Friday, April 23, 2010

Mud, Mud, Glorious Mud - Hike and Sketch at Sunol

Flag Hill, Sunol

Ever hiked in a pair of mud overshoes?! It was a little sticky underfoot today up at Sunol after all the rain we got yesterday. We started our short hike on the Hayfield Road trail. This was NOT a road by any stretch of the imagination today. We slipped, slid and squelched up the hill through the ooze. Every few yards stopping to scrape the mud off our feet, and a couple of inches off our height! I have to say though that the vistas were well worth it. After a short slog up Hayfield we were stopped dead by the staggering view of Flag hill. Its green undulations crowned by rocks and pierced by stony ribs just begged to be painted.Further up still we came across a small herd of cattle. They lay about on the crest of a hill like so many cud chewing rocks. Blue hills in the distance created a perfect backcloth of pastoral serenity. The cows eyed us with disdain as we all set up our painting gear opposite them. Throughout our day the skies were alternately blue and cloudy, making for interesting color combos in our paintings.Our original plan was to go to the top of Hayfield than via Cave to Eagle View Road, but time spent grappling with the mud put us behind and instead we cut across on a narrow trail to Indian Joe Creek trail. This narrow trail proved even worse for mud than Hayfield, having been well churned up by the cows. Little pockets of slick mud and cow manure had to be dodged without falling down the sheer drop! Our arrival at the babbling brook of Joe Creek was greeted with relief and celebrated with lunch and more sketching. We saw the promise of a drier trail to return on.The dry trail was drier in some ways, but we did have to cross, and recross, the stream numerous times. Our last stop was to try and and capture the running water of the stream with fallen trees in it. I ran out of time on my painting and will have to finish from memory. All in all a wonderful day out in a beautiful landscape.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Mirror Lake at Yosemite

We just had a wonderful few days in Yosemite and were lucky enough to arrive after a terrible snowstorm so that we could enjoy the snow without really having to deal with it too much. On our arrival there was still a lot of cloud and gloom about which made for some atmospheric views of the valley.Lunchtime Sketch from the Meadow
Day One: There was a lot of ice and snow on the smaller trails so it was hard going in places, especially as my new walking shoes had no grip on the ice. The weather couldn't have been nicer though - glorious sunshine and increasing temperatures, which meant that the snow melted very quickly throughout our visit. We had lunch overlooking the meadow, Washington Column and the Arches. There was water cascading down the rocks all over, and the waterfalls were flowing well. I did this quick sketch as we sat in the sun eating our sandwiches. We hiked over 10 miles the first day.Sketch for watercolor

On Day Two: We had an abortive trip to see the Mariposa Grove - which you can only get into if you arrive early in the morning as they have very little parking (Duh! why even make it a highlight of the park if no-one can go there! That's twice we've tried to see it and been turned away.) In the afternoon we went to Mirror Lake and had lunch. I set up with my paints, did a brushpen sketch first, then went on to the watercolor at the top of this article. I was sat right on the shore and every now and then a warm breeze would blow by from somewhere. I got totally absorbed in the scene in front of me and had no idea of how much time passed. Keith and Steve had decided to hike the Mirror Lake trail as far as the huge rockfall which has now blocked it. They came back with aching limbs, so I'm glad I decided to paint!
I did another quick sketch at Mirror Lake then we went and ate at the Ahwahnee Hotel. This involved another hike, but we were glad we didn't try to drive as the hotel road was being dug up and there was a huge line of cars waiting to go in and out. By the end of the day our old muscles and joints were protesting the miles of walking we'd done.Keith panning for gold

On Day Three: we drove up to Columbia for a little gold prospecting. I've found the perfect way to keep two old guys happy for hours!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Santa Clara Mission

We were lucky with the weather today - sunny, but cold. I needed sunscreen and a hat and gloves! The clouds were looking threatening, which meant we could have some fun with the skies. Not so much cobalt blue or cerulean, more of the grays and purples, yay! And, for once, we weren't driven crazy by the lawn mowers and leaf blowers.
The Wisteria was blooming nicely over the walkway next to the church and it seemed like every other bush and plant had flowers too. I set up behind the church building, with just a hint of the church tower peeking amongst the foliage. However, I "removed" some of the palm trees trunks which should be on the right so I could put in more sky.
At one point I was stalked by one of the local cats, who was apparently attracted by the movements I was making behind the bushes. When this black and white carnivore got close enough he realized I was too big to hunt and decided instead to see if I had anything good to eat in my paintbox!
Just for fun, here's my painting from this site back in 2008, a much warmer day I think.


Old Sacramento, outside the Railway Museum

Spent a fun weekend up in Sacramento, staying at the Citizen Hotel. We were a short walk from the State Capitol Building and Capitol Park which is a beautiful area during the day (I was told by another visitor that the park is full of homeless people at night).
Here is a scribbly view from our hotel window
and a couple of sketches of the Tower Bridge, a vertical lift bridge spanning the Sacramento River. Old Sacramento School House (Tower Bridge in background)
I was hoping to see the bridge raise up for a ship to go under, but the only excitement was a protest march about education cuts. The marchers made quite an impressive noise as I was sketching the School House in Old Sacramento, and then I caught them going back over the bridge after I'd had lunch. I'd forgotten my usual sepia pens for drawing, so had to make do with a biro from my purse,

Calero Hike and Sketch

View from above Los Cerritos Pond

Another glorious day, perfect for hiking and sketching on the Calero Regional Park hills. There were some wildflowers out and it was warm enough to dispense with jackets once we got going. We started with a quick sketch in the car park. We had a wonderful clear view of Mount Hamilton in the distance with its cluster of telescopes on the summit.Mt Hamilton (from the car park)
We hiked up a steepish trail to Los Cerritos Pond. From here we had views across the rolling green hills to the distant purple mountains. We were serenaded by redwinged blackbirds who flew among the reeds in the pond. Above us hawks and vultures soared. It was a very peaceful and serene spot.
I struggled with trying to capture the panorama in watercolor and after a couple of attempts went back to my brush pens and sketchbook for subsequent sketches.Wildflowers on the trail
We did another couple of stops and had lunch. We all enjoyed the peace and quiet of the park on a beautiful spring day.

Granada Theatre, Morgan Hill

Granada Theatre, (brush pens)

For this paintsite we were invited to paint the Granada Theatre to bolster public awareness of this local landmark and hopefully save the building from demolition. We were blessed with a beautiful sunny day and despite sitting on the sidewalk with all the traffic going by, it was a fun day out and everyone enjoyed it.
My initial pen sketch came out pretty well and I was pleased with that.
My watercolor was not so successful, so I turned around and faced down the street and did a sketch of the road and hillside with my brush pens.