After leaving Denali we drove up to Fairbanks, and back down the other loop of the highway to Seward. The drive from Fairbanks to Seward is gorgeous, seemingly endless mountains upon mountains, some with evergreens, some with glaciers, valleys carved by spring snow melts, meandering rivers, groves of birch and aspen, small lakes mirroring the enormous sky, the occasional moose. It was hard not to ride with your face pressed against the window. We spent two days in Seward, which is a fishing town on the water, and then drove on to the Homer Spit, a narrow strip of beach protruding into the bay, where we spent the night before heading back towards Anchorage.
Here is are some pictures of the second half of the journey:
The Matanuska Glacier.
Day one in Seward it rained. There is nothing fun about painting in cold rain. The water gets everywhere, in your paints, on your palette, in your shoes, down your collar. I make a rather cranky cold and wet person. It was hard not to be frustrated by the weather, especially as the clouds hid the mountains we knew surrounded us. Despite the discomfort, Kelly and I ventured out in the rain to do three different studies.
This is one of the studies I did in the rain, the only one to turn out, really. It was done right near our campground, from the bed of Stony Creek.
We were very lucky, though, because the rain didn't last, and we spent our second day in Seward in sunshine. We hiked up to Exit Glacier, which was just fabulous. All the reading about glaciers in the world cannot compare to actually standing next to one.
We hiked back down from the glacier and found a spot in the valley below where you could see the river from the run off and a bit of the glacier between the mountains. It was a fascinating subject to paint with endless complexities; there was enough information to work with I could have stood on the spot for a month and barely have completed a painting. I wish I had had more time to develop the colors in the snow and ice, as it was, I focused more on the drawing and values. I guess that's why you do studies, I'll just have to come back and try again.
It was definitely spring in Alaska, the wildflowers were everywhere and so lovely.
My last afternoon in Seward, I spent a long time sitting on the rocks by the harbor, watching the sea otters at play. It was so sunny and warm, and the otters so amusing, I lost track of time forgot I was supposed to be painting. I decided though, that I needed another shot at a snow capped mountain, so I did this quick study in about a half an hour before the tide came and chased me from my perch on the rocks.
That evening, we watched the fishing boats come into harbor. The fish were enormous, some bigger than me. Boats and fishermen make for such interesting subjects, I have so much more painting to do this summer! One of our group went out on a halibut fishing trip for the day and brought us back fresh fish to grill at our campsite for dinner. It was our best meal all trip.
After Seward, Homer Spit was quite a change. While they are both fishing towns on the water, Seward sits on a narrow fjord, and while you know you're just off the sea, the various rocks and mountains meeting the water block it from view, making it feel more like a mountain town than anything, and Homer Spit protrudes into Kachemak Bay, narrow and low, making you feel as though you're almost sitting on the water. After painting so much nature, I guess I needed a bit of a change. I was just caught by the houses along the shore with their piles and porches, and quickly set to work painting.
I think this is my favorite painting of the trip.
Our night in Homer corresponded with the Summer Solstice. Kelly and I stayed up to watch the sunset and talked late into the twilight, which was as dark as it every got, until the sun started to lighten the sky just a touch to the right of where it'd gone down a few hours before.
As we didn't need to be in Anchorage until very late, we drove slowly and stopped often on our way from Homer. We hiked to the Russian Falls and saw the salmon swimming upstream, another sight to which retelling and reproduction cannot possibly do justice. The perseverance of the fish in the face of seemingly impossible odds amazes. In the later evening, after dinner time, we stopped at a reed-filled pond between the mountains, which was reflecting the partially clouded evening sky. We decided that seemed like a good place for one last painting.
My last painting of the trip.
While I was standing here, a woman was kayaking in the pond. She took pictures of me painting on the bank, reflected in the water. I gave her my e-mail, in hopes that she would send them to me. If she does, I will post them here, and also ask her the name of the pond.
So, that was Alaska. Kelly stayed on an extra five days, returning to Denali. You can see her blog of the trip, it's listed to the right, as Kelly Medford. We're to have a show at The Gallery, also listed there, in October, of the work we did in Alaska. It was such a wonderful experience, Kelly and I were already planning a return visit before we had even left.