A break in the trees opens to a view that I have often passed and wished to paint for some time. The powerful effects of the King Fire that laid waste to thousands of acres of forest has revealed this expansive panorama.
On the hillside where I stand, dead pines reach skyward with rib-like branches arcing earthward. Sad aged bones, no marrow, no life left in them, cling to the hillside like a skeletal army.
Beyond, still untouched by the fire—an undulating blanket of forested hills in indigo hues that progressively dissipate into the distance. To the northeast the peaks of the Crystal mountain range pierce the horizon, a paradox of granite and air suspended like a veil in the morning light.
I work swiftly to capture the scene before the light changes—one man’s attempt to capture the ethereal qualities of light and atmosphere using merely a hog-hair bristle brush and pigments mined from the depths of the earth.
Now complete, I stow the painting in my car—time for a cup of tea before I head out to seek another vista.
“Hello, I just wanted to see what you are working on.” I turn round to see the source of the greeting. A stocky, middle-aged man gestures towards the now empty easel. The blue and gold embroidered patch catching the sunlight on the man’s arm notifies me that he is a California Highway patrolman. His gold badge, inscribed, “D.A. Blood” informs me of his name.
Blood lifts his arms in horizontal fashion to frame a view. “Wrong direction,” I point to indicate the view I was working from.
He pivots round. “Ah . . . going for the Blue Ridge Mountain look.” He smiles and scans the view. “I’m Dave Blood,” he extends his hand, which I shake, in what seems more like a formal British social interaction than a brush with local CHP.
“I have just put the painting in the trunk, do you want to take a look?” We walk to the back of my car I open the trunk and we view the painting.
“It’s nice, but I am more of a watercolor man myself.” I visit a lot of the galleries in the Sonoma, Napa area with my wife. Saw the work of Joshua Meader in a Gallery in Bodega Bay. When you step up close to his work, all that color and texture—it’s a very visceral experience.”
“So you paint?” I ask.
“Well, I did . . . no, not now. You know, life, it’s all about time.”
We continue to talk for a little while longer about the King fire and he gives me a few suggestions on other potential painting locations.
“I should leave you alone so you can get back to work,” he says returning to his black and white, CHP utility vehicle. Accelerating up the highway, D. A. Blood is back on patrol, ready to intercept more unsuspecting plein air painters, at large on the mountain road.
The highway is busy now, the morning traffic of locals, lumber trucks and Tahoe tourist traffic speed by—busy people with so much to do in such a limited time. Below me the forest, gleaming in the morning sun is slowly, patiently in the process of regenerating itself from the ravages of the fire. As Blood said, “Life . . . it’s all about time.”