Painting Yosemite Valley

This autumn I joined several of my painting friends on an adventure in Yosemite Valley. The group were all members of a Santa Cruz area painting group I helped form back in 2001. At least 15 members of that group went to Yosemite in the middle of October. We hoped our timing would land us there as the fall colors erupt from the trees along the Merced River. Our timing was just right, leaves were turning, and no rains had yet come to wash them off the trees. It was a bit chilly that week, but the sun was out each mid-day and Yosemite Valley was glorious.

At this time of year, a drama is created by the colorful reflections of the trees in the river which flows through the valley. My challenge was to rig up a way to hold my easel, as I had forgotten to pack my tripod. My easel holds both my palette of paints and the painting on which I’m working. So how to paint?

My husband and I grabbed chairs from our cabin and carried them back to the riverside at my chosen painting spot. I sat in one chair and supported my easel with the other. I had no clamps of any sort, so things remained pretty unsteady throughout the painting session. But I am very happy with the painting, so that went OK. But my challenge was truly solved when my friend and fellow artist Richard came to the rescue. Richard had packed an extra easel, which he was happy to lend to me. The rest of my paintings that trip were painted far more comfortably. But this is just a reminder that after years of plein air painting I can still forget important equipment!

Yosemite was fabulous all day and night. The full moon rose over Half Dome one night, through a patchwork of clouds. It would peek out occasionally, casting a glow on the back of Half Dome. I watched the moon move through the sky, attentively making mental notes to add a painting later to my full moon collection.

Several of my friends were actually able to paint near the river at night, but it was a bit too chilly for me. We all caught some dramatic photos. Early evening, I went to the meadow when the earth was still giving off warmth. The day temperature was perfect, but the night and early morning was cold and paint was stiff. (Like my joints.) Mornings were a good time to stay warm and cozy and wait for the sun to warm the valley.

The final night of the trip, many of us joined for a meal in the amazing dining room of the Ahwanee Hotel. (er, the Yosemite Grand Majestic.) A great group around a pretty big table. Thanks to all these artists for sharing this with me.
This trip happened two days after my last Open Studio weekend, so these paintings will be scheduled for a future exhibit.

I now need to decide on what imagery to focus on for the winter. Perhaps a large painting of Yosemite?

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