Friday, November 16, 2012

Yosemite Plein Air with Donna Vis!

Please enjoy this plain air art adventure in Yosemite with artist Donna Vis ...

Day before day 1
Found location and worried someone would be in it the next day…

Day 1
Staked my claim! Realized I had forgotten my umbrella so the sun chose the direction I would face for the next few days. I needed to keep the sun off my work, which meant it would be in my eyes. Good thing I had a hat!

Began by drawing several notans. The beauty is everywhere, picking a focal point was almost impossible! I went with a panorama focusing on the river and blocking out the Lembert Dome. Hard decision to make since the dome just screams Yosemite. That’s how this ended up as a triptych. I didn’t bring a full sheet (can you tell we packed quickly for this trip?) Besides, painting outside means improvising, so I taped three 9 X 12 sheets together on a backing board I made with 2 foam core pieces. Whew, ready to start!

I drew my composition and blocked in masses with a watercolor underwash. Before it was time to stop, I started laying in pastel to establish values and see simultaneous contrast as a mentor of mine would say.

I worked 7 hours straight on the first day. When I returned to camp, I had been standing so long my back hurt badly when I finally sat down. (Chiropractic adjustment later…)

Day 2

On day 2, I established my afternoon starting time, claimed my same spot and started to draw a crowd. Folks recognized me from the day before and wanted to learn more about what I was doing. It slowed my progress down a bit, but after the day before, I needed to take it a bit slower!
I built up shoreline on left side and water movement around rocks. Established the relationship between my colors. Began correcting some of my angles.

Was I focusing on rocks and water…or avoiding working on the boulders?


Day 3
I spent a longer day outside again on day 3. My “groupies” had grown requiring more of my time and I simply needed to look more and paint less at this point.

Boulders complete! Now it was time to battle with the dome’s reflection in the water. Would anyone know what it was away from site? Should it stay, should it go??

Day 4
I resolved the water on left side of painting on day 4. I also decided to leave the dome in. This is what the painting looked like after 17 hours of painting outside. I still needed to work the trees on the bank and more but it was time to leave!


Day 5 – Into the studio 
The trees received attention the first day in studio–


Day 6 and 7
Then I decided to take the dome out! Clouds with a suggestion of the dome were much easier to interpret away from site. I cleaned up a few areas and had to step away and call it finished!

“Early Autumn, Tuolumne Meadows”, Yosemite, California by Donna Vis.
Currently hanging at the Ojai Art Center in California for the month of November.
Framed size 19” X 46”.

Donna Vis is a member of the Pastel Society of the Gold Coast, Ventura County Pastel Artists and IAPS. Her website is, and can also be found at the PSGC website,

You can see this pastel in person, in our current show, Fall Into Pastels, (thru November 29th!) or come by this weekend for art and holiday treats! Information below.

Thanks for coming by and thank you Donna 
for sharing your Yosemite art adventure with us!