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Artist Statement

Mark H Webster Artist Statement

Like many artists, I began drawing and painting as a child. In high school I found I could capture a fairly good likeness of my friends in pencil. My parents supplied me with watercolor and oil paints to encourage my early efforts.

Life got in the way for 15 years and I stopped painting while I focused on my day job.  But when my son was born I drew his portrait in pencil and it re-awakened my inner artist.

Since then I have established a reputation as a landscape painter, winning a number of awards and honors in Puget Sound area juried art shows. I am primarily self taught. Most of my learning has been trial and error although studying art books in the library, and touring local museums and galleries has given me many ideas.

I believe the struggle to paint from life lends honesty and character to my work. I love to capture the play of light and shadow over my subject in monotone. I then use the versatility of pastel and or oils to go beyond form into vibrant, complementary colors, creating paintings that, in the words of my collectors,”jump off the walls.”

Many of my artist friends find that the studio is the place to create art. Perhaps it is my love of the outdoors or just the chaos of my garage/studio, but I have found that I do my best work on location. I have stood painting for hours in very unfavorable locations, such as on the shoulder of the road above a high cliff on the Oregon coast highway in 20 knots of wind, or in a meadow up at Mt. Rainier in sweltering heat and clouds of mosquitoes.

Two weeks ago I hiked 7 miles up into the high alpine meadows (Sahale Arm) with 50 pounds of painting gear. I shivered under a space blanket all night under the stars. In the morning I painted the morning alpenglow on the North Cascades.

Painting on location in the city has turned out to be easier than I feared. An artist working on the sidewalk is so unusual most people walk by as if I were invisible, which suits me just fine.

Due to the relative shortness of our time on earth many of us want to savor what little beauty we find amongst the asphalt. This urge to slow down and provide time for reflection is what drives artists and photographers alike.

I have often thought of my painting backpack full of paints and a lightweight easel as a 300 year old camera with a 4 hour exposure time, and a six year learning curve. When I am out painting on location, hikers and tourists, often wearing cameras, will occasionally stop and admire my work.

They photograph my painting like it’s some kind of rare magic trick. They often lament their inability to draw. I never know what to say. Drawing can, and should, be taught like reading and writing, but the ability to paint collectable art is harder to explain…it may be a gift.

I sometimes go for long periods without selling any paintings at all…like years…which is why it’s important to have a day job. But I never stop painting. I stack them up in attic.  Painting is an itch I have to scratch.

Life is short, Art is long.



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Plein Air, Photoshop and Sahale Arm

My daughter invited me on an overnight hike to Sahale Arm. She and her friend were planning to climb Sahale Peak. I’m not a fan of alpine climbing so I decided go but bring paints instead of climbing gear. Even without a sleeping bag, water filter, stove or tent my pack weighed 47 pounds.

I had my 12 x 16 wet painting carrier box with 3 boards, plus my easel, paints, thinner and brushes. For camping gear I had a foam pad, Sue’s winter puffy, long johns and a 5 ounce space blanket. I used the detachable brain from my pack for a pillow. Lisa and D. gave me their raincoats for insulation over my legs, which I stuck in my backpack. I was warm enough…no shivering, but it wasn’t toasty by any means. Mostly I missed a soft pad. I may be getting too old for thin foam backpacking pads.

The bivvy sack is open on top so I was a little worried about rats running across my hands and face. I’ve had them do that when sleeping under the stars in the past. We got up early. They roped up and started up the glacier while I set up my easel.

The mountain goats hung around hoping for some salt, but after a while they lay down 30 feet away and I got down to the business of painting. And then the flies arrived. They were in all sizes but the biggest ones were huge green eyed beasts the size of pinto beans. They were fat and slow with insatiable curiosity…and they wanted to bite. I put on my long sleeved shirt and pants, plus my mosquito head net. Then they started landing on my fingers…the only skin still exposed. It was very frustrating. I’ve since picked up some white gloves in order to be completely covered.

The painting went well, but I kept turning around to worry about my daughters progress up the climb. I knew they’d run into trouble. but they were just tiny dots a couple miles away and I wasn’t sure whether they needed help or were just moving carefully. Finally they got off the rock and onto the glacier moving normally roped together. By then I had packed up and was ready to either head up to help, or hike out to the car. I wished I’d at least brought a light ice ax. There is no cell coverage up there and I wished we’d brought radios. My ham radios reach out to 50 miles.

When I got the painting home I didn’t like it. I’d done it as a grey monotone and it needed color. Since I was already cheating (working from a photo), I decided to bring the photo into Photoshop and build a color chart of swatches. I have found that having square swatches of color on the reference photo helps me to see the color relationships. The swatches are easier to look at than the colors on the mountain.

I start the process of building swatches by choosing the Photoshop shape tool. I put on a 2 point thick stroke of black and drag out a little square. Then I use the move tool (V) to alt+drag out a bunch of duplicates across the photo, aligning the bottom left hand corner with the problem area on the photo.

I set the move tool preferences to: auto select – layer. I touch a swatch to select that layer, choose the shape tool (U), press the fill color picker on the shape tool options bar, press the rainbow color picker, then eye drop (sample) the photo just below the bottom left corner of the swatch.

This puts that color on the swatch. I go to the next swatch and repeat. Here is what that looks like when it’s done in Photoshop. Note the row of recently sampled swatches.

I’m fairly happy with the finished painting. In retrospect though, I don’t need to carry a 50 pound pack 14 miles to create a nice painting. What was I thinking?

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Toleak Point backpack trip

We finally got around to revisiting Toleak Point, but this time with my painting gear. We’d been there 6 years earlier, but all I had was my camera and I’d regretted not bringing paints. Photos from our previous hike 6 years ago.

Toleak Point sea stack
Toleak Point sea stack 9 x 12

When we arrived at the trailhead Saturday night there was no possibility of parking. Cars were parked in every square inch of the lot. Cars were double and triple parked behind other cars, blocking the early arrivals in place. We’d planned to sleep at the trailhead and hike out in the morning. Instead we drove a couple miles West and slept in a pullout. I was glad to have the pickup bed to sleep in. In the morning there was a couple bad parking spots open and we were able to jockey our way into a very tight parallel parking slot.


Toleak is getting far too popular. Do not go on the weekend. We talked to a guy who arrived Friday at noon and only two spots were open even that early in the weekend. It’s weird because the place isn’t  really that pretty. I mean it’s very nice, but Shi Shi and Rialto or Ruby are just as pretty. Maybe it’s the remoteness that draws the crowd. When we hiked out on Tuesday there were 40 open spots…if you don’t mind double parking along the road, with cars backing out toward you broadside.

Weather was perfect Sunday as we hiked South but I arrived too tired to paint. Hiking 7 miles with a heavy pack is not something we do regularly. We woke up to fog but I could see this 100 foot high tower capped by a nesting bald eagle so that was what got painted.

Toleak Point 9 x 12
Toleak Point 9 x 12

We took a siesta, dipping into our meager food supplies, and then I walked South, hoping the fog over the main rocks would lift. It didn’t, so I painted this little twenty foot tall tower right at the tip of Toleak Point. After dinner I tried to paint the Giants Graveyard 4 miles distant but that proved to be too difficult and I erased it. It would have been my third painting of the day anyway.

My homemade backpack isn’t happy carrying 50 pounds, though really 50 pounds won’t feel good with any backpack. I felt like a mule with a Grand Canyon tourist on my back.  I had skipped the sleeping bag to save weight. I slept in my thin puffy ($40 on sale at Big 5) and my Feathered friends down vest. I also had on thin nylon pants over long johns.

The first night I put my legs in my backpack for warmth. That was not warm enough and it wasn’t a great night sleep. The second night (Monday) I opened up the 3 ounce space blanket I’ve been carrying around for a decade and it was amazing. I felt as warm as if I’d been sleeping in a summer weight bag. I have to bring the two puffies anyway for standing around and painting in the ocean breezes, so it was awesome to sleep warm with just the mylar space blanket.

Bivying without proper sleeping gear is something I’ve been doing since my alpine climbing days. Mountain climbers have the same problem painters have: the gear is so heavy you have to cut corners on the normal gear that keeps backpackers comfortable.

In summary

Things I could leave behind:

  • All of my colors except Transparent Oxide Brown and Red (TOB & TOR).
  • 12 x 16 boards. I worked on 9 x 12’s, which seemed big enough
  • Large brushes…work on small boards, need small brushes
  • Grizzly bear spray…didn’t see anything larger than a bald eagle
  • Two headlamps, one light per party would be enough
  • extra water bottle…plenty of streams

Things we should have brought:

  • More food! We were hungry all the time. An extra dehydrated dinner would have been awesome
  • Windscreen for MSR stove, slower cooking time wasn’t worth the savings in weight
  • Bigger bear box for more food…and or add in the white bear proof bag
  • Trail mix-granola. It would be lighter than the packaging for all the expensive energy bars we brought.
  • Shoulder strap spreader pads…or I need to sew better pack straps

Backcountry Permits

The hiking books advise you to stop at the ranger station in Port Angeles to get permits. We were shocked to read that it’s $8 per person per night to camp out there. What they don’t tell you is that you can also pick up a permit at the trailhead, fill it out, and mail it in with your check.  And as it happened, we saw no rangers Sunday through Tuesday checking peoples tents or backpacks for permits.

It’s sad that our parks have to charge so much for simply allowing us to enjoy the beauty. I know they have to maintain the trails, signs, ropes outhouses and parking lots, and that’s expensive. But for cash strapped people trying to have some cheap fun by walking the coast…it’s a shock. A party of two pays $16 a night…for backpacking!

Here is the pit toilet at Toleak…not a lot of money went into this 4 star facility:





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Painting in the Grand Canyon and Bryce

I’m looking out the window of our cozy little house, thinking about the last two weeks. Neither Sue nor I had ever been to the Grand Canyon, Zion, or Bryce so we were excited to get out of town. We drove to Boise first to stay a night with my niece Pam. She is in her second year of residency as a GP, but she’s also one of my climbing partners.

She was able to get a half day off and we climbed at the Black Canyon just outside of  Boise. It is a cheesy little cliff  similar to Vantage but the climbing was real, and we both got a little gripped.

The drive down to Zion was not fun at all…simply something you have to grin and bare. I love to listen to free talking books from the library while I put the miles behind me. We pulled into our first of several free campspots thanks to this cool website. I don’t have any classes this summer, or income, so avoiding unnecessary expenses is a priority. I’m thinking I may apply for unemployment…heck I might even find a job. I have no desire to have the summer off, though the weather is good for painting.

We had to get on a shuttle to get in to Zion. Cars are not allowed in peak season. It’s $20 a person to walk into Zion from the shuttle. We were thankful to have our $10 lifetime senior passes. After a 60 minute wait we got on a shuttle and then got off at the first pretty viewpoint. I hiked off trail up to a quiet spot and started the first of many bad paintings this trip. It was simply too hot to stand in the sun and paint…not too mention the jet-lag from the long drive. My new oil based gesso grounds allows me to easily wipe back down to clear white “canvas” (board). I packed up, found Sue and hit the road for the Grand Canyon…glad to put over hot, over crowded Zion in the rear window.

We pulled into our free Grand Canyon campsite at 4AM dead tired. In the morning we drove into the park and man was it confusing. There are looping roads circling everywhere when you get close to the South rim by Grand Canyon village. They gave us a map but it was so confusing I had to use my phones GPS to get anywhere. We stumbled on free parking near one of the trails and used that for the next week.

I did another bad painting out over the canyon that morning: Rim Trail, pictured above. I had a young guy from Kansas tell me I was the best artist he’d ever seen. Clearly they don’t have many painters in Kansas. It looked ok after the first morning and I should have left it alone. But alas, I worked on it a second day and ruined it. And there went another painting wiped down to white.

My track record was not looking good so we decided to combine a hike with the painting. Oxygen often makes me paint better. We did a dawn start and joined the hoards hiking down the Bright Angel trail. Two miles down I found a wide spot in the switchbacks where I could set up and be clear of the stream of hikers and tourists on mule trains.

Tourists pay $800 for a two night round trip ride on a mule down the canyon. I guess if you are rich it might be worth it. My daughter did the 16 mile hike on foot in a day a few years ago, but that was in the Spring, not early July. I was tempted to try the hike myself, but Sue wasn’t buying it. We would have had to bivy, and hike back up at night to avoid the heat.

The painting I did on the Bright Angel trail is rough, but it has potential for refinement in the studio. It was fun to feel it start to breath on it’s own. Lots of people liked it, commenting on it’s beauty, and that is usually a good sign. Those tourists are not dumb.

I got into a routine where I would do morning and afternoon paintings. After about 3 days of that, where the morning painting would go well, and the afternoon painting would turn into a ‘wipe off’, I realized I could do one or the other, but not both. It was simply too hot to work all day in the blazing sun. Temperatures ranged from 90 to over 100.

The evening light was supremely pretty out across the canyon, but after 4 failures I realized I could not paint it. I could draw the shapes, but I couldn’t figure out the color of the grass. Anything that isn’t  vertical in the Grand Canyon is covered in grass. It looks like a hillside in Eastern Washington. It’s a boring yellow green that fades to gray in the distance, and turns slightly blue depending on the time of day.

The shadows of the red cliffs were also troubling, and don’t even get me started on tree covered slopes of grass. My trees look like pasted on cucumbers.

I had some moderate success on the South Kaibab Trail, which we hiked down for a mile, loosing 1000 feet of elevation. The viewpoint where I stood was a 4th class ledge, and I wished I’d brought some cams with which to anchor myself. This didn’t stop the crazy instagram tourists from jumping up and down on the edge of the 300 foot cliff next to my easel. “Do it again, and try to click your heels together!” And they wonder why I wear headphones.

Our last hike was the Deception Trail. It is an unmaintained trail, which means it’s too hard and dangerous for mules. They can’t make money on the trail, so they abandon it. People can pick their way down it, if you don’t mind crumbling wooden bridges over 70 foot drops. I don’t have a picture of that painting yet. I had switched over to monotone painting by then.

The impossibly hard color of the canyon had simply wore me down. I figured I’d get the values right, and figure out color at home from my imagination. On a rest day we saw some paintings for sale by Serena Supplee which gave me some great ideas.

There is quite a cast of characters driving the Grand Canyon shuttle buses. One guy went on and on about how he’d hit and dragged a traffic cone for 10 minutes before it rolled out from under his bus. It was the highlight of his day. The buses drive East and West along the South Rim, sometimes only twenty feet from a 2000 foot drop, with no guardrail. One driver was calmly explaining to us that only certain stops allowed  you to catch rides both East and West. “And if you have a driver tell you he is going North, get off the bus, immediately!”

After our rest day following our 3 canyon hikes I finally took the bus all the way out to Hermit’s Rest (8 miles) and set up to paint the afternoon light.  As I was framing my view in my little aluminum viewfinder I noticed a really cool twisted tree that looked more fun than the canyon.

The reason trees were even on my radar was that Sue had started sketching too, and she had been working on trees. I decided that it was a good candidate for a monotone and set to work.

I do these by rubbing the board down with Transparent Oxide Brown and Genuine Rectified Turpentine.  This gives the ‘canvas’ a lovely brown tone that is quite malleable. Then I lift out the highlights with a brush wetted with Gamsol (Odorless Mineral Spirits). I push and pull cool and warm colors by using Transparent Oxide Brown and Red. Richard Schmid calls them TOB and TOR. For the darkest colors I used just a touch of Cobalt or Ultramarine Blue.

Something clicked that day with the twisted pine tree. I have no idea why, but suddenly I was able to see, and paint exactly what I saw. I actually turned to Sue who was napping nearby and said: “Who is this guy, and what has he done with Mark?” I don’t think I’ve ever painted that well in my entire life. Sadly, I came back the next day to work on it again in the same light and may have ruined it. I have yet to take it out of the wet painting carrier box since adding the upper branches and leaves.

After 10 days we’d had enough of the heat and headed North. We were thinking the North Rim, but halfway there I got tired of driving and saw a sign that read: “30 miles to Bryce  Canyon”. We found a great free camping spot right outside the entrance and crashed at dawn.

After a few hours of sleep we drove to Bryce Point and hiked down a mile to a nice view where I did a another monotone. I thought I’d be too tired to paint but once again something clicked. A lot of hikers liked it, so it might be good. I did another one the next day, but it wasn’t as successful. I swear the shadows on those hoodoo towers move as fast as breaking waves at the ocean.

Hiking up to the rim at Bryce’s Sunset Point I finally hit the wall, spent, exhausted and done. My 45 pound pack felt like it weighed 200 pounds. I may have under hydrated. I had plenty of water, but forgot to drink it. Once we got to the car I had to nap all afternoon and went to bed without dinner. I think it was a touch of heat exhaustion.

Whenever I was painting Sue would sit in the shade…while I baked in the 100 degree sunshine at my easel. She has always been the smarter hiker in the family.

We left after that and drove north to the City of Rocks for some climbing. On the second day Pam joined us, she had the 4th off and the City is only 3 hours from Boise. Sue tries to take it easy climbing, but with Pam there we could hit the hard stuff. We did Wheat Thin, Columbia Crack, Intruding Dyke and Mystery Achievement at the Breadloaves.

Sue was burned out on living for 16 days out of a little mountaineering tent and talked me into driving home. I was just getting warmed up at climbing and didn’t want to leave, however, the tent zipper was blown, bugs were getting inside, and I have 8 plein air paintings waiting for some TLC. Climbing feels like playing hooky when I’m actually trying to get serious about learning to paint.

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Portrait of a climbing buddy

I met a great climbing partner 9 years ago in Joshua Tree. He wants to remain anonymous so I’ll call him John. We put together a van full of 4 guys and spent 3 weeks living the life. We are still friends today as we have a lot in common including: web design, inventing, playing guitar, and teaching.

We also both know our good friend Paul, who used to be a stellar climber but is now blind after a brain injury following a climbing accident. ‘John’ knows I’m trying to learn to paint so I asked him if he would consider sitting for a portrait. I said I couldn’t pay him…artist models earn $18 an hour. In exchange for posing, I’d give him the painting. He was onboard immediately. We are both underemployed and were easily able to schedule a couple morning painting sessions.

I’m still enjoying my break from Facebook. It’s so refreshing living the life I had before social media. My son used to always see my paintings first on facebook. He’d come over to the house and say, ‘oh yeah, I saw that on facebook…nice’. Now that I’m not online as much, it was awesome watching his expression when he first saw it…in real life. ‘Dam dad, you are getting really good at that!’

I know it’s got a few problems. Eyes have always been hard for me, and the background is unfinished. But it’s breathing and has staying power. I chose to walk away before I overworked it. I’m studying a book on painting called Alla Prima 2. He is famous for leaving large areas of his canvas completely unfinished. If the painting speaks, it is wise to leave it alone. Knowing when to stop is often the hardest part.


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Inventing a large wet painting carrier box

I needed a way to carry a lot of wet oil paintings in the car. My backpackable wet painting carrier box  can hold eight 16 x 20’s. Or the same number of 9 x 16’s. So lets say I went on a week long painting vacation and created 2 paintings a day for 7 days, I would have no place to safely store 14 oil paintings.

An explanation of my backpacking wet painting box is here. My car box is the same design, just bigger and sealed all the way around with permanent sides, and a hinged top. I also made the shelves slightly farther apart. The gaps in which I slide the double paintings are 5/8″. This means that the 3/8 inch square rods are on 1″ centers. Put another way, when I measure from the center of one rod to the next, it measures one inch. I’m painting on 1/4″ furniture grade plywood, and wanted to try (in future) glueing canvas to the plywood…so the 5/8″ gap was important.

I had some scrap 3/8″ plywood from a shelf under a table in the old house. It was the table on which Clint built his kayak. 15 years later he still has the kayak, but now he has his own house with his own collection of power tools. I borrowed his power miter saw, watched a few youtube tutorials and built a wet painting box for the car that can hold 24  wet 16 x 20 paintings.

It’s about the size of a large Coleman cooler. I spent at least a couple days out in the shop cutting wood and metal, figuring things out…not to mention many trips to Lowes and Home depot buying screws and lengths of aluminum. I love making things, especially things that solve a problem. No one sells these boxes for artists on road trips, you have to make them.

Now I just need to learn to paint better.

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Painting big

I’ve been watching some youtube videos about painters who work outside on 9 x 12 or 12 x 16 inch boards. Then they return to the studio and upsize the painting to a larger size more suitable for hanging in a living room.

I prefer to work at 16 x 20 but I’m learning that my skills aren’t quite ready to create sellable work. So these large plein air paintings bomb, which means I spend a lot of time sanding them down and re applying the gesso for another go.

Another route many artists go is painting on gesso covered canvas which is merely taped to gatorboard. Then if the painting turns out, it can be glued to a board and framed, or, if the board is cradled, it’s ready to hang without a frame.

I have never painted large in oils…but for a number of reasons I wanted to try it. First I needed to learn how to cradle a large board. 24 x 36 x 0.25″ boards will sag, so they have to be supported by a cradle on the back…which can also act as the frame, making them ready for hanging.

I borrowed my son’s miter saw, bought some high quality plywood and spent a few days out in my garage/shop learning how to be a carpenter. When I put the 24 x 36 inch oil gesso’d board on my carbon fiber easel, I realized it was too flimsy for a board that big.

I already have a heavy duty Bogen easel dating from my 4 x 5 large format camera days. But I had no way of mounting the board to the easel. Off to Lowes I went with only a rough idea of how I could build an easel from scratch. Man, I love inventing stuff from metal! I think inventing fits me better than painting.  There is a cool combination of sketching, thinking and working with drills, saws and screws that’s just really fun. It’s also neat to put stuff together that is better (and cheaper) than what you can buy in stores. I guess I like solving problems. I will post pictures later.

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Should you have kids?

I saw this article about the decline in babies on the Washington Post website, to which I have a subscription and wrote this comment:

A topic close to my heart. We loved having our son and daughter 30 years ago. Kids forced us to cut back a little on rock climbing, but we still found ways to get out. Kids love to play outside! My wife did licensed home daycare during the 9 years they were young and not in school. Her daycare earned enough to pay our mortgage payment each month, and she was able to be their parent full time while I worked swing.

When they were both in school, she was able to return to her old job (COTA at a school), and that gave her the same summers off as the kids. This allowed her to be home when they got out of school. We never put our kids in day care. We also had two sets of grandparents within easy driving distance who would watch the kids on weekends to give us a break.

My blue collar income was never very much…but we lived frugally. I see so many young people now spending vast sums of money on really dumb stuff…like motorhomes, boats, hotels and exotic fly away vacations. We still car camp in little backpacking tents, as do our kids…it is possible to live cheaply…and make kids work.

They both got after school jobs in high school (dry cleaners, barista, planter nursery) which helped when they needed to buy their own transportation. They kept those jobs all the way through college. It was impossible for us to save money for college while raising two kids, paying our mortgage and keeping 3 old cars running.

Amazingly, our local community college had a scholarship program. It was called the “First Generation Grant”. If neither parent had a 4 year college degree, you could apply, and they granted about a dozen a year. We were surprised when they both qualified and were awarded the grants. They both work as nurses now and have money to burn, and zero college loans.

I don’t know if they will have kids…I know they kind of want them…but they are having so much fun they don’t want to slow down yet. I’m hoping they have them. My parents made sacrifices to have me and my siblings  I’d like to return the favor to the next generation. Kids are a bucket list thing….and besides, what could be more natural?

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Old friends

Saw Ted today. We met in the 6th grade and have stayed friends ever since. Not counting my cousins, he is my oldest friend. He brought his daughter and we had a classic adventure getting lost at Point Defiance. We walked down to Owens Beach, then West along the water until we ran out of time. We saw a trail heading up the steep bank and started up. The trail petered out and we were lost. Not really lost…though that depends on how you define it. But it got interesting as we picked our way though the forest until a road showed up.

We are going to get together in a couple weeks to jam. We started playing together in high school when 4 of us started a garage band. I was the harp player and Ted played base. We had a rhythm, lead guitarist and a drummer. The drummer had a real job so he was in charge of renting the rehearsal garage. I remember pedaling my bicycle to band practice. We only played a few gigs, but it was lots of fun playing and practicing.

Later Ted and Bob formed a much better band that won a competition in Seattle.  They toured Eastern Europe on a fully funded one month concert tour. We all thought they were on their way to something big…but I think they broke up not long after that. We continued jamming for a decade after high school, but then drifted apart as old friends do. There were a few meetings over the decades that followed but they got farther and farther apart.  Anyway it was awesome to see my old buddy again and I hope we play some live music soon.

I stumbled across a Tedx talk online about a guy who says social media is bad for your career. This runs counter to current thinking, but his speech was so compelling I decided to take a break from Facebook and Instagram for a while. It’s only been two days but I like it already.

His main point was that social media is distracting and keeps you from doing what he calls: “Deep Work”. That is defined as long periods, like 4 or more hours where you are completely focused on one task. For a programmer it might be writing complex code. For a writer it would mean writing non-stop for hours with no distraction. For me as an artist, it means painting steadily for hours without any distraction…at all.

He also argues that a commonly held social media theory is a myth. The theory is that being on social media widens your networking audience and makes you more employable. He feels that getting off social media will make us much more marketable because we will be able to do deep work. And that deep work is so rare that it will overcome our lack of social media presence and bring employers. It makes sense. Multi tasking is a dog that won’t hunt. Deep work is something I’ve always loved. Running a printing press was all about deep work. We’d commonly work 12 hours or longer. Climbing is all about deep work and total focus. I never take my cell phone climbing, and I am happier for it.

Speaking of climbing, V. and I spent 3 days at Squish and discovered a new crag called the Papoose. I’d been there with Bud Miller decades ago but never went back after a runnout scare, until last weekend. There are two lovely 5.9 splitters at the base that we both on-sighted. They were both exceptional climbs and I’m so glad we decided to go exploring on a new crag.

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Indian Creek 2018

We left Friday at 5PM. Arrived Saturday at Sand Creek Campground in Moab at 4PM. Easily got a site in the huge campground for $15 a night. Bought 3 nights planning on a Tuesday AM departure.

Hiked in light snow at Arches Sunday. Monday I painted Delicate Arch twice, morning and afternoon light. We’d planned on hiking the first half of the trip, then climbing the last few days. But the weather looked to be turning bad Thursday Friday. I was worried that if we hiked until Tuesday, we might only get one day of climbing on Wednesday, then the rain would come in. I texted Chad that he might want to come down a day early. Monday evening Chad showed up and we drove down to Indian Creek Tuesday morning where we did Generic Crack, Binou’s Crack and Chocolate Corner before camping at Super Bowl.

Wednesday we hiked up to Supercrack buttress, which is the same parking lot as Donnelly and did Twin Cracks 5.8+, Incredible Hand Crack 5.10 (12 yellows, 2 reds and a blue) and No Name (left of Twin Cracks) 5.10. Chad did a heck of a job getting half way up No Name before running out of steam. He has smaller hands, so it was miles of steeple jams, which, as he said: “Two moves takes everything I have.”

I was fresh from belaying, so I took over the lead and hung dog my way to the anchors. We used to call that yo yoing back in the day. It took 11 blues, 3 reds and maybe 8 yellows? Everything we did needs just one 60 to get off, as the anchors seem to be bolted right at 30 meters. I suspect the routes went in before 70’s became popular.Generic may be the exception at a little longer…but I’m not sure.

I think one would need at least 2 weeks down there to build up the muscle power to climb those cleanly. Or maybe it is something I need to do before going down. The guys I saw who were sending those hand cracks cleanly all had arms twice as thick as mine. At the very least I need to hit the pull ups hard, and make a couple trips up to Vertical World and run laps on the hand crack. Hand power is ultra critical down there.

Thursday we needed a rest day so we climbed the easier South Six Shooter. The approach was thought provokingly dangerous, and I backed off the 5.6 mantel move. I had a ton of rope drag, the wind was howling, and it didn’t feel like a rest day move. Plus the if you blew the mantel move you would very likely break something as  the gear was below your feet, and there were ledges to hit. Getting injured on top of  a mountain with a one hour approach is just plain stupid.

Chad owed me a finish from No Name, so he stepped up to the plate and sent the mantle nicely. Because it was a rest day, I also had trouble with a rounded 5.7 crack lower down on the second pitch. I hung 3 times. I think I was just tired. The creek is burly.

The summit views were lovely…climbing mountains is satisfying. We did the rap in two raps with our 60. One short one down to the chains 50 feet below the summit, and another 30 meter rap to the ground, passing the ugly slung block station.

Alex ran up while we were climbing but got there too late to join us, so he walked Sue down to the car. She was getting cold waiting. When we got down to the car I was ready to get serious about my rest day. But Alex was there…and I didn’t want to say no. When he offered to carry the pig up to the crag I caved and abandoned any thoughts of a rest day.  We hiked up and Alex led Supercrack. It took all 11 blues, plus 6 yellows. I would have brought a 5 for the last move to the chains, had I led it. It was Alex’s first creek lead, so he hung a lot but got up.

I hung twice on follow. The jams were great hands for my huge mitts. Plus I was wearing Ocuns over tape to be fatter. I’m not sure I will ever lead it though because the 10C start crack is super awkward. It starts good, then flares to a rounded #5 with a block in the way. You might be able to get a half inch cam in the block. Other than that I’m sure I could hang dog my way up the main crack. It’s a spectacular crack. Love to get some photos from either the anchors or the tower off right. It did have anchors for safely taking pictures of your leader.

Thursday night it poured, which matched the forecast from Monday. We drove up to Moab where I painted Double Arch while Sue did another Arches hike to Landscape Arch and beyond. And then the epic drive home. Left at 6PM, got home at 2PM Saturday.

Newspaper Rock
Newspaper Rock


North Six Shooter
North Six Shooter


South Six Shooter, Chad about to take over the lead at the mantle.
South Six Shooter, Chad about to take over the lead at the mantle.



North Six Shooter, from summit of South Six Shooter.
North Six Shooter, from summit of South Six Shooter.


Summit of South Six Shooter.
Summit of South Six Shooter.


Summit of South Six Shooter.
Summit of South Six Shooter


Petroglyph on first pitch of South Six Shooter.
Petroglyph on first pitch of South Six Shooter.


Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows
Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows


Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows. I found a rest!
Incredible Hand Crack, all yellows. I found a rest!


Chad on No Name crack
Chad on No Name crack


Generic Crack
Generic Crack


Binou's crack, got it clean this year
Binou’s crack, got it clean this year


Painting Delicate Arch, building on a blue monotone base
Painting Delicate Arch, building on a blue monotone base