Lake Davis with fire lookout on Smith Peak. These fire lookouts are no longer used but can be rented for vacations. Usually access is difficult and you have to be in shape to get there, but it’s a very popular destination. To keep track of fires these days the forest service uses helicopters or planes.
This was done the same day as the other Jamison Creek, but it was an experiment in composition. Usually a creek is done in a horizontal format, but I was sitting in the shade and had this view of the creek through some bushes on either side. I thought it looked sort of like a layer cake, and so I painted it that way. Maybe my mind was just on dessert?
Last time I was in So. Calif I spent a whole day in San Juan Capistrano taking hundreds of photos. This is a watercolor from one of my photos. I had no idea how difficult it would be to paint a ruin, and I’m seeing mistakes now that it’s on the screen. Funny how that happens. Anyhow, this is the original church which was ruined in an earthquake and they have since built a new one and just left the old ruin there since it’s so picturesque. I liked the juxtaposition of the old and the new growth in the gardens surrounding it.
Last week I drove to Lake Tahoe. As usual, it was VERY beautiful, very crowded, with heavy traffic. I shouldda gone during a weekday, but since it’s summer I’m not sure it would have made a difference. Winter is just as crowded with skiers and nowhere to park a car because the snow is piled up everywhere. Anyhow, I only did one painting and finished it at home, and glad to get home too. I go into a glassy-eyed coma when there are too many people around. And yes, the water really is that color.
Lupines are blooming everywhere right now, with whole hillsides covered in blue, and these little butterflies come out when lupines bloom because it is one of their host plants on which they lay their eggs. I did not catch the iridescence of the wings with watercolor pigment. Anyhow, these butterflies love to “puddle”–that is, they find some damp sand or mud and the males collect there by the hundreds to slurp up some sort of minerals they need in order to breed, and I guess also to discuss how to find the female butterflies who are less brilliant but also beautiful. The first time I drove through a puddle where they collected I had my car windows open and went through a butterfly attack. They filled the car and I had to stop and shoo them all out before continuing.
This is a difficult plant, both to draw and to paint, and I try to do one every year when they bloom just to see if I can finally get it right. It’s a blue penstemon, and they bloom in June near roadsides and in open places where it’s quite dry.
Here is one I did just last Saturday. I was in a meadow by my favorite lake watching a thunderstorm over the mountains, and it started raining, so some of the ink and color ran in spots, and I liked that natural touch and decided to keep it. From left to right: Camas Lily, Blue-eyed grass, cinquefoil.
Camas lily bulbs were a food staple of the Indian tribes around here, and contrary to popular opinion of how peaceful they were, they had fierce wars over control of the camas lily fields. Every once in a while in a field of blue there will be a white camas lily and they are called “death lilies” because they are VERY poisonous. the Indians used to mark the death lilies so that they wouldn’t accidentally dig up the bulbs when they harvested, because if the plant is not in bloom there is no way to tell. The first time I came over a hill and saw a meadow filled with camas lilies I thought it was water in the distance, and the closer I came the more I realized they were flowers by the millions. What a sight that was! It still awes me.
I tend to do a lot of this type of close observation of natural phenomenon, and the differences between things that look similar but aren’t at all. Most of my sketchbooks are filled with this sort of detail of the natural world, with my comments. It’s like a picture diary, except it’s a nature journal.