The Journey of a Pack Guide

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June 10, 2012
24″ x 36″ Acrylic on stretched canvas

Vernon was an executive with a fast paced life. When he retired he rededicated himself to his roots, backpacking the trails he knew so well as a youth. His path filled with the pack mules of trips gone by. On the back of his faithful mule Boomer, they guide others into the tranquil beauty of the Sierra Mountains, so they too can find their way.





April 29, 2012

Every Journey starts someplace- this one is in the beautiful Sierra Mountains,  a favorite of my family, since we grow up in the area. Annual family pack trips were always organized and led by my grandfather, Vernon Chinn, this is his journey. Vernon on his favorite mule, Boomer, coming up Mono Pass, the High Sierras in the distance. Could retired life be any better?

This painting is 24″ x 36″ acrylic on stretched canvas.



April 30, 2012

I don’t think that I have ever painted snow covered mountains before… They are a bit of a challenge. AND I want to do something a little different, not totally detail them out and leave them a bit out of focus… maybe that is why I think that they are a challenge? I also blocked in the base color for the ground in front, it will be covered in grass and rocks.

Next, I will add foreground detail and pine trees…


May 3, 2012

Lots of little pine trees made with an abused angle brush- they are the perfect tool!
I never throw away brushes (though I probably should) I never buy expensive brushes because I don’t take care of them (and probably should). I find myself using smaller and smaller brushes these days… I’m not sure if that’s good or bad!

SO- I was painting the mid ground here and normally, I would have just kept going to the left and painting the rest of it, but I was bored with little pine trees and wanted to do something different, so the sage and grass won! Also, I didn’t feel like deciding where the “path” was going to sit in the painting. That’s why I like painting deserts… they are pretty forgiving in regards to placement. Here in the mountains I need to be careful- I don’t want to block it with a mule.


May 7, 2012

More rocks, more trees, more sage brush, as I start to define the “path”. Boomer the Mule is white… I’m waiting for photo reference for the main characters in the scene. But until then, I have a lot to paint… seems like my journeys have been more detailed and less surreal lately, I think that is ok. This one had to have mountains, right? I’ve also gotten away from my reference photo and am using it as a rough guide because I want the path to wind around from the left. It’s ALWAYS faster when I stick to my reference. However, I really like how it’s turning out so I will stay on MY current path!

So, this is where I am at after spending another evening on it- hopefully, I will have the ground completed in one more session then I will start painting in the mule train while I wait for the  reference material to arrive.


May 8, 2012

It was a short painting day for me- BUT, I got the right side to a point that I’m very happy with… I’m loving the granite rocks! I plan to finish the other side tonight and then the mule train coming up the hill. I’m excited to paint the mules for some reason, “I’ve always wanted to paint a muuuule!” (says Cindy in her worst okie accent)


May 9, 2012

Last night, I wanted to get the left side of the trail completed and I kept saying to myself…”OK, I’ll get just this much done… well maybe a few shrubs… and these little rocks in front of the shrubs… Well, if I paint the rest of the rocks then I’ll be done!” It was a late (or early morning, depending on who you are) night of painting for me. through out this painting I’ve been struggling with keeping the depth of field and contrast because it’s all the same color, so I’ve been adding different colors as I get closer to the foreground, to break it up. Sad thing is that I will probably cover it all up anyway with a mule and rider! But then, that’s how I paint… some would think it’s done at this point but this is just the beginning for me. The focus of this painting are the main characters, Boomer and his Man, or is that Grandpa and his favorite Mule?


May 11, 2012

I had a difficult time with this painting, for some reason, to cover those beautiful High Sierra’s with a mule… I took a deep breath and did it anyway! “Bye, Bye perfect little snow cap in the middle, meet Boomer!!!”

Finding the “correct” reference material is an important and sometimes all consuming task. Since I don’t have a photo of Boomer, I had to make one. A brown mule with the proper stance, a saddle from a black one, then the perfect head from a white mule all pasted together in PhotoShop . I wanted longer legs and to exaggerate the head, I don’t have the rider yet but penciled in one to use for placement. After I layout the mules, I trace them to use as a full-sized template. (I liked to note that not all tracing papers are made equal, especially when tracing crappy black and white photos printed on crappy multi-purpose paper.) Boomer is white, so converting my reference photos from a brown mule to white is tricky… I collected white mule photos too so I could check coloring. Also, very important is the direction of the sun and where do the shadows lie? In this case, they were all over the place on the 3 that I put together.


May 13, 2012

I’m not quiet finished with the mule yet, I took some time off to do a couple of other things- He is one Happy Mule!!!!


May 14, 2012

Boomer the Mule is finished for now, I might add some highlights and shadows later after the paint has had time to “set”. I now need to paint the mule train in behind him, which I should have time to do while I wait for the photo reference for the rider, to arrive… I’m hoping that the photos inspire me on a direction for the Pack Guide, because right now, I am undecided… though I think that he needs to be “fun” though I don’t think that my grandfather would like it if I had him falling off, but wouldn’t THAT be funny!?


May 15, 2012

Boomer and Friends!

With the mule train painted, I’d have to say that the background is completed! Ya!
Just waiting for photo reference now to finish the painting.

What to paint next? cuz ya know, I can’t just sit and watch TV at night!


June 6, 2012

I took a little break from this canvas and got a few other things done but I’m back on it again!

You’ll notice that I changed Boomer a little, when I got the reference photos, his hair was longer and her had a pink muzzle. I had to piece photos of Vernon (AKA Grandpa) together because there wasn’t one of him actually sitting on the mule. He also needs more of a smile I think. So, at this point, I have started blocking on color and defining shapes.


Vernon Chinn

3 thoughts on “The Journey of a Pack Guide

  1. Ann Lavergne

    I’d like to suggest you paint those adorable little fish and their little bubbles from SXM …

    1. Cindy Chinn Post author

      I’m only painting journey’s until I have 15 to sell…. I keep selling now them though and now I’m back down to 4 again. But I think that’s a good thing!


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