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Painted Mt. Shuksan

Dear Mt. Rainier,

I regret to tell you that I have a new lover. We had a good long run. It was on your lovely slopes that I first met the mother of my children. You gave me decades of wonderful skiing, though I could have done without the white outs. And that time you tried to kill me at 13,000 feet in January of 1982…well…I’ve mostly forgiven you for that.

But today I met another mountain, and she stole my heart. Her name is Mt. Shuksan.

Sunday, Sue, Lisa and I skied Mt. Rainier. The snow sucked and I didn’t take a single picture…but it was nice to get out. On the way home Lisa was talking about her bucket list of hikes for the summer, and she mentioned Artist Point on Mt. Baker. I told her that Tuesday is a work day for me, but that I could paint at Artist Point just as easily as at home in my studio.

We decided to do it together. I met her at her house Monday after work. She, Tim and I drove up to the trailhead at Mt. Baker. We hiked a block up into the woods where I slept under the stars while she and Tim slept in her new tent.

In the morning we started skinning up the snowed over road at 10 AM, arriving 2 miles and a thousand feet later at Artist Point at 11:30 AM. I promptly set up my easel and went to work. I’d forgot my glasses, it was snowing lightly and overcast, with a temp of 29, but I drew and tried to stay warm. At first the painting sucked hard.

“Ah, here we go again” I thought, “Even my faithful old pastels are sucking. I have truly forgotten how to paint. Oils have ruined what little skill I had!”

“But…I have nothing better to do, I hiked all the way up here. I guess I might as well keep throwing color at this abomination of a painting.”

So I did. I kept grabbing yellows and purples, trying to match the colors of the far away Mt. Shuksan. I was remembering things I’ve been studying, such as: Values. How do the far away values compare with the foreground values? And if they are the same, how can I alter them to make the mountain appear high and far away…even though it is basically crystal clear, and seems  close enough to touch.

Call it luck, intuition, or even skill, but I stumbled on a combination of purples and yellows that seem to make the mountain come alive. The sun started to gradually poke through the overcast and cast the most exquisite light on the mountain. Little patches of bright white and pale yellow snow appeared as the sunlight speared down through the clouds.

I got better at defining those pale shades of snow and rock, and soon I felt the painting began to breath. I will post pictures later. I don’t have photoshop any more. That was a great couple of days.

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Presidents Day painting

Fletch and I went climbing at Smith Rocks on Presidents Day. I drew him driving on the way down, and the way back. Before and after the trip I worked on this painting of fruit in a glass bowl.

Glass bowl 12 x 16 oil on board
Glass bowl 12 x 16

Starting on the first day Fletch set the tone by jumping on a 5.10a called Karate Crack. Karate and I have a long history dating back to 1983. I never climb it first thing in a trip, but it was Fetches lead. Unfortunately it was dark as I finished the last moves, so I couldn’t see the traverse footholds. His cam protecting that traverse was of doubtfull quality…so I was looking at a possible long fall. I used the very last drop of my strength to pull my way around that exposed corner and nail the stem rest.

Fletch driving pen and ink
Fletch driving pen and ink

 

The next day we swung leads up Zebra Zion, another 10a climb that I rarely do. We also did Packanimal Direct, both pitches…plus a bunch of easier stuff. Eventually I started to warm up and have fun. I normally start out on easier stuff, like sevens and eights, but jumping on harder stuff  at the beginning eventually got me to the same place. Every evening we played guitars around the campfire. It was a great trip.