We just returned from an all too quick family vacation to Yosemite National Park in California. We had three idyllic days there, visiting friends and taking in all the grandeur. Yosemite is one of the most amazing treasures this country has preserved. I have had the great fortune to see it in winter covered in crisp snow (my favorite time to go), in spring while in full bloom, as well as in summer during peak tourism season. I usually would be bothered by all those other people, but for some reason, in Yosemite I am more willing to share the vistas (this place definitely brings out the best in me). The National Park Service has done a phenomenal job of controlling the congestion that once filled the valley floor with diesel fumes, by installing Hybrid buses with efficient service to all destinations. No longer are lines and lines of tourist buses stuck in traffic while circling the valley floor for those postcard perfect shots of the falls. We were able to rent bikes (with trailers for the kids and the gear) and were therefore able to see much more than if just on foot. We hiked, we swam, we ate delicious picnics, and I did get to paint... one small painting.
While the kids played on the beach and in the water, I got to listen to their sounds of joy, while creating a little bit of my own. I'm always humbled by nature and trying to represent it justly. I've heard tales of what artists must endure in nature to try to capture it's beauty (mosquitoes, lightening, cold, rain etc.) but I don't think I've come across a story of bandit squirrels and children with fists full of sand. I set up my (new) pochade box in a shady corner of the beach near a rock outcropping. Instead of looking out at Mirror Lake, this spot offered me a chance to look back at the beach and shallow waters of the shore. Living in this rock outcropping were a couple of pesky ground squirrels. They had absolutely no fear of humans. Unfortunately, these rodents have become quite adept at opening backpacks and stealing bits of sandwiches and apple cores. While I was sitting there, they had no problem coming right under my leg to check out what I had in my Ziploc bag (paints). They obviously know these bags usually contain food. So for awhile I let them investigate, thinking they would go away when they realized there was no food involved. But after many distracted moments (thinking they were going to crawl up my shorts... uggh) I finally gave one of them a light whack with the handle of my brush. It was surprised, and they didn't bother me after that. But then, the children on the beach (my own and others) often would wander up to see what I was painting. Children have a different sense of personal space. They dripped water and sand into my paint while getting their noses as close as possible to the painting. Their questions were fantastic and I didn't want to stop their own discovery, so I just made do and excepted these small bits of nature as part of the experience. But then, my daughter, who always try to be so helpful, saw a squirrel approaching me from behind. She scooped up two fists full of sand and thew them at the approaching varmint. It may have worked, if my face, my pochade box and painting were not in the way... Now there is more grit in this painting than I would have intended, but c'est la vie.
Rock at Mirror Lake
oil on panel (and sand)