I recently returned from a week painting in Yosemite. I live just about 20 minutes from the gates of this national park, so it’s not unusual to find me up there painting, but this week was different.
A few years ago I began volunteering a week annually, to take Yosemite visitors out to paint the unbelievable sites found there, on behalf of the Yosemite Conservancy. For those of you who don’t know, the Yosemite Conservancy is a non-profit organization, supported completely by donations. It uses the funds, collected through those donations, to issue large grants to Yosemite National Park to restore, improve or preserve. They recently granted Yosemite $20 million of the total $40 million required to carry out the Mariposa Grove project. Past donations have restored the facilities surrounding Lower Yosemite Falls and enabled electronic tracking of Yosemite bears. They’ve just begun a National Park partnership to give a new face to the facilities surrounding Bridal Veil Falls.
I donate MY time, so the small fee the Conservancy charges for participation in my outings ($30) goes into their kitty. It’s a wonderful place to spend a week painting with others and each day I meet new and interesting people, from all over the world.
On day one, Monday, we didn’t stray far from the Art Center in Happy Isles and I took a group of 6 out to paint the stone bridge nearby. Because it was nearby, we walked to the location, getting to know each other as we traveled (we more frequently utilize the park shuttles to deliver us to our destinations).
One of the pleasures of my annual volunteer work is learning a bit about each individual taking the class. Often times, I’ll find at least one visitor with whom I have something in common. So was the case this day. The husband in one of the two married couples in the group, was involved in software development, a programmer. As it so happens, I spent much of my former commercial art career as a Chief Creative Officer for video game companies. My duty was to determine what games we developed, then guide teams on each product through the complete development process.
At nine years of age, this particular individual had played many of the games I developed, early in my game career, for Sierra Online. Sierra, a pioneer in video gaming, was located in the town of Oakhurst, CA, in the Sierra foothills and was my introduction to the area. My fellow painter this day was not unique in having played one of the games I’d developed, many of the younger video game team members I managed in the later part of my career, had played these early Sierra produced games, when they were kids.