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3948 Valley Vista Dr
Camino, CA, 95709
United States

Plein air landscape artist David Yapp paints scenes of California in oils. Subjects are as diverse as the California landscape itself and include the Sierra Nevada mountains, the oak covered hills and scenic coastline. David uses palette knife and brushes in a style that is reminiscent of impressionism.

David Yapp Blog

David Yapp's blog of plein air painting in oils of the California landscape.

Filtering by Tag: oil painting

Sojourner in a winter wilderness

David Yapp

Mokelumne Winterscape

I thought it was simple, turn back the way I had come, follow the blue diamonds posted on the trees and the tracks in the snow. This I thought would lead me back to the trailhead after a pleasant afternoon of painting. That was at 5 p.m.—it was still light then. Now it is past 8 p.m. and dark and I have got no closer to finding my way out of the wilderness.

Dead mossy branches jut out from the pine trees around me. A cracked tree stump protrudes at an acute angle out of the snow. From these I see fuel and shelter and decide to make camp here for the night.

I have not planned for an overnight stay in the wilderness so have no tent or sleeping bag. I remove my backpack, pull out the different items from it. A painting umbrella, my canvases, paint palette all get utilized on one side of the tree stump, creating a barricade from the wind. My snowshoes interlaced with pine branches become shutters on its opposite side. The ground covered in snow, I overlay with moss-covered branches.

The moon rises through the trees leaving splashes of light on the snow. Stars of pristine clarity in the clear air shine through the breaks in the trees. The wind picks up and then subsides.

It is too cold to sleep. I collect branches, and from an ailing tree, crumbling bark. I build a fire. The pine branches snap like fire crackers, the resinous bark spits and smokes, exuding a strong smell of incense.

I am thirsty from the hours of hiking with a heavy pack, but have little water left. I take my metal paint canister, empty it of mineral spirits and the sludge of paint deposits. I wash it out as best I can and fill it with snow. This I place in the fire, the metal handle glowing red, the snow hissing as it turns to water. I drink the Smokey snow-melt trying not to think too deeply about the effects of heavy metals—the residues of previous painting expeditions still contained within the canister.

Slowly the snow melts underneath the fire. The heat recedes as the fire descends ever deeper into a snow crater. I build a new fire, then another and so the night proceeds. Occupied by this task I am kept warm and comforted through flame and physical activity of collecting fire wood.

Twilight comes, a long overdue owl hoots in the gathering light. I pack up my things and hike down into a snow-clad meadow. The sun rises. The shadows of the pines indicate like a compass my bearings, and in turn, the northerly direction I must take to find my way out of this winter wilderness.

“I come here to commune with the wood nymphs.”

David Yapp

Mt Tamalpais from the Eucalyptus trail

The last remnant of the morning’s fog shrouded the sun making for a cooler ascent up the Oakwood Valley fire road. A short hike brought me to a widening of the trail, and turning back towards the way I had come, a view northwards to distant Mt Tamalpais framed by eucalyptus trees.

The afternoon drew on with an assortment of dog walkers and joggers passing by. A thin olive-skinned guy—blue bandana restraining tousled black hair—ascended the trail and soon retraced his steps as if not finding what he was looking for. A lady with a blissful smile sauntered by as if in some dreamlike state.

“You’re being productive.” It was Jerry the animation guy whom I had met earlier in the week. He stopped for a chat, his row of earrings catching the sunlight as we talked about the painting process. Our conversation was abruptly broken by a loud discordant ringing, and Jerry was off, alerted by his cell phone to attend to some more pressing matter.

“Wow, its come along!” It was the blissful lady on her return down the trail. “It was all red before.” We discussed the aesthetic benefits of having a red underpainting and how it interacted with the later paint layers and brought unity to the picture.

“I’m Tara, Green Tara. She was a goddess you know, perhaps from Tibet, I’m not sure. She may be around here now”. Tara gestured with her head to indicate that this wood was perhaps the Green Goddess’ latest stomping ground.

“I come here to commune with the wood nymphs.” I feel my throat tighten as I fumble for an appropriate response, not wanting to corroborate on the report of diminutive woodland folk. Instead I fished in my backpack and pull out a postcard with one of my previous paintings of Mt Tam on it. Perusing the card, she lightly traced her fingers over its surface, mirroring the brushwork in the painting.

“This is a very spiritual path” she continued. “Can you feel it? You can feel it too—that’s why you’re here.”

“This is a very special place" she said "and I am moved—and now I have this.” Tara gazed at the postcard, then suddenly clutched it to her chest as if rediscovering some long-lost keepsake. With a parting smile, she turned and then resumed her journey down the woodland path.

I continued my painting until the light faded. I mused on my earlier interaction—the ethereal intangible quality of woodland nymphs, and the meaning of a “spiritual path.” Then I considered the man foretold in Hebrew writings, rooted in history, flesh and bone, yet divine. Who lived a life of suffering for us and affirmed “I am the way” the spiritual path for weary travelers. In reflective mood, I packed up my easel and made my way home in the dwindling light of the woodland path.