Thursday, July 22, 2010

Stevens Creek Park

Today we enjoyed perfect temperatures and views of the turquoise waters of the Stevens Creek Reservoir. We had the company of ducks and kayakers, and a soft breeze rustling the leaves. In my relaxed mood, the distant clank and rumble of the diggers and trucks in the nearby quarry was just another kind of music on the breeze.I started with a couple of sketches with my brushpens, then launched in with my watercolors. I was pleased with the colors I made, but my watercolor composition is a little disappointing. I was intending to put some ducks in - maybe that would help it.Just before left, I was attracted to the contrast on one of the picnic benches, so I did a quick sketch of the lights and darks.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Goldsmiths Seeds, Gilroy, July 8

I'm slowly getting back into the swing of plein air painting after my trip to Alaska. These are from our visit to Goldsmiths Seeds in Gilroy. Goldsmiths was taken over in 2008 and the new company name, Syngenta, is now prominent - which doesn’t sound quite as wholesome. This was borne out when we had set up for painting looking out over rows of pretty flowers towards the hills and a couple of colorful barns. An employee came over and asked us to move as they had just sprayed the flower beds behind us with pesticide and they didn’t want us to get sick!

There were plenty of flowers on the other side of the property though so most of us lugged our stuff over there and painted. The day had started off cool but cloudy skies soon gave way to clear blue. I prefer a little cloud in the sky, its just too boring to paint a plain blue wash for the sky!

Plein air painting is now down to twice a month, so in theory there won't be so much to post. However, I am seized with the desire to do some studio painting - so we'll see it that happens!


Its been so long since I posted that I'd forgotten my password. Thank heaven for post-its! Here, finally, are my sketches from the Alaska trip.
We began our journey on the overnight Coastal Starlight train from San Jose up to Seattle. The journey takes 24 hours and our accommodation (a roomette) was a little small, even for someone my size! It was hard to sleep, so I was wide awake at 4:30am and, sketchbook in hand, waited for it to get light enough to draw.
The passing landscape was quite magical - evergreen treetops silhouetted against the sky and the Sacramento River glimpsed as a silver torrent rushing through the blackness. Above Venus shone brightly in the dawn sky. Later, pink clouds appeared over the snow capped peaks of the Cascade mountains.
Rail stop at Klamath Falls
Seattle Space Needle from our hotel room as the sun was setting, Olympic mountains just visible in the background. I sat on the bed and managed to get my paints out for the first time.
The following day we boarded our ship, the Golden Princess, in Seattle and set off for Alaska. On the cruise I discovered that I have sea legs -well at least for moderate 10 foot swells! I enjoyed the ship much more that I thought I would. Even with 3000+ companions on board its still possible to get away from everyone if you so desire. The food is amazing and you could easily eat yourself into oblivion! (very quickly I realized I had to curtail my eating or I would have needed a whole new wardrobe by the time we got to Juneau!)
We visited Juneau and saw our first glacier - the Mendenhall. This was a magical moment. Nothing can prepare you for the size, force, and sheer beauty of a huge sheet of ice scouring its way over the mountains. We didn't have as much time as I would have liked to explore, but I managed a quick painting, sat at the feet of all the tourists at "photo point". I loved the milky blue of the meltwater lake and the floating icebergs shed by the glacer.

There were Arctic Terns nesting in the Lupins below me and they were performing amazing aerobatics above my head. I had my paper towel tucked in my coat pocket for easy access and when I had finished painting I realized that I had put more paint on my coat than on my sketch. I had to dash hastily to the restrooms and wash it off before rushing to catch the bus back to Juneau.

Our next port of call was Skagway for a trip to the Yukon. I only managed one tiny scribble in my diary as the coach stopped for 10 minutes at some roadworks. The landscape out there is achingly beautiful and the environments so varied. We traveled over the mountains on the Klondike Highway through rainforest, Alpine, sub arctic tundra, boreal forest and even past the smallest desert near Carcross. Our return journey was on the White Pass Railway, a narrow gauge railway that clings to the mountain side giving tremendous views of the valley and its waterfalls.
Next day we stayed on board ship and floated around Glacier Bay. We got our fill of the massive glaciers there and watched playful seals lounging on ice floes and humpback whales spouting off in the distance.Margerie Glacier in Glacier Bay. The striations and colors of these huge walls of ice are beautiful. I wished I'd had time to put paint on the paper.

Ketchikan sketched from the ship

Ketchikan (2 page spread) drawn from the ship as we were casting off

Well, what an amazing place Alaska is. I enjoyed my trip there so much and would go back in a heart beat. Photos and sketches just don't do it justice.
Since getting back I have been reading about Alaska and the gold rush. I loved Jack London's "Call of the Wild", and "White Fang". I am now reading John Muir's "Travels in Alaska" recounting his exploration of Alaska in 1879. He traveled thousands of miles in a canoe with native guides and climbed the peaks and glaciers, mostly alone, in search of knowledge about the flora, fauna, and geology of the area. His descriptions of the landscape are beautiful.