Half Dome, Yosemite
6 x 8 inches
oil on canvas
Almost everyone I meet in California knows someone who has climbed Half Dome or they’ve done it themself. In our family, my husband did the climb in college, and our son did it just a few years ago. It’s a rite of passage, and a beautiful one at that. I’m too squeamish about heights to attempt it myself, but I admire those who have.
This little painting is the perfect size for a holiday gift, to commemorate a friend or family member’s climb to the summit.
Half Dome, from Glacier Point, Yosemite
12 x 16″ original oil painting
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From the valley floor, Yosemite’s Half Dome is a lofty structure. But it is only from Glacier point, when you can look across the valley at it, that you see the true size of Yosemite’s massive landmark. This painting depicts the monumental formation in early summer, when there is still some snow evident on its flanks. Soon, the snows will come and shroud it in whiteness once again.
My husband and I have been visiting Yosemite since we honeymooned there (a very long time ago) and it never fails to captivate me, no matter the season or the weather. One of my favorite views is that of Yosemite Falls from the valley floor. The water is roaring more than ever this year, with the melting snow waters. With autumn on the way, it won’t be long before these peaks are snow clad again. We were told that many of the trees are going to be removed from the valley floor because their growth is obscuring the geological features that people come to see. I hope they don’t remove too many, though. The stately pines and deciduous trees add to the overall beauty of the park.
Half Dome, Yosemite
Oil painting on canvas
8 x 10 inches
In the summer, Half Dome, the iconic representation of Yosemite (it’s even their park logo) rises about a meadow filled with marshy grasses and strewn with wildflowers. When we were there in mid summer, I noticed something moving not far from me in the meadow. Suddenly, a large mule deer stood up. He had four prongs on each antler so I guess that would make him an 8-point buck. After looking around and seeing us, he casually walked a few yards, then settled down again. I got a decent photo of him. Maybe I’ll paint that some day.
Yosemite Falls from the Swinging Bridge
11 x 14 oil painting
The Swinging Bridge across the Merced River in Yosemite connects the two sides of Yosemite valley. From the bridge, or a little south of it, where I was, you can see Yosemite Falls cascading down the granite face. Yosemite Falls is the highest waterfall in North America. When we visited, in the summer, it was not at its most intense flow, but it was impressive all the same.
8 x 10
oil on board
This scene is from the foothills of the Sierra, approaching Yosemite from the western side. Oak covered hills and golden grasses make for a limited palette scene.
Most of this was painted with ultramarine and prussian blue, yellow ochre, and small touches of alizarin to create the violets and warm accents. I’m using this study as a way to experiment with some color choices for larger Sierra foothills paintings yet to come.
Plein air oil painting
9 x 12 inches
This was painted en plein air Friday, July 17 in Yosemite Valley.
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Well, I’m back from our whirlwind tour of Northern California. I didn’t have the time or energy to upload paintings every day, but now that I’m back I’m going to try to catch up. This was painted on the last day of our trip, late in the afternoon. If you are a new visitor to my blog, one of the people who saw me painting this in progress, welcome! Now you know how it turned out.
Yosemite Valley was spectacular, as always, but it was very hot, as it currently is in Los Angeles. But just looking at the cool water of the Merced River seemed to help. Those distant thunderheads, which rose as I painted, tell you how much moisture and humidity there was in the air.
As always, people gathered around to watch me tackle the scene. They are always very polite and ask if they can watch. I let them know that if I wanted to be alone, I’d be in my studio! I truly enjoy having observers, as long as they are ok with me continuing to work as we chat. My husband took the picture below as I wrapped up. You can see by the painting compared to the final photo how much the light changed during the time I was painting. But it’s a no-win game to keep chasing shadows. You just have to draw them in at the beginning and then stick with the plan.
The colors of fall dazzle when caught, reflected in the serene waters of the Merced River. This large (half-sheet) watercolor takes advantage of the range of Yosemite’s beauty and is a preview of some new work I’ll be showing this year, both in watercolor and in oil.
When I’m exhibiting at a public show, one of the questions that people ask me most frequently is “which do you prefer painting, watercolor or oil?” It’s a hard question because the two media are so different in some ways, yet so similar in fundamental ways. For the sheer excitement of painting with all the unpredictability and opportunity for “happy accidents” you just can’t beat watercolor. Take a look at the luminous reflections in the water, for example, they were created with a wet into wet technique. You can certainly paint water in oil (and I do it all the time) but you can’t get a look exactly like that. Oil allows you the luxury of correcting mistakes more easily. Watercolor (especially when working with staining colors) can be very unforgiving. The short answer is, I love them both, for different reasons and I find that what I learn in one medium can often be applied to the other even though paint handling is different. The basics … color, line, shape, value, feeling, interpretation, composition … these things do not change and translate easily from medium to medium.
Here’s a closeup of just a detail of one of the trees. This would actually make a nice painting, enlarged, all on its own. Hmmmm, wheels turning … stay tuned.