Painting again with ink and wash

Posted by on July 31st, 2022  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

A couple weeks ago Sue and I hiked up the skyline trail to my favorite view of Rainier. I did a strong pen and ink underdrawing feeling dialed in. I put my pens away and started in on the Gouache. Normally, the India Ink is dry and I can paint over the top of the ink as if it wasn’t there. This time a disaster ensued.

I need to back up a little. Back in March, my Twisbi pen had clogged up. I was too ignorant to realize I was using the wrong ink. I’d gotten away with using India Ink because it does work for a while…just not in hot weather.

India Ink, also known as *dip pen* ink is designed to be used on pens from the 1860’s. Those pens were a wood body with a thin split metal tip (nib). You dip the nib in the ink bottle and draw until the nib runs dry, then you dip again. Think calligraphy from 1975. I’m not big on reading directions, and having come from dip pens back in the seventies, I put that same ink in my modern $60 Twisbi fountain pen. As long as I drew every few days, the ink, which has shellac and large pigment particles would work fine. But if I stopped drawing for a couple weeks, or tried to draw in a heat wave the ink would dry up and ruin a $25 Twisbi nib.

Fast forward to last March when my nib died. I purchased a new Lamy pen in Vegas, thinking it was using the same waterproof India ink as my Twisbi. I would have bought another fountain pen, but the Lamy was all they had at Blicks.

The Lamy ink, which comes in disposable cartridges, is designed for just the Lamy fountain pen. It will not dry out in the pen. Part of the reason it stays wet when the pen is capped is that it doesn’t have shellac.

My Twisbi pen would literally dry out while I was drawing if it was hot and the sun was shining. But back to that day on Rainier a month ago…I start to paint over the Lamy pen and ink drawing and the black ink melted and ran. Every color I painted had black added to it as the line dissolved. My yellow gouache brush strokes turned brown, my reds turned muddy. It was a wasted hike and a bad painting.

Wednesday Sue and I hiked up to the same viewpoint. This time I had my Twisbi fountain pen loaded with a new ink. I’d done my research after the Lamy disaster. I’d found a new waterproof and permanent ink called de Atramentis Archive. I also had my Lamy loaded with this new ink, plus a technical pen from my Uncle Dan (thanks Marcus) along with a new pen called a Noodlers Safety pen loaded with true India Ink. Beyond that I had a few Pigma disposable pens. I was loaded for bear.

I did a fine pen underdrawing and started in on the color. Big surprise: it worked flawlessly. No bleeding, no melting, a perfect ink. With that problem out of the way I could focus on what I do best: staring at the subtle colors on the mountain and interpreting them into something I could mix on my palette. As a famous painter once said: “The hue doesn’t matter if the value is right”. This means if you view a crazy colored painting in black and white it will look correct.

Painting the Nisqually glacier is always the heart of the matter. If I can nail those blues and greens down the rest of the painting is easy breezy. Those go down without a pen underdrawing. The values are so light pen can’t be used. I can usually capture it with about 7 barely there colors. Almost all the same value…just variations on emerald as the waining afternoon light builds into alpenglow.

I usually have about 90 minutes of stable light. It’s a mad dash of mixing and throwing color around. I love that part of the process. I’m like a kid in a candy store. Every little stroke of color makes me smile. I’ve had small crowds of hikers stand behind me while I’m laying down those brushstrokes, murmuring amongst themselves like I’m some kind of magician.

On the last trip, I was listening to some calming music on my headphones when a hiker suddenly appeared at my elbow. He startled me as it had been a fairly quiet day. But suddenly he was there, lips moving. I had to pull my ear buds out to hear him. I don’t mind talking to folks, but it does stop my painting process until they leave.

I thought of dropping by my gallery on the way through Ashford. But if he had wanted them, I wouldn’t even have high resolution photo for my records. Plus I like to fondle my latest creations for a few weeks. If it’s a boring day and I’m feeling uninspired, I can get them out and bask in their illumination.

Do you have any Grey Poupon?

Posted by on July 30th, 2022  •  0 Comments  •  Full Article

In 1981 there was a famous commercial where a window rolls down in a limousine and some rich guy asks another rich guy if he has any Grey Poupon mustard. It’s become legendary as a friendly gesture for handing something off to a stranger in unusual circumstances.

We were up at Index waiting to lead a difficult 5.9 off width called Battered Sandwich. There was a party of three on it, and two of them had already climbed it with little trouble. But as I watched the third guy rack up I sensed some alarm bells going off. You can tell a lot from how a climber presents themselves on the ground. Little things like how they talk about the route, how new and shiny the gear is, and most importantly: do they have enough of the right gear.

Battered has 60 feet of four to eight inch crack climbing. If you don’t have at least three #4’s, four #3’s and a #5, you’d better have the skill to power through with long run outs. This guy had half of that gear and I was not getting a good feeling about his plans. I was in the queue, having asked my standard question on arrival at the crowded crag: “Who’s doing what?”

I usually walk up to the route and hangout until there is a break in the conversation. When they glance my way, they know why I’m there. It’s pretty obvious on a crowded weekend why a new climber would suddenly crash the party. But I try to be courteous and friendly. They said that they only had one guy remaining, and he was going to lead and clean the route. That sounded great, and would normally be a short, maybe half hour wait. I had gear to rack, shoes and kneepads to put on…no problem…except for the alarm bells.

40 minutes later he was frozen in place at the six inch flare. He was out of big gear as expected, but fortunately had the good sense to not climb further into danger. By that time I’d already told James that we should lead the open 5.7 next to him, for something to do. At least we’d be climbing, instead of watching another sh&tshow, and maybe we could do a good deed by handing the poor guy some of the big cams he so desperately needed. The Wild Turkey route we were planning to do was just 10 feet to the left. James took up an extra #3 and #4 to hand off to the guy in a “Grey Poupon” moment.

I was focused on belaying when it happened, but I heard a murmur of quiet laughter go through the dozen or so people milling around the base of the route. I looked up and saw the second cam being handed off between the two routes. It was a beautiful moment. With all the violence and chaos in the news these days…war in Ukraine, mass shootings, homeless people sleeping on sidewalks, raging wildfires…it was a very warm and fuzzy moment to see the mustard exchanging hands. This guy’s battered sandwich would at least have good condiments.

Later I led the route cleanly, though I almost fell out of it when I got my moves scrambled in the off hands section. The feet were bomb bay flaring, and the hands were between fists and hands. Meaning, I had no feet or no hands that were worth a damn. My pro was good, I was safe enough…but jeez, it was so insecure! And that wasn’t even the crux!

I forgot to mention that Jame had gone off to belay Ethan when my turn came up on Battered. I asked one of the friendly 5.8 leaders if they could give me a catch. The girl who belayed me was very experienced. I’d seen her float up seniors and Wild Turkey. I knew I was in good hands.

At the top she was very impressed with my lead. She asked if I had any advice to offer so she could up her lead game for climbs like Battered. It’s very flattering for an old white haired has been to have a twenty something woman ask for advice. It’s true that I have paid my dues on Index nines so I was able to offer up a few words of wisdom.

Later on the ground people were commenting that they had looked up, worried, hearing all my frantic grunting. I hate it when I do that. Some of us are just noisy leaders. James led it later, breaking a trigger wire in the same spot and having his own little epic. I had to sit on a tipped out #3 to get his broken #4 out of the crack. On a top rope I was able to find a very tight but good fist jam and power through. I need to remember that key jam next lead.

At the true crux, I found (on top rope of course) that if you do just 6 inches of upward heel toe wiggling with your left foot, you can lean out into space and get your right toe on the two by six inch ledge. With this foot hold you can step up into chicken wing territory and most of the difficulties are over.

City of Rocks Rendezvous Number 2

Posted by on July 6th, 2022  •  1 Comment  •  Full Article

Sue joined me for my second ‘over 50’ rendezvous in Idaho. It was organized by Helen again, and about 8 of the same people came, plus as many as 10 new people. Simultaneously the super topo group was there at the Sisters. Jim has been going to that group for at least 5 years that I know of, maybe longer.

Because of the two groups there were a lot of gray and white haired climbers around. When we got there some of my friends from last year were camped down below, waiting for the group site to open up. Only Helen was up top, she was camped in 58, a walk in down by Carols Crack.

We had done the drive in two 6 hour days. For our midpoint we camped just past the crowded Emmigrant Springs at a campground called Hilgard Junction State Park. It was empty, $25 cheaper than Immigrant, and just a short 20 minute drive further South East.

On the second day Sue was on a quest to find an old school campfire percolating coffee pot. REI in Boise didn’t have it, nor did Cabellas. While in Boise I rode my Unicycle in a deserted parking lot. I also rode it every couple days in the gravel lot at the group camp. Gravel is really hard compared to pavement. It requires an aggressive forward lean that is very energy intensive.

Sue and I did Windance and Da Boyz on the first day after helping Helen set up her gazebo. Folks started rolling in over the next couple days. Cindy, Jill and I did Easy Corner on the back side of Breadloaves. On the rap down I saw a nice line of new bolts through a roof. It looked like a one move wonder at the roof.

It was just one move alright but it was a whopper. You clipped a few bolts and cams until you were standing under a 4 to 5 foot roof. Perfectly horizontal with a bolt out at the lip. The clip meant leaning way out behind your head, coming perilously close to falling over backwards. Once clipped I walked down the slab and reached up to the lip. Great jug at the lip, and with just a little stretch I could reach a super good left hand jug.

My chin was even with the lip jug. The move was to do a pull up on the left jug and put your foot by your chin. I was pulling so hard on that ultra sharp waco that I still have a painful scab two weeks later. Nothing like getting to bad bleeders on the first day. And no running water to keep the wounds clean. Plus they are right on the flexing joints of my first and third fingers.

After 8 falls and and two bleeding flappers I put a sling on the bolt and aided the move. Cindy followed it cleanly. The rest of the climb was barely 5.7. Cass showed up for a couple days. I climbed with her and a bunch of other friends old and new for the next 10 days. We checked out a new crag on the weekend called Geowatt. It’s out toward Stripe Rock on the right on the Geology trail. There was only one other party there so our crowd plan worked. I led a two sevens an eight and a nice sport nine with a couple falls. It was fun, but not worth the hike.

Midway through the trip we were all invited to have Pizza at Kim’s house. He has a lovely log vacation home overlooking the City of Rocks. I don’t know him personally but I’ve heard he is a long time climber who simply likes giving back to the community. He was very gracious and welcoming to all of us unwashed climbers showing up to eat many, many boxes of pizza. My friend Jim knows him from way back due to his association with the super topo group.

Sue, Jim, Keith, Jay and I hiked out to Lost World and climbed a bunch of the chill sevens and eights. They were also at Geowatt, along with Mark and family.

After Dara left, I followed Cory up Skyline, Scream Cheese and Swiss Cheese. I led Private Idaho 5.9 but the sun was baking Cory by the time he had to clean. We zombied out in the shade at camp for a few hours before Mark and I led one of the two new bolted Pogue routes on Bath Rock.

That’s our trip in a nutshell. Since returning I’ve been to Index with Christine and have returned to regularly scheduled programming on the unicycle. Riding tennis courts is problematic due to the annoying appearance of tennis players. Who knew that was a thing?

I just recently discovered a skate park in a huge abandoned parking lot by a stadium. It’s all asphalt, much larger than any tennis court and weirdos with helmets and kneepads are expected. I’ve found my unicycle Shangri-La!