Drops of Color, Everywhere

Carson Colors, 8x16, oil on panel, plein air
Carson Colors, 8×16, oil on panel, plein air

“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
– Albert Camus


Just returned from my usual annual fall trip to the Sierra’s to paint and explore the fall color. I generally go to Lake Tahoe and Hope Valley, but sometimes over Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park and around the Lee Vining area along the eastern Sierra escarpment. This year was Tahoe.

I didn’t really have an agenda to do a lot of finished world class paintings this trip, but take it slow, enjoy the colors, do some paint studies, explore, and absorb the surroundings.


Sunday, I drove up Hwy 88 looking for color around Silver and Caples lakes, but color was past it’s prime, so decided to keep going over Carson Pass into Hope Valley. I have painted here many times for fall color. I settled on a spot by the West Fork Carson River and close to where I had painted in prior years. I ended up right under a highway bridge, and painting a scene looking under the overpass.

(Click on a thumbnail picture to see an enlarged version.)

I got about half done with the painting, but was tired after the drive, so headed into South Lake Tahoe to check into the motel.


Next morning, I waited until it warmed up a bit from below freezing to go out. I have painted in rain, sleet, snow, freezing temps, etc. so been there done that, and today it was wait for a little warmth!

It was back out to Hope Valley, which is about 20 miles south of Lake Tahoe, and started a painting just across from Sorenson’s Resort, again on the Carson River as it starts to tumble out of Hope Valley. This time I was painting on top of a bridge!

I got about half done, then decided to head back to yesterday’s spot and finish yesterday’s painting. Bonita Paulis, an art acquaintance stopped by for a chat. After living in the area 35 years, she gave me some great out-of-the way places to paint.

The most complete piece I did on the trip
The most complete piece I did on the trip

Tuesday morning I trekked down to Carson City, NV, to have breakfast with an old childhood friend I hadn’t seen in years. After a great time reminiscing, went back up the mountain to Tahoe, and in the afternoon ended up on the Upper Truckee River, which had some great spots Bonita had told me about the day before.


Time to head home Wednesday after stopping at James Harold Gallery in Tahoe City to swap some new miniature paintings with some older pieces.

On an artistic note, I many times have a difficult time painting fall color aspen trees, so this trip was helpful. They are harder to paint than it seems. After trying to faithfully reproduce the color and value of the leaves, it always looks a little too bright and gaudy to me, and I need to tone them down. I did get one painting finished, and two started to finish in the studio. The journey of art never ends!

On a technical note, I have found Grumbacher Cadmium-Barium Yellow Medium is almost the exact color of the aspen at their height of yellow color. Other brands don’t seem to match as well.