Gem Lakes for another slice of shoreline that caught my eye. On this trip I tried using another color of Canson called 'moonstone'. Lorenzo Chavez makes use of it, and I wanted to give it a shot on a high keyed image like this.

I hiked over to the upper lake, where this wall was slowly going into shadow in the late afternoon, giving me an interesting foreground in a separate value range than the delicate snow patterns on the peak behind it. This was the ridge we climbed over to get to the Treasure Lakes basin on the first day of our trip.

Friday. Clouds were coming over the southern peaks early in the day. I was hiking towards Gem again, and took a slight detour towards Morgan Pass, to examine a small drainage off the trail. It ran through one of those steep meadows that John Muir has described so well, the meadow and the water both disappearing into the talus below Mt. Morgan. I explored it for awhile, and then started climbing back towards the trail, where I came upon a set of Bristlecone Pines with the peaks behind it periodically going in and out shadow. Plenty to work on, so I settled in. After about an hour or so, the clouds had built up pretty solidly, and I heard the first rumble of thunder. As I was about a mile from camp, and had neglected to bring my rain jacket, I decided to get out of there. Hiking down the trail, groups of backpackers were pulled off to the side, gearing up, and covering their packs in garbage bags. Rain began to fall in big drops, but never really poured. By the time I got near camp, the sun was out... but only briefly. Gene, our intrepid cook was putting up a big tarp to give us a dry dining area. I stashed my gear in my tent and went to help him. As we worked it got cloudy, then hail came pouring down for a few minutes, followed by sun again. Classic high mountain weather. Most of us appeared in camp in the next half hour or so, except Ernesto, who had hiked up to Treasure Lakes to paint all day. Out came the wine and the chess board, and we took it easy for a few hours, watching the clouds pass over.

It remained sunny long enough at times that 3 of us were suckered into setting up our gear. Within minutes rain began to fall.
We put up our umbrellas, and I retreated under the tarp for further protection, though I was still getting raindrops on my work.

Saturday. Painted right near the trailhead parking lot after hiking out. This is Rock Creek tumbling downhill, with a willow shrub perched in the stream, holding on. It was another great trip, with good folks, tasty food, and beautiful scenery.


Anonymous said...

As always, your sense of color, values, edges and composition, are just fantastic. The piece with Bristlecone Pines and the last one of Rock Creek are brilliant!

It was great to see your pastel images, and old familiar faces from this years workshop in
the Sierra Buttes.

I hope work is treating you well.


Sonya Johnson said...

Wow, what a trip!

As always, it's a delight and inspiration to see your fantastic work from another trip into the backcountry, Bill.

Hard to pick a favorite out of this group, tho I agree with AlanH's comment :).

Carolyn Jean Thompson said...

I always enjoy your report and paintings from this annual trip you take in the back country! Inspirational work as always!!!!

Bill Cone said...

@Alan, Thanks for the comments. We missed you in the Buttes this year. Work is going fine.

@Sonya-Much appreciated. Durango must be beautiful right now.

@Carolyn- Hey there! Hope you're enjoying your vacation.

ddd said...

Great work Bill, as always! I like all of them but particularly the first, second and seventh image in your post.

Shane Pierce said...

wow man! amazing work as usual...just love it!

Marcelo Vignali said...

Whew...just beautiful.

MG said...

Brilliant work. Sounds like a fantastic trip. Inspiring work. Nothing like the Sierras to inspire.

Anonymous said...

I picked this up from Timon's post on Wet Canvas. What a treat to see these paintings. Little Lakes Valley was my "stomping grounds" for about ten summers. Up there at Treasure Lakes you are right up against the Sierra Crest. In fact, I think I recognize Pipsqueak Spire on the left, and Bear Creek Spire on the right in one of the last paintings you show. All very nice work, BTW, you captured the feeling of the granite, lakes, and above timberline flora. Those lakes up there are relatively shallow and do reflect the more pastel colors.


Ida M. Glazier said...

What a great post!!! You write as well as you paint, and I could just see you helping to put up the tarp because of rain. What a wonderful trip!!!! I read the other artists posts as well. Just love the scenes you chose to paint, and how you did them. How do you like the Moonstone? I do, for the dessert-y, sage-y country I live in, it works well. Really love the light you do get into your work, and of corse, the water you paint. Great post, Bill!!! can't wait until there is another one.

D said...

Great stuff!

Bill Cone said...

Thanks for your kind words Dalibor, Shane, Marcelo, MG, and dm.

Sonni: That area has so much to paint, we'll probably be headed back there next year as well. You're right about Pipsqueak spire, but I think that's Mt. Dade and/or Abbott on the right in the storm painting. Bear Creek Spire was to the left, out of the frame.

Hi Ida! Thanks for the note. Regarding the moonstone colored paper, I think it does a fine job, though I'm not quite used to working out of a brighter ground yet. It is good to have a brighter key to start some images with, though. I just have to get accustomed to filling bright 'holes' in my image instead of dark ones.

dtaka said...

Hi, Bill-

We're the family camped near your "studio" at Gem Lakes in August 2011. Thanks for letting us look over your shoulder as you were beginning two of these superb pieces.

This work certainly lives up to the Gem and Treasure names, and it evokes the power and depth of these places.

We look forward to seeing your work in the gallery.
And please continue these very productive High Sierras art expeditions.

Denny, Migahm, and Midori (Denali, too)

Kathy Drungilas said...

It looks like a wonderful trip - we don't have mountain scenery here in Kansas, so I'm a bit jealous.

As another pastelist, I truly enjoy your work. I recall seeing an article in Pastel Journal on your pixar work. My gallery is doing an art show next summer as a fundraiser for "Thank You Walt Disney" organizaton which is preserving Walt's first studio here in KC. I'd love to put some of your artwork in our show.

Mary Sheehan Winn said...

Amazing paintings. Very well done.

Shelley McCarl said...

Bill-I have a copy of your "Light, Water, & Granite" book, which I just love. I'm amazed at the way you can capture the light and air of the particular place, without getting bogged down in the details. I'm also and especially amazed that you do this spectacular work on paper, Canson paper at that--my absolute least favorite surface to work on. Do you have any blog notes etc. regarding your process? The various layers of color are so delicately separate--do you use fixative? Harder pastels to start? What brands of pastels do you like? That kind of stuff. Also, where do people find out about your workshops etc--I don't know much about this blog business! Thanks and best wishes for future beautiful paintings! -Shelley McCarl

Jody Regan said...

Just found your blog; love this one - great movement; and good choice for soft and hard edges. Nice.

hmuxo said...

thank you for sharing your "Amazing"
work. Love your interesting!