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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:

toleak-toilet
toleak-toilet

 

 

 

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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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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

 

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Facebook time out

When I was on vacation last month I enjoyed being off the grid. It was super nice to live in the moment and forget about the world outside our little climbing and painting bubble down in Utah.

After I returned, I tried to improve the paintings I did down there. But it turns out I couldn’t do much for them in the studio. I seem to be an on location painter, period. I tried to breath more life into them…but the oxygen they need is down in Moab, not in my studio. I did at least try not to make them worse. And I only worked on one of them, but eventually gave it up as a lost cause. Perhaps I’m being too harsh on the painting, I tend to do that. I’ve had paintings  sell that I thought were broken.

But finally I posted them up to Facebook to see what my friends thought of my work. But after posting them, I got to thinking about why it even mattered to me what my friends thought. And that made me realize I needed a break from Facebook. I haven’t been on for a week, and intend to stay off for a while.

I like to thing that my art is an activity that transcends time. One of the reasons I love making art is that I am creating something that lives all on it’s own. A good piece of art, whether it is a book, a song, or a painting, has a life of it’s own. We are creating beauty where beauty did not exist before.

There is a reason why drawings still survive from the 1500’s and earlier. Everyone who sees them recognizes the beauty, and treasures them. Now this is not to say my art is that good. But perhaps someday it will be, if I keep learning and improving.

I have one of my great aunts paintings on my mantel. She painted it around 1910, and it has been handed down through the family. I love the way art lives on it’s own merits. If it’s pretty, people will hang onto it because it adds beauty to their lives. If the art is bad, it gets thrown away, and that is as it should be.

I also have tons of old photos that have come down through the family, including some of my great aunt, the painter. But the funny thing is, I have no use for them. They don’t add any beauty to my life. Her painting however is lovely. Art is cool, and I feel very lucky to be a painter.

I have all my recent paintings up on my landscapes page on my main website: my landscape painting page

I have a lot of administrative work to do this quarter. We are planning more changes in our program. They will be good changes, and will help our students get jobs, but it’s a lot of extra work above and beyond my normal full time teaching job. Still, I shouldn’t complain, I’m happy to be working. It’s fun learning new things.

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Indian Creek climbing and painting

Indian Creek, Moab

Daphney on Scarface
Daphney on Scarface

I’ve been back from climbing at Indian Creek for 10 days. Daphney and I had a great time.  We spent the first day with

cave route
cave route

Craig, who was on his way home from working in San Diego. That first day we climbed at the Donnelly crag. I tried to lead a 120 foot route called “Generic Crack”. The rack is one red, 9 yellows, two blues and a 4. I was fresh off a 24 hour drive on two hours of sleep…I bailed early. Craig and Daphney both led it clean. We also did the Cave route…or rather, they led it, while I took pictures. It was all reds, which is my worst size. My hands don’t fit in red cracks.  I found out later that, for guys with big hands, learning to master reds is the hardest thing to learn at the creek.

That was Saturday. Sunday we went back to Donnelly and climbed a few things we hadn’t got to the day before. She was super tired from on sighting 5.11’s the day before with Craig. We decided to take a rest afternoon. I offered to teach her how to oil paint.

crag near donnelly canyon
crag near donnelly canyon

We each did a nice painting of this rode side buttress in the afternoon light. It was her first oil painting ever and she did a fabulous job! We both started with  monochrome wash using Raw Umber. It’s a lot like using pencil, except it’s oil paint. You simply have to do a value study. I got bored with mine and broke out the color to make what you see here. The light was flat…no cast shadows, so the painting turned out almost abstract. Normally I hate painting in flat light, but something about this little painting works.

That night…might have been Sunday or Monday, it poured. We woke up to soaked sandstone and decided it was a good day to drive to town for some shopping and showers. We stopped by to see a hay bale house she had helped to build a couple years ago. It was a standard Ranch style house, one story, but the interior was all done by hand using hay and mixes of special mud.  The floor was not concrete, it was mud mixed with hay. You aren’t supposed to ever mop it. The owner can’t hang pictures on the walls with nails because the walls are hay bales covered with 2 inches of adobe plaster. I heard that this style of home construction can outlast standard buildings.

north fork mill creek canyon waterfall
north fork mill creek canyon waterfall
My painting, north fork mill creek canyon waterfall
My painting, north fork mill creek canyon waterfall

We still had time to kill before some of her other friends got off work so we hiked up to the North Fork of Mill Creek where there is a cool waterfall. There were some folks with a couple slack lines, but we ignored them as we set up our easels to paint. I decided to do this one with palette knife.  It was once again flat light, even raining a little bit but we found an overhang under which to paint. I was fully expecting this one to bomb. I still don’t know what to think of it, but it feels very fresh and lively. I use instagram to reach out to other like minded artists. When I posted this little waterfall, I was shocked to see it rack up more “likes” than any other painting I’ve ever posted.

 

We hung out with Ranger  M and his girlfriend J when we were in town on a rain day. My favorite route was “where’s carruthers”. It’s a 10+ left of Scarface that I led clean after following on top rope. As Daphney said, “Learning to accept top ropes when they are offered is part of how you become a creek climber”.

I did 4 paintings down there, all in a three day period where the rains came in at night. We drove to town, and I painted a waterfall up a canyon outside of Moab. When we woke up, I was ready to climb, but she said the rock needed another day. When I found out Delicate Arch was half an hour away, she went hiking and I went painting. I did two paintings that day.

delicate arch painting
delicate arch painting
soulfire 5.11
soulfire 5.11

I’ve had  the first one on my easel for the last few days. I’m trying to bring it to life. A lot of people liked it, perhaps more than any other painting I’ve done plein air. But I didn’t like it. I felt it was weak in many places. I’ve been slowly building in beauty, but it’s such a delicate process. The light is extremely tricky. It’s all reflected reds and tans. I’m trying to work from the photos I took as I did the plein air work…but I really miss the real light. Cameras don’t capture what I need, so my colors end up being guesses. Still, I was guessing on location, and it’s good practice to work in the studio.

Daphney gave me some great advice for the creek that applies to painting as well. “Forget about all your preconceived notions of how to define sucess. Do the best you can, and if it can’t be perfect, it’s fine to fail. You learn stuff either way, and it’s all fun. We are out here in this beautiful place, living the life we dreamed of. Who cares if the route was climbed perfectly, or if the painting is magnificent. Life is about learning and growing.”

Another cool route was mudslide 10+ over at Optimat0r wall. I followed D up Soulfire 5.11+: 130 feet of reds, capped by 3 greens near the anchor. I did quite well, only hung 3 times. I can’t wait to go back. It is the best crack climbing area I’ve ever seen.

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Self Portrait at 63

self portrait done

Staring at Mirrors

I finished another self portrait today.

Self portrait senior citizen pencil
Self portrait senior citizen pencil

I will post in order, first to last, along with a few notes about my thinking.

I started in pencil, made sure it was accurate, then sprayed it with fix. This pencil drawing was about 4 hours of work.  I intentionally made the eyes oversized. Several months ago I watched a movie called “Big Eyes”. Continue reading Self Portrait at 63

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Self Portrait March 2017

Another Self Portrait

I started another self portrait a few days ago. Pencil seemed like a good starting medium, but I got lost in the details and forgot it was going to all be covered up with oil paint. In hindsight I should have just done a nice pencil drawing and called it good. I’ve got some lovely Rives cold press 80# Illustration board that makes awesome pencil drawings. But I started this on gesso covered board, so an oil painting it will be.

Self Portrait from mirror, pencil
Self Portrait from mirror, pencil

I posted the pencil version on instagram  and my friend Kristi said I should leave some of the pencil showing, for an unfinished look. I’m not sure if that will happen, but I do like the look of the hair in pencil contrasted with the skin tones. I mean, if I wanted it photographic, I’ve got cameras for that. I’m trying to create art, but art is so hard to define.  It means different things to everyone.

Anyway, I’m happy with the progress, and look forward to spending more time on it. I’m still hammering out the color scheme. For example, what color is reflected light on skin? I’m using two lights: a shop trouble light (incandescent) for the main, and a much smaller fluorescent trouble light for the fill light.

I honestly can not see the hue. I keep guessing at violets and greens, but nothing rings true. They say any hue will work if the value is correct. And it’s true that if I flatten it to black and white the values look accurate…but that doesn’t help as I agonize over paint colors at my palette.

Self Portrait, 7 hours in
Self Portrait, 7 hours in

It’s lovely to have the spare time to paint. This quarter has been too much work and not enough play, up until this week.

Lisa and I did our usual birthday ski Tuesday. We went to Crystal this year where I tried out some borrowed downhill skis. My normal tele boots didn’t fit them so I tried out some boots from the early eighties and they were horrible. Now I realize I need to invest in new boots that will work for modern downhill skis. But I can’t afford both downhill boots and backcountry boots…assuming I want to ski randonee style (AT) in the backcountry.

At Crystal I quickly shed the downhill gear and went back to my telemark set up. That was awesome in the deep powder and I made it all day in those. But it’s all about the boots. My tele boots are only a few years old and they work great, very supportive in deep snow. My son said he would help me look for modern downhill boots when they go on sale this spring.