Friday, August 18, 2017

Down in the Valley and up by a Mountain Lake

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
A couple more paintings made in the last little while share this post. The first one was painted west of town, near the lake. My interest was in the distant ridges, and in the clouds passing overhead. Some things in a landscape, like shadows and clouds, move. Moving things are a little more challenging to paint from life. Clouds move even faster than cast shadows, so they get painted first. Whether painting cast shadows or clouds, a quick lay-in starts the process off, then memory is used to finish it. 

9" x 12" Oil on Panel
The second was painted at an alpine lake, nearly 10,000 feet elevation in the Wasatch Mountains. The lake is in the Albion Basin, and is a popular destination for hikers of all ages. Social media and ease of access have made it perhaps a little too popular. The trail is only about two miles from parking area to lake. On this particular day there were so many people winding their way up the trail to the lake that I felt like I was joining a pilgrimage rather than going on a nature hike. The lake and surrounding mountains are nonetheless beautiful. I set up on a rocky point that juts out into the water. From there I painted a group of trees near the shore and across part of the lake.

While painting, I noticed that there were several salamanders swimming around in the lake near me. They are young tiger salamanders, about five or six inches long. A new discovery for me! I haven't seen salamanders in Utah until now.

There were also lots of brightly clad tourists around the lake. Here I was out in "wilderness," and never before have I had so many people standing around me watching me paint! I was glad the rocky point I was on was was relatively narrow, which allowed only so many spectators at a time.

Salamanders can swim in the lake, but according to a sign at the top of the trail, people aren't allowed to. Yet, the cold water of the lake is irresistible to some, and a few people jumped in and began swimming. Several, especially children, waded near shore. Before long, a man (I presume he was a ranger) stood high on a rock on the other side of the lake and yelled at the swimmers to get out of the water. "Can't you read the sign? No swimming!" A uniformed ranger then walked around the lake brusquely telling anyone who had so much as their toes in the water to get out of the water.

The weather that day was wonderful. It wasn't until late in the day that clouds moved in, blocking the sun. Shortly after finishing the painting, I began the hike back down the trail. Peak season for alpine flowers is past, but the meadows the trail wound through were still richly speckled with color. Lupine, paintbrush, aster, and other wildflowers of all colors brightened the meadows along the way. A deer browsed near meadow's edge by a stand of evergreen trees.

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