Artist in Residence in Yosemite – Day 7

Anderson's Cabin Image
My days work, © 2017 Trowzers Akimbo

We traveled out to paint, a large group, this final day, Sunday, May 13th, of my week-long Yosemite Renaissance artist in residence stay in Yosemite. The painters, in addition to myself, included Terry Robinson, Lura & Kerby Smith and Vicki Thomas.

We decided to avoid the tourist insanity that was going in the Valley on Saturday and select a painting location closer to the cabin. Our first choice was Alder Creek, but the two ladies in our group were leery of navigating the steep drop, while carrying there painting equipment from our parking location, along the roadway, to the bank of the creek. Lura had recently injured her leg and wasn’t sure how well it would hold up traveling down the steep trail. While beautiful, the vistas offered by Alder Creek were too similar to the churning water paintings I’d created of Chilnualna Falls the first 3 days of my stay, for me to bother nudging the ladies down the hill. We decided to choose a location from the offerings of Wawona’s Pioneer Village.

After individually scouting the many offerings presented by the Pioneer Village, we all independently  set up in front of the Anderson Mountaineer’s Cabin. There’s plenty to choose from, as far as painting goes, here, I highly recommend it as a painting destination, if you’re in Yosemite. The local artist group I belong to, Yosemite Western Artists, travel up here as a plein air group often to paint. In fact, they’re heading up there again today.

Anderson's Cabin Plaque Photo
© 2017 Kerby Smith
Trowzers, Terry & Vicki Painting Photo
© 2017 Kerby Smith

At one point during the day we were joined by a visiting artist, who plopped down on an available log bench and began an ink drawing of the cabin in his small sketchbook. We introduced ourselves and he shared the drawing on which he’d been working. Turns out he and his son have got a challenge going to each do at least one drawing a day. I love the people you meet when you’re out painting plein air and in a location like Yosemite, those you meet are from around the world. Someone looking over my shoulder, as I work, told me I was new Bob Ross. Whether that’s a complement or a cut depends on how you feel about Mr. Ross. Must have been my “happy little trees.” Given the enthusiasm of the delivery, I’m sure it was meant as a compliment. That’s how I’m going to accept it, anyway!

We put in another long day, wrapping around 5pm, when the sun began shining through the backside of our canvases.

Trowzers Painting Indirectly Photo
Indirect painting, © 2017 Kerby Smith

Those of you who’ve been following these posts may recall that I set out on this week-long outing, switching from my normal indirect painting approach to direct painting to see if that technique would be faster and allow me to complete a plein air painting in a single day. Well, unhappy with the direct painting results, I switched back to my indirect painting technique on Day 5, the Half Dome painting from Glacier Point. I paint from dark to light, realizing that the darks are the armature that paintings are built upon. Direct painting required me to constantly clean my brushes and mix up darks of various hues. When I paint plein air indirectly, my underpainting is a monochrome turp wash (50% painting medium, 50% solvent) of ink blue, requiring no brush cleaning or additional color mixing. I get all my darks down more quickly (critical, given the rapidly changing light with plein air painting) and can move on to the opaque laying in of medium and light polychrome values. I’m much happier with the end results of this approach.

The bottom line is, I just don’t like my plein air painting final results. They look like color sketches to me. I can’t help but feel they require more time to deserve hanging in a frame. While I love the process of painting plein air (you absorb information about the scene unavailable painting from photos alone). In future, I think if the result warrants it, I’m just going to use the plein air painting as a color sketch for a larger, more finished painting.

As the day ended, I put my visitors in their vehicles, wished them a safe trip home and after a quick clean-up of the cabin, started down the mountain to my home in Oakhurst…a melancholy ending to a wonderful, fruitful week with friends!

P.S: I’ve just been informed there’s going to be a show of the work produced during the week, at Gallery 5, in Oakhurst, CA in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned to my blog for the details, which I’ll post once they’re available.

 

Artist in Residence – Day 5

Half Dome Painting Image
My in progress 12” x 9” oil painting of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

With a promise of rain, we rose Friday morning, May 12th, and still headed over to Yosemite Valley to see if we could capture the stunning POV of El Capitan we witnessed yesterday. We were hoping we could get something accomplished, before the storm hit and, when it did, that the rain would be light.

Halfway there, our hopes faded, as we climbed into misty clouds that required the occasionally swish of windshield wipers to refresh our view. On arrival, it wasn’t raining, but all the rock monuments in the Valley were hidden behind clouds. We stopped a Pohono Bridge, hoping to set up and paint there.  Didn’t need clear skies for that, since it’s on the Valley floor, but with the snow melt swollen Merced River, there was no bank to set up painting gear, on either side of the river. Anyone wanting to paint this bridge will need to wait until later in the year.

We decided to pick up the Valley Loop trail there and walk the 1.5 miles to our El Cap beauty shot. We wanted to hang out in the Valley awhile and see if the clouds cleared from the monuments. A walk along the trail was a pretty beautiful time-killer. Much of the loop was underwater and we had to make our way forward, roadside, until we’d passed the flooded sections. A word of caution to anyone planning to trail in Yosemite Valley in the near future: if you’ve got summer mesh hiking footwear, be sure to bring along an extra pair of socks, you’re likely to get your feet wet.

El Cap was still deep in cloud cover, when we reached our destination and it started to rain. So, we pulled our hoods up over our heads and backtracked along the trail, the mile and a half to the cars. I decided I was heading back to Wawona to do some painting, in the cabin from reference shots taken earlier in the week, if I had to. Let the rain come down outside, I wasn’t going to miss out on a day of painting. Kerby decided he’d stay in the Valley for a while: he had a few photographic ideas he wanted to play out.

Me Painting in Cabin Photo
Photograph © 2017 Kerby Smith

Back at the cabin I looked around outside for something to paint. Itwasdefinitely going to rain, but I was willing to get started out in the open, take some reference shots and finish inside. I seriously considered the exterior of the cabin we were in staying in. It was interesting enough to paint, but who, other than those of us staying there, would find it interesting enough to want to buy it. I could imagine the gallery curator’s pitch, “It’s the cabin Trowzers Akimbo and the rest of his artist friends were staying in, while they were up in Yosemite painting for a week.” “Trowzers who?”

I decided a better idea would be to paint from one of the photos I’d taken earlier in the week. In fact, I had some good ones on my new Verizon phone, that I’d taken at the destined El Cap location. I just needed to get the photos from the new phone to my laptop and from there to my iPad. I linked Bluetooth between the two devices and attempted to send the photos over…nothing. After a few more tries, I gave up. This wasn’t going to work. Android didn’t seem to be interested in conversing in OS X with my MacBook Pro. With no Internet connection, I couldn’t get online to run down a solution to my problem. I seriously thought about chucking the idea of painting, at this point, and taking a well deserved nap the rest of the afternoon. A lessor man would have, but I’ve learned to embrace my neurosis and harness the fears of failure lurking there to keep me plodding forward towards success!

Small Half Dome Photo
Thursday’s photo of Half Dome from Glacier Point.

My digital SLR camera memory card was full and I’d emptied it onto my laptop, the night before, so I could clean the card and make room for new photos. I poured over the photos in the folder for something worthy of a painting. The only candidate far enough removed from the Chilnualna Falls paintings I’d been creating all week, was one of the shots I took yesterday of Half Dome, from Glacier Point. I loved the photo, but I wasn’t sure that once it was translated into a painting, it would still be legible as Half Dome to on-lookers: so much of the rock was obscured by the clouds and the Glacier Point perspective offers a less than typical point of view of the monument.

It having reached 3:30 or 4 pm, it was going to be this image or nothing. I set up my french paintbox near a window that would offer me the latest possible natural light and began slapping paint down on the canvas.

Only the finished painting will tell me whether Half Dome reads of not, but as you can see by the in progress painting above, at least I didn’t allow myself to succumb to a nap. Remember what Salvador Dalí said, “No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist!” Okay, Salvador, I skipped my nap, now where’s the masterpiece!

Artist in Residence – Day 3

In Progress Chilnualna River Painting
Today’s in progress plein air painting of the Chilnualna River.

No, you didn’t miss a blog post, I’m posting day 3, before day 2, because I’m back in my studio tonight and I forget to bring the day 2 painting back with me from the cabin.

I don’t have an Internet connection (I’m told they shut their Internet connection at the cabin down in the winter. May is winter?) or even cell phone service anywhere in the Wawona area of Yosemite National Park, where the Yosemite Renaissance artist in residence cabin has been provided for me. Thank you AT&T! What are you thinking? No one with one of your cell phones visits Yosemite? I’m going back up to the cabin tomorrow afternoon, after I finish teaching art to  my two 5th grade classes at Woodland Elementary School tomorrow, so you won’t see another blog post, until I’m back in the studio, late Sunday.

Here’s today’s in progress plein air painting. It was my second day painting with artist friend, Sandy Kowallis. This time we hiked down the trail that runs from the top of the falls, along the river, to where it joins the south fork of the Merced River. We picked a section we liked and set up there. The water is so ice cold that any slight breeze sends air-conditioned air in our direction. It made for a very comfortable day, at a temp much lower than what we found, as soon as we left the river’s edge.

Tomorrow I’m painting with friend, photographer and artist, Kerby Smith. Something other than the Chilnualna, I suspect.

Artist in Residence in Yosemite – Day 1

In progress Chilnualna Falls, oil on canvas 12″ x 9.”

I’ve been awarded artist in residence by Yosemite Renaissance, which comes with a 2 bedroom cabin at Wawona, in Yosemite National Park, for a week.

I’ve invited many artist friends, in the area, to come up and join me, so we can go out together and paint plein air. Some are staying with me overnight in the cabin for a day or two, others coming up for the day. 7 days of painting with friends in Yosemite.

I’ve decided to use the week to see if I can make selections and simplify enough to finish the paintings on location, in one sitting. True plein air. It’s tough for me, because I generally like to add a little more finish to my paintings. I haven’t been able to resist taking all the plein air paintings, I’ve produced so far, back to the studio for more polish, but it’s hard to justify all the extra work put into paintings so small. Better to find a personal shorthand I can apply to my plein air paintings.

Today was the first day of the residency and I was joined by Carolyn and Sandee, two artist with a lot of experience painting plein air. We chose to paint a location close to the cabin, Chilnualna Falls. With all the rain and snow we had this winter, combined with the current warmer temperatures, our waterways are breaking records. This normally trickling stream’s been converted into a torrent of quickly moving, twisting, splashing gallons of water.

All good, but I didn’t reach my goal today. This painting still needs more work, before it’s finished, even by plein air standards. I think, with the waterfall, I took on too much for the time allotted. Wish me better luck tomorrow.