Waiting for water to boil – Jetboil stove sketch

While backpacking in the Upper Yosemite Valley, I was sitting and waiting for water to boil (at least with the Jetboil’s lid on you can’t actually watch!) It made sense to sit and draw the stove itself (at least to me) so that’s what I did. This workhorse was purchased about 10 years ago and has been going strong ever since!

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Trees and Shadows

When in the National Parks, it’s not always the grand vistas that capture my interest. Often, the small details invite me to come closer, to explore in more detail. Though you wouldn’t know it if I didn’t tell you, this is almost Yosemite. The RV was parked just outside of the park (free camping, woohoo!) and one afternoon the sun created these slashing shadows from the trees and it caught my attention. As is always the case when trying to capture natural light, I had to work fast, since the shadows were changing by the moment!

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Charcoal drawing of trees casting shadows in the forest

Wizard Island in Crater Lake

After exploring Yosemite, we also visited Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. It was also snowed in, so Rim Drive was closed. It was really cool to walk in the shoveled-out 12′ deep paths from parking area to visitor center, and the view from the edge of the peak down to the lake was amazing!

I didn’t waste any time sketching out Wizard Island, since it quickly gets chilly sitting in the snow. And a steaming hot chocolate afterward certainly helped to thaw out my stiff fingers. ūüėÄ

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Charcoal drawing of Wizard Island in Crater Lake National Park
Wizard Island, Crater Lake National Park

Half-Dome sketch in Yosemite

While in Yosemite, we took an overnight backpacking trip up into Little Yosemite Valley. Half-Dome wasn’t open yet, since it was still snowed in. That was fabulous, as it felt that we had the whole valley to ourselves. Though we didn’t make it up to the top of Half-Dome, we did hike up to the snow line. While there, I sat and enjoyed the view, taking the opportunity to sketch Half-Dome from the north side.

Matthew sketching Half Dome

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Charcoal drawing of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park
Half Dome, Yosemite National Park

Yosemite Valley charcoal sketch

It seems like every National Park has an “Inspiration Point” somewhere along the trails. And from that point you can see an iconic view.

Yosemite was no different and the view was truly stunning, overlooking Yosemite Valley itself. It was a wonderful place to stop on the way into the valley, enjoy a short hike up to the point itself, and enjoy lunch before capturing the view in a charcoal sketch.

You can see El Cap on the left, Half-Dome in the middle, and Bridal Falls toward the bottom right. What a fabulous experience!

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Charcoal drawing of Yosemite Valley in the National Park
Yosemite Valley

Sketching in the Dark

Only a few miles up the road from Guadalupe Mountains is Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Even though I spent a few hours exploring the cave, and no matter how fascinating, dramatic, and visually stimulating it may be, it’s a bit of a challenge to draw in the dark. Plus, as patient as my wife may be, she does have her limits at times.

Here’s a quick rendering of the¬†Chandelier, one of the prominent stone features.

Sketching and Hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains

After leaving Big Bend it was time to hike in Guadalupe Mountains National Park for a couple of days. It was evening by the time the RV was settled, so I only had time for a quick hike to a nearby spring and a bit of time to sketch out the Frijole Ranch house.

Of course, the first order of business the next morning was to hike up to Guadalupe Peak – not only the highest point in the park at 8751 feet, but also in all of Texas!

During a quick break I started sketching the true trail markers, rock cairnes. I need to add some background (a trail and second cairne) for context, but this is a good start.

Up on the peak, after eating lunch I pulled my sketchbook back out to capture the back side of the most famous landmark in the area, El Capitan. The pencil line in the background is the road circling off in the distance. I couldn’t quite decide what to do in the distance and will probably just end up erasing the pencil lines and letting the monolith stand on its own. Additionally, it was pretty hot and there was no shade or breeze for relief, so a quick sketch definitely won out over a watercolor option.

Art in Big Bend

After leaving Brant’s¬†I headed further west in Texas to visit Big Bend National Park.¬†Even though it was hot (and I’m¬†out of practice with the heat, so it felt¬†pretty miserable) I explored the park for 4 days. Of course, I carried my trusty little moleskine pocket sketchbook everywhere. In addition, on bigger hiking days, I tucked a few sheets of watercolor paper into my¬†daypack and a mini art kit.

On the first day in the park I hiked into the Santa Elena canyon. Tucked in the shade of the cliffs, sitting next to the Rio Grande river, it was nice and cool. I loved taking a few minutes to capture the scene. The cliffs on the right, across the river, are Mexico.

The next day included a hike up to Emory Peak, the highest point in the park. After reaching it and enjoying lunch, I pulled out my watercolors and tried to capture part of the scene before me.

It was hot and humid, so it didn’t take long for my watercolors to dry out. As they did, I pulled out my little sketchbook for this quick render. It’s a zoomed in view of a slightly different angle of the Chisos mountains.

After getting back from the mountains, I zipped around on my motorcycle for a bit more sketching and painting.

The bright buildings in Boquillas, Mexico, really stood out against the natural desert backdrop of the mountains.

I sketched out this fun tunnel that leads down into the Rio Grande Village campground, where we stayed during our¬†visit. Later I’ll go back and add some watercolor to it. On one of the trips out of the valley the timing was perfect and the sunset was highlighted within the tunnel. Of course, that was heading the other way on the road. This direction gives layers of mountains to play with and a big sky above them.

Sketching in Big Cypress

After leaving the Everglades, we headed to Big Cypress National Preserve. Though it’s not a park, it is managed by the National Parks department. The two border each other, so it was a quick trip. Unfortunately, we only spent a little bit of time there – it’s definitely worth a longer visit and more in-depth exploration!

The boardwalk in front of the visitor center was directly over a number of gators in the channel, offering wonderful, close-up vies. There were also turtles, and plenty of fish floating around. After the visitor center closed we continued on to a picnic/rest area and checked out the area. Then we cooked breakfast for supper and moseyed along our way.