Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Monday, August 30, 2010

Painting in the High Sierras: Day 1

Hey everyone! Sorry for the long absence - those of you who thought I fell off the edge of the world and sent me concerned emails, thanks so much! I got the warmfuzzies :-)

But I did have a good reason for not posting. You see, the day after the Napa Valley Art Festival, (a big THANKS to you guys who came and said hello~ It was great seeing/meeting all of you!!) I left for a week-long painting expedition into the Eastern Sierras.

And now I'm going to tell you all about my trip~

My friends and fellow artists Bill Cone and Paul Kratter invited me along to this painting trip up to the mountains and I eagerly joined them. I've gone with them once before and I knew this was going to be another amazing expedition that I couldn't afford to miss. I mean, what painter wouldn't love to spend a week in the awe-inspiring splendor of the Eastern Sierras, doing nothing but painting, eating, drinking wine, and sleeping? (Notice I didn't mention cooking, or cleaning?) If you are familiar with Edgar Payne's work, you know the kind of vistas in which we were immersed.

Anyway, we convened Sunday afternoon in Mammoth Lakes to begin our adventure together. I drove alone up to Tahoe and over Carson pass, and down highway 395, one of the most picturesque highways I've ever driven. I drove alone this time which I actually didn't mind - I stopped many times on the way to take reference photos and extended a five-and-a-half-hour drive to about seven. The scenery is breathtaking all the way down to Mammoth, so I found myself rubber-necking the whole way.

I did get a speeding ticket over the Carson Pass, though, which pissed me off (going 65 on a 55 zone. Give me a break, it's a highway with no other cars on it! but I didn't say that.) but the anticipation of the coming week soon lifted my spirits.

After a quick lunch at Whoa Nellie Deli (if you're ever on a road trip this way, a good place to eat) I continued down Southbound and rolled into the lodge in Mammoth Lakes and met my friends.

The members of this year's trip consisted of Bill Cone, Paul Kratter, Bob Watters, Carolyn Hesse-Low, Michele de Bragan├ža, John Fernbacher and myself. I'd never met Michele and John before, but they turned out to be really great. The rest of the crew are old friends, so we couldn't but have a good time in the coming days.

As per tradition, we got together for some beers at the Taproom, caught up on some gossip, and continued our chatter over a very nice dinner at Nevado's up the street.

We started early the next morning. We all drove down half an hour to to the Rock Creek Pack Station, where we dropped off all our gear. Mules were hired to take our stuff to the base station, which was some 3 miles up the mountain at Chickenfoot Lake.

Here we are at the pack station where Craig, the proprietor, entertained us with harrowing stories of mountaineering. Then they fed us a hearty breakfast, and off we went.

Mules loaded with our stuff. I don't know how many mules we actually had, but we each brought in a ton of stuff, and anything over 70lbs (per person), we carried in on our backs. All I can tell you is, bottles of wine quickly add up to heavy loads.

The climb up to the base camp was an easy hike. But at an elevation of 10,790 feet, even a little bit of climb can be strenuous. Especially if you're like me and not very fit~ I was panting like a dog soon after we left the base station.

Oh but the views! Just check out these photos. These are shot on our way up to the base camp. We could have stopped anywhere along the way and had any number of great paintings! (well, that would depend on our painting abilities, but we sure as hell didn't have any excuses!)

We passed several small lakes before we got to Chickenfoot Lake, all beautiful and paintable.

View Larger Map

We arrived before the mules did, so while we waited we explored the area a bit. There were smaller lakes farther up the mountain (Gem Lakes, 11,000ft) so some of us hiked up there to scope out possible painting sights. But it's stunning everywhere! It wasn't like we had to try very hard to find views to paint, ya know.

After the mules arrived, we each picked out a tent site and pitched our tents, and settled in. Not only did we have mules haul our gear, we had a cook who would be preparing all our meals and doing all the clean up, so we could just concentrate on painting. What's not to love!?

After some much needed rest, I decided to do a painting near the base camp. I pulled out my sketch book and started drawing a few views around the camp. One rock outcropping nearby caught my eye, and I decided to give it a go. It wasn't super complicated as far as visual problems go, so I thought it would be a perfect warm up.

Here it is. a 9 x 12 sketch of the rocks jutting out into the lake. I worked on it for a few hours at a leisurely pace, changing my mind several times about which rocks to include and which to edit out. I was reasonably satisfied with it. A pretty good start to a great week.

Kate, our cook, called us in for dinner, we popped open some nice wines and enjoyed our first evening together. What a hoot! When the sun went behind the 13000+ft peaks to the west, the temperature dropped rapidly and soon we adjourned to our individual tents. Tomorrow morning we would get up at dawn and start slinging paint!

Stay tuned.


  1. Wow, this looks great. Wish I was there. Looking forward to seeing your paintings.

  2. I'm not sure why, Terry, but this is my favorite of your landscapes to date. Maybe the blues, but whatever the reason I find myself wishing I was sitting there looking at this gorgeous spot myself! Looking forward to hearing what is next!

  3. I just love the picture of Bill listening to the Pack Station guy, who seems to be recalling a story about an avalanche, a mountain lion and a grizzly, all heading toward some hapless hiker who's just been bitten by a rattlesnake. You can almost see fear and horror in Bill and the other fella's faces! Awesome : )

  4. I don't remember what the pack station guy was telling us, but he was chewing tobacco and would often spit mid-sentence. I remember thinking, "a real cowboy!"

  5. Sicko landscapes and equipment stiil lifes from your trip. Just lovely.