Pastels and Natural Light

General Description:

Nature, perhaps the greatest teacher of all, presents ever-changing real world examples of lighting issues that are always available for study. Working out of doors will give everyone the opportunity, and challenge, of exploring and expressing lighting ideas with their bare hands. Throughout the day and seasons, light exhibits an enormous dynamic range and complexity that is humbling to say the least, but it can inspire as well. Pastels being fast, simple, and primitive, make them an ideal medium for direct physical interaction with the lighting problems that working outdoors presents. This class is geared towards those who are interested in spending time outside, analyzing and recording light and color in nature with very simple tools. This is experience and inspiration that can be taken back to the studio and put to work in a very powerful way.

Pastels are messy, simple, and challenging. While it helps to have drawing and compositional skills, that is not a pre-requisite. What's more important is the curiosity and willingness to be a patient observer of natural phenomena, while getting your hands dirty

Demos will be given daily, and several slide lectures throughout the week, covering inspirational artists, composition, atmospheric color and light, and analyzing water. Plenty of one-on-one attention will be available throughout the week. Field work will take us to various locales within an easy drive of the campus to explore different aspects of the beautiful alpine landscape of the Sierra Buttes.


Bill Cone Bill has been painting outdoors for almost 20 years, and has exhibited his work in

Class Schedule

For those staying at the Field Campus, plan to arrive on Sunday to settle in to your accommodations. We can get acquainted that evening during and after dinner. Class proper begins the following morning at 8 AM From Tues. - Thur, we will schedule pre-breakfast outings (weather permitting) to catch some morning light. Class ends midday on Friday.

Supplies and Other Useful Items

Art Supplies

Please note that if you have materials and a setup you are comfortable with, you are welcome to use that. It is important that you be reasonably familiar with your gear, and that you are able to carry it for up to a half mile or so. For those that need a simple field kit, study the list below, and pick up the items you need. Keep it portable. You'll have more choices outdoors if you're able (and willing) to hike a short distance to find the best view. Having the right equipment will make a difference.

Field Supplies

  • Sunscreen
  • Wide brim hat
  • Water Bottle
  • Hand wipes- These are useful with the nature of the medium we use to clean up.
  • Day Pack: Get one that fits as much gear as you want to carry in the field
  • Camera
  • Camping gear


    Days are warm, even hot, while evenings are quite cold (close to freezing). Clothing that can be layered for variable weather conditions is best. T-shirts and shorts are often perfect during the day, with a wind jacket or raincoat as backup. Long pants, warmer shirts and sweaters with a coat are necessary in the evening. Comfortable shoes, sun hat, wool hat and gloves are important. Old sneakers or rubber boots and a swimsuit may come in handy while visiting marshes.



    Please direct all questions concerning registration procedures and fees to:

    J.R. Blair, Sierra Nevada Field Camp Director,
    Department of Biology, San Francisco State University,
    1600 Holloway Ave., San Francisco, CA 94132