Battle Mountain Ranch, 12″ x 12″, Oil on panel, © Eric Merrell
I’ve just recently returned from painting in the beautiful foothills on the western side of the Sierras, just outside of Visalia. A few locations including a working ranch were made available to a small group of artists for the week. The flowers are pretty spectacular right now; fiddlenecks, poppies, lupine, “popcorn” flowers and others. The drive to get to the locations took about an hour from my campsite at Lake Kaweah, sometimes a little more, as they were pretty far removed from the main roads. But the drive was amazing – like old postcards of California you can find in antique stores – cows grazing in a field of flowers, foothills and the Sierras in the distance. Some of the other artists painting up there were Karl Dempwolf, Dave Gallup, Ray Harris, Scott Prior, Junn Roca and Jason Situ.
Yokohl Valley Sunset, 6″ x 8″, Oil on canvas panel, © Eric Merrell
I hope you can see the subtleties in the backlit hill above, those were really the reason for the painting. Both of these pieces were painted on location during the trip. The opportunity was made possible by the Sequoia Riverlands Trust, a wonderful group dedicated to preserving their area of the San Joaquin Valley and bringing attention to their part of the state. Along with all of the ranches interspersed throughout, there are thousand of acres of stone fruits, citrus, walnuts and all sorts of other produce filling the valleys.
The photo below is from the first morning – when I woke up the thermometer read 32 degrees and my truck had a layer of ice on it. Pretty chilly. Luckily, the nights warmed up into the balmy 40′s after that. (Nobody else ended up camping, they all stayed in hotels! So of course I had to tease them about their sense of adventure.)