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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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