In late August I joined my husband on an eight-day fishing trip to Katmai National Park in Alaska. He fished, I painted! If you are going to paint outside in Alaska, the first thing you need is a body guard. I had not arranged for one, but the boat captain from Naknek River Camp where we stayed, who was told he could just drop me off on a certain island to paint, insisted on staying and guarding me. I am so glad he did. There were 15 grizzlies fishing behind me that day while I painted! One was close enough that I could hear him chomping on fish! The reason I was not facing them was because that area was fogged in when we arrived. When I finished my morning painting I turned around and painted facing the bears. A mother bear arrived with four cubs! The cubs played on the shore like puppies while their Mom stood in deep water catching and eating salmon.
Occasionally I heard what sounded like boulders plunging through water. I’d look up from painting to see Momma bear charging through chest-deep water with remarkable speed toward her cubs. She had spotted an approaching male grizzly. They will kill cubs to bring the mother into heat sooner. Mother bear herded her cubs into the woods to hide. Later they would return. Just think of all this Momma bear had to watch for: peering through the water for salmon to catch, keeping an eye on her four cubs on the beach while watching for male grizzlies which could come from any direction. She was heroic! She was also the leanest grizzly I saw on this trip.
Most of the grizzlies were solely interested in catching and eating salmon. However, the second day I painted on this gravel-bar-island I heard an explosion of seagulls from the beach. I glanced up to see a grizzly approaching the island. Tom Johnson, my guard, stood firm, booming “No!”, pointing his whole arm to the right. The grizzly shook his head, and kept coming. A rock flew. It did not faze him. He reached the island beach. Another rock zinged. The bear dodged this way and that, trying to avoid my stalwart guard. Finally, the bear galloped off in a huff along another sand bar, plunged into a pool, caught a salmon and ate. Seagulls settled; the paint flowed. All was well.
My closest bear encounter happened along the shore of Brooks Lake. I was painting on a slim sandy beach where the Brooks River flows out of the lake. Across the river, a grizzly walked right into the scene I was painting! (I left a space for him and painted the bear at home from my photo, since he didn’t pose quite long enough.) Occasionally, Tom would see other bears walking towards us on the lakeshore. When they got too close Tom would tap his metal water bottle, making it ring, and the bears would disappear into the woods. I carried on painting. One adolescent went back and forth three times, curious. Tom did something to discourage him. Then, way up the beach, an enormous bear approached us. Tom thought he weighed 1000 pounds. Every time Tom looked up the bear was much closer than he expected him to be. He seemed to be ambling along, but his stride was long. When he got too close, Tom rang his bottle, the bear melted into the woods, and so did Tom. A few minutes later Tom reappeared, smiling with relief, and said “He’s past”.
It was soon time to go. I had to work on a pretty tight schedule, since the boat captain was my guard. I knew you didn’t tell a group of fishermen to stop fishing and return to the boat at 3 and keep the boat captain away. But that, and the fickle weather, made me much more spontaneous in my painting. I dashed off the waves in the foreground, packed my gear and we started back. We couldn’t follow the beach back to the trailhead because the wind had stiffened and waves covered the beach, so we followed the little bear trail through the woods. I asked Tom “Was this the trail the bears took when they left the beach?” “Yes” Tom said. “What was that, ten feet behind me?” “Maybe nine” he replied. “A 1000 pound bear was nine feet from me?” Yikes! “I never heard him!” “They can walk very quietly in the woods.” Tom said. I let that sink in for a while as we hiked. Then it hit me. I asked Tom “Where were you?” He looked surprised and said “You don’t think I’d let a 1000-pound bear get within nine feet of you without standing between you!” “So, you were standing about 5 feet from a 1000-pound bear!” “Yep.” And probably he was standing there when every other bear passed behind me that day, about eight trips, bear spray at the ready.
I painted seven plein air paintings that week. Most of them would not have been possible without the courage of Tom Johnson. I am so grateful for his vigilance. And I thank God for protecting Tom! I also thank God for the weather we had. It had rained at Naknek River Camp for most of two months prior. They had had 1 ½ sunny days in the last two months. But I had only one completely rainy day there, during which I picked and painted this brilliant fireweed, indoors.
The other days I was able to go out and enjoy and paint all that wild beauty! It was a feast for my soul! I think I love wild splendor so much because it makes me feel closer to the One who made it. It fills me with awe and wonder, and makes me thankful! I hope it has that effect on you, and that you catch some of that in my work.
At Brooks Falls, where grizzlies do their best to catch leaping salmon, there are two viewing platforms, the upper, which is quite close to the action, and quite crowded, and the lower, which shows you the whole falls. The lower platform was nearly empty, so I was able to paint from it, and the bears hold pretty still while they wait for salmon, so I could paint them in place. Over the distant roar of the falls I could sometimes hear the rumbling growls of bears having a tiff under the platform.
Believe it or not, I met a woman and her little daughter at my opening reception in Quincy, CA, who saw me painting the above watercolor! Yarrow and her husband, Danny, are fishing guides in Alaska. She brought guests to the lower viewing platform the day I was there! What a small world!
All 8 of my Alaska watercolors are on display for October, 2022, at Main Street Artists Gallery, in Quincy, CA, as well as local landscapes and paintings from Montana. Come see, if you’re in Quincy!
Having driven up from San Francisco on a cold, dreary day, it was an absolute pleasure to come into the warmth and color inside Main Street Artists gallery last Saturday. This was the second day of Sally Yost’s November show, titled “Garden Party”, that will run through November. Sally is joined by Carr Clifton, a well-known nature photographer, who is showing new, abstract work in the small room in the gallery.
Sally’s subjects range from logging trucks, to mountain scenes, to flowers, gardens and fields. All are full of expression, with dramatic colors, and sometimes-quirky details. I particularly like “Lakes Basin”, as it reminds me of so many High Sierra lakes that I have visited. The piece called “Garden Party” is very sly, with great masses of colorful flowers fronting a group of three ?stuffed animals? ?imaginary friends? You have to see it to appreciate the humor.
The gallery was filled with lively people, including a family with two young children, already interested in art. Sally was having a great time chatting with friends and interested art lovers.
In addition to Sally’s show, a renowned nature photographer, Carr Clifton, is exhibiting some of his new work in the small room in the gallery.
Learn more about Carr at his website, www.carrclifton.com. You will be amazed at the photographs therein. Carr has won many awards, and all are well deserved. The works that Carr is exhibiting this month are very different. They are highly abstract, with fluid lines against white space. Well worth spending some time looking them over.
Driving back home to San Francisco, I passed over Donner Pass in whiteout conditions. But I had plenty to think about and remember from my visit to Sally and Carr’s November show at the gallery.
After a difficult month-and-a-half, the Main Street Gallery of Artists in Quincy is today, September 2, filled with light and clear air. The new show features tables, treasure boxes and other artworks in wood by Bruce Powell, and many new works by the artists in the Gallery. Enjoy these views of the Gallery. Please come and enjoy fine art in a peaceful setting.
October saw the gallery featuring the art of Russ Flint. Russ Flint’s art represents three fundamental elements: Movement, Composition and Balance. In the current show, “MONUMENTAL ART,” Russ has painted domestic life from the past including farming and harvesting, and social life with musicians and dancers.
Russ’ style is influenced by Renaissance art from Rubens and Michaelangelo among others. He is also fascinated by the huge Europeanmedieval cathedrals. He weaves their geometry into his figures and structures.
Written by a friend of the gallery October 4, 2019
The Gallery ushered in the Fall with works of two seasoned Quincy artists, John Sheehan and Y.Chang, plus metal sculptures by guest artist, Jeff Lamattina. John and Y.Chang have been at the gallery since its inception in 2009 and are currently active participants in its continued success.
John’s show titled “Rocks” showcased a series of watercolor scenes at Buck’s Lake (see above). He captures the lake as it changes throughout the seasons.
Y.Chang shared the gallery with John with a show titled “Flights of Fancy”. She showcased her lifelong fascination with fantasy, color and the unseen (see below).
The Gallery also highlighted the amazing robots and otherworldly metal objects by guest artist, Jeff LaMattina.
Main Street Artists Gallery in Quincy is pleased to announce a new show by Taylorsville artist Sally Yost: “Mountains and Beavers,” and “Adventures with Norma Lewis,” an homage to her long time art partner in crime. The show runs from June 5 – 29, with a Champagne Opening on Friday, June 7 from 5-7pm. Paintings and prints by Quincy artist Norma Lewis are in sharp focus at this show. Norma passed away on New Year’s Day this year. She and Sally were long time plein air painting and printmaking partners, are among the founding members of the Main Street Artists Gallery ten years ago. Sally and Norma met through Marv Schmidt’s life drawing classes at Feather River College and became good friends while traveling to Chico State to take printmaking classes in the late 80’s. Earlier, they both had studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts (now California College of the Arts) in Oakland. For more than 30 years their art adventures took them painting to many places….Lassen Vocanic National Park, Indian Valley, Bucks Lake, Silver Lake, Sierra Valley, Montana, and a special trip to see the world renowned sandhill crane migration on the Platte River in Nebraska. On display will be several prints from of their years of pulling etchings, mono prints and collographs at the Chico State University Printmaking Department. Lewis / Yost prints and paintings from the same location or of the same topic will be displayed side by side. Sally has eight new large oil paintings for the show. Two are based on plein air pencil and gouache images done while in Norma’s company. After art school, Sally had a 30 year career as a graphic designer and calligrapher, designing posters, brochures and booklets for hundreds of clients. On her many backpacking and camping trips with husband Michael in the 1980’s, she started landscape plein air painting, first with colored pencils, then pastels. Currently she works with oils and gouache (an opaque watercolor.)