Big Trees: Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

Monday, May 29, 2017

General Grant Kings Canyon

Memorial Day. Logic says stay away from National Parks, right? Because of all the people who take advantage of the holiday to swarm the entrances?

Well, we joined the horde this weekend. True, we stayed in Fresno and got to the entrance early so there was barely any line. Also, we have an annual pass. And we went to Kings Canyon and Sequoia instead of, you know, Yosemite.

Okay, so getting to Fresno on Friday evening was not fun. At one point, it took an hour to go one mile. On the plus side, we saw an elegant woman on horseback as we waited, and some children in the car ahead of us got out to stretch their legs and went free range.

En route to Fresno 1

En route to Fresno 2

En route to Fresno 3

At least the traffic going south here is in the middle of farm country -- way more fun than idling on 95 in Connecticut.

And the payoff was those glorious vistas in the parks. At the top of this post is my sketch of General Grant (the third largest tree). Sequoias are massive. Many of them had fire scars like this one.

A highlight of our trip (apart from staring in awe at those gigantic trees) was our hike to Zumwalt Meadow. We picnicked in the shade by the river and then walked/waded to a lush clearing to see North Dome:

North Dome Kings Canyon

Like Yosemite ... but you don't have to share the experience with a hundred other people.

As we drove the Generals Highway through the parks, we saw lots of evidence of past fires. The chaparral with the twiggy remains is hauntingly beautiful.

Chaparral Kings Canyon

In fact, fires are part of the circle of life there -- the sequoias rely on it to release the seeds from their cones and expose mineral-rich soil.

Exiting Sequoia National Park


Workshops X 2 (+ Prep)

Monday, May 29, 2017

Last weekend I taught back-to-back sketching workshops in the South Bay. One was for winners of an Art in Action fundraising auction, and the other was for some Google colleagues.

The morning session was in Palo Alto, near the sculpture garden at Stanford's Cantor Arts Center. We found a shady spot to set up, and I had the group do several warm-up exercises. We practiced thumbnails, talked about using a waterbrush, and considered how to draw people. Quickly. Because they move.

AiA workshop Cantor Arts sculpture garden

Initially I'd considered holding the workshop at Baylands, but there's absolutely no shade out on the trails so I'm glad I chose the Cantor. Here are a few thumbnails I did as I scouted out locations:

Baylands Palo Alto thumbnails

The watercolor set we were using was made by Yarka. For an inexpensive student-grade set, the colors are quite rich. Below is a study I did to practice using them, from a photo I'd taken in Manchester at last year's Urban Sketchers symposium. It's a beautiful city; we all fell in love with it as we drew its cinnamon brick and shaded canals, and it's heartbreaking to see its people go through so much pain right now.

Manchester canal study

For the second workshop, I was providing the sketchbooks (I sprang for ones that were adequate but not too expensive), so I spent some time getting used to the paper beforehand. I chose Strathmore's Sketch (200 Series), which has 50 lb paper. It's for dry media, but I figured we could get away with a little bit of watercolor.

To test it, I took it with me when we rode the mini steam train at Berkeley's Tilden Regional Park a few weeks ago:

Tilden Regional Park train

And I experimented with watercolor washes.

Test landscape watercolor

I also used it at Artspan's sketch meetup at Huckleberry Bicycles in San Francisco. I'm pretty terrible at drawing bicycles (sad, I know, given M. does this) so it was a good chance to practice. The "models" (including M.) got to choose any bike they wanted and held poses for about five minutes. Just enough time to make a mess.

Huckleberry Bikes 1

Huckleberry Bikes 2

Huckleberry Bikes 3

Huckleberry Bikes 4

Huckleberry Bikes 5

Huckleberry Bikes 6

By the day of my workshop, I was pretty comfortable with the thin paper. Here's a quick demo I did for the participants, of people lounging in the park near the Mountain View Public Library. It's amazing how a little color can bring simple gestural lines to life.

Workshop people studies

At the end of the afternoon I was exhausted -- but very happy that both sessions had gone well. Next time, I won't be scheduling two workshops on the same day!


Painting in My "Backyard"

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Our property is adjacent to Santa Teresa County Park, so we sort of have a really big backyard.

Santa Teresa County Park tree

Here's my painting of a tree in the park (oil on panel). When I started painting it, there were cows on the hill. A few minutes later, they were gone. I'll just say I left them out so I can title it something clever like "Where Did All the Cows Go?"


Plein Air Art in the Park

Tuesday, May 09, 2017

Martial Cottle Park, San Jose, CA

I entered the Santa Clara County Plein Air Art in the Park competition a few weeks ago. The location chosen was Martial Cottle State Park, a relatively new park in San Jose about six miles from me. I entered both the two-hour Quick Draw event, in which artists were given access to the Martial Cottle Life Estate (a restricted area within the park) and the main Plein Air competition.

The acrylic painting above won 3rd Place in the Plein Air competition, and my Quick Draw watercolor painting won an Honorable Mention. I don't have a picture of the Quick Draw painting yet, as I had to turn it in right away for judging. I'll post a picture of it once I get it back from the county.

Here I am at the Martial Cottle Park Spring Celebration, where all the paintings were displayed last weekend (thanks M. for the picture).


It was wonderful to meet other plein air painters in the area, including Kevin Kasik, who has participated in Los Gatos Plein Air before. He advised me to approach it like a sporting event -- eat right, get lots of sleep, etc. Great tips!

San Jose

Golf: My New Favorite Sport...

Saturday, May 06, 2017 sketch. OK, yes, it's sad that I've lived next to a golf course for two years and am only just discovering its pleasures. I still don't know how to golf, but it's really fun to draw other people practicing their swings and putts.

Santa Teresa Golf Club 1

Santa Teresa Golf Club 2

Santa Teresa Golf Club 3


San Diego Sketchbook

Saturday, May 06, 2017

Ocean view from Point Loma, San Diego, CA

First time in San Diego! Only spent a few days there, but it's a lovely city, and we'll be back. The painting above was done on location in Point Loma, at Cabrillo National Monument. I used Cobra water-mixable oils, which I bought at the Plein Air Convention & Expo. Loved the consistency -- they don't feel as stiff as the W&N Artisan paints.

In my sketchbook, I tried to capture little vignettes of the city over the time we were there.

At Breakfast Republic in Liberty Station:

Breakfast Republic, San Diego, CA

A quick sketch over lunch in the Gaslamp Quarter:

Gaslamp Quarter, San Diego, CA

A sketch of the harbor from the patio at the Sheraton:

Harbor from Sheraton Hotel & Marina, San Diego, CA

Sketches from the car as we drove around:

Sketches from car, San Diego, CA

Lots of sketches of La Jolla Cove, since we stayed to see the sunset:

La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

At La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

At La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

At sunset, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

At sunset, La Jolla Cove, La Jolla, CA

The Firehouse Museum, as we ate breakfast near the farmer's market:

Firehouse Museum, San Diego, CA

On the drive back:

Driving back from San Diego, CA