Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sierra Pack Trip - Day 3

Ahhh... coffee... It's not Peet's, but any coffee tastes so good at 10,000 ft at sunrise. Bits of coffee grounds in my mouth don't even bother me. 

I woke up early again - but not as early as some who are more disciplined than I - and set up to do this painting;

You'll have imagine this painting without the light on the trees, for that's how it was. The inclined wall behind the trees went up another coupla thousand feet, and the sun was coming over that. I was anticipating the "first light" on the trees and I painted them accordingly. Although I was ready, the sun wasn't coming as quickly as I expected and I was called for breakfast. I wasn't going to miss a hot breakfast so I painted a made-up light and went to eat.

It was way past the "first light" when I returned to the scene of crime and I saw immediately that I got it wrong. I should have painted the trees top lit, with a little bit of rim light. Instead I got the light coming from the wrong direction! Ah well, live and learn. I didn't bother to fix it. Instead, I packed it up and hiked up to Gem Lakes to do my next painting.

I didn't have to hike too far to find this granite slab basking in the morning sun, and in a very quiet corner of the Gem Lakes area. I felt so isolated that I kept looking over my shoulder expecting to see a bear or something. The water's simultaneous reflection and transparency was what intrigued me. I've seen other artists do it with considerable skill and I wanted to try it too. It turned out to be a fun challenge. 

Satisfied, I went looking for my friends who I knew were painting somewhere in the vicinity. I found them on the far side of the Gem Lakes area, doing some fab pieces. Very inspiring. I don't have photos of their work but hopefully, by the time I wrap up my report of the trip, some of them will have posted on their own websites / blogs, and I can post a link to each. It should be an interesting comparison.

My afternoon painting (above) was a bit of a struggle. I didn't plan well, and didn't anticipate the shadow patterns changing on me so dramatically. I should have known better than to paint a near vertical cliff at mid day! When I started, the cliff's face was in the sun, but an hour later it was totally in shadow. As I hadn't quite reached the point of defining the light and shadow patterns sufficiently (in order to go on without relying on the view) I was forced to scrape most of it and start over.

I like the painting I ended up with, although it's not what I wanted to communicate in the first place. Such is the way the cookie crumbles sometimes when painting en plein air.

Afterwards, I packed up, hiked down to base camp, took a shower out of a bag and washed my hair and shaved. Felt good to get the grime off but boy, dousing my face with Deet immediately after shaving was a painful experience!  It was either that, or be eaten alive by mosquitos, which were aplenty this year.

Sipping wine and eating dinner that Gene prepared for us, we talked shop as we watched the light slowly change on the faces of the mountains. There was no moon, and the night was clear, so the stars filled the sky like something exploded. The milky way clearly looked like someone spilled milk across the sky. Awe inspiring.


  1. What an inspiring post! The granite slab painting is spectacular.

  2. Terry, wonderful post and thanks for sharing a day in your life, some of your thoughts on painting process, and the smell of coffee up in the high sierras. The painting of the granite rocks.

  3. Great morning light on that granite slab.

  4. thanks Ed, Michael, and Judy!

    it was a fabulous trip. Still buzzing.