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.
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.
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.