Watercolors by
  Bill Hudson     
Monthly Newsletter 


The Merced Runs Through It

Original Watercolor 15" x 22"

by Bill Hudson

With Custom Frame.................$1,650

 “Atmospheric rivers” and the consequent snow melt of 2023 have added to the spirit and energy of Yosemite.

Yosemite and Half Dome

by Bill Hudson

Last week’s LA Times posted an article on a 93-year-old man who skydived at age 92 and just finished hiking to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. The article brought back great memories.

As a young 24-year-old engineer I reported for sky diving three times only to be repeatedly denied because of high winds and aircraft mechanical problems. I accepted the cancellations as a message. But, a few years ago my son-in-law asked, “Hey Bill, wanna jump out of an airplane?” After having 70+ years of living already under my belt, I said, “Sure” and we took off for Pacific Coast Skydiving at Brown Field Airport near San Diego.

The anxiety on his young face told me he was experiencing a higher level of fear as we sat on the aircraft floor, staring out the open doorway, while the plane climbed to 10,000 feet. But we both jumped, and I believe we felt the same comfort when our 120 mph freefall was interrupted with the secure tug of an opening parachute.

Many years prior in the early ‘90s, our family of 8 kids was into camping. During the first week of August in 1991 we all left for Yosemite with my sister Kathy and her two sons. Our timing was perfect to witness the spectacular nightly display of the yearly Perseid Meteor Shower. Each day we hiked to nearby waterfalls building up the courage to finally tackle the 17-mile round trip to the top of Half Dome which sits at 8,835 feet elevation, or 4,800 feet above the Yosemite Valley floor. Though it is commonly referred to as “one of the most dangerous hikes in the United States,” hundreds of accidents, but only 31 deaths have been recorded as of 2018.1 And since 2010, permits now limit daily hikers to 300 to reduce mishaps.

In anticipation, we didn’t get much sleep the night before. Maybe it was nervous stomachs. But the tent full of boys kept the entire campsite awake while they laughed every few minutes during their all-night farting contest. Even two rangers, on their midnight check commented, “What the ….. stinks so bad?” as they walked past the completely sealed tent.

At 5 AM, an hour before sunrise, we left our campsite with a flashlight as I led 6 of the oldest kids a mile through the valley to begin the 4,800-foot ascent. The first 4,400 feet were incredible beauty and only moderately difficult. Our slow-but-steady group was passed by just a couple of European guys wearing nothing but speedos, and a 70-year-old lady with steady legs of steel.

That afternoon we reached the Subdome with its intimidating steep granite walls. We stopped, looked toward the summit, and observed a line of brave hikers marching toward the final 400-foot climb… straight up the granite face aided with only a pair of cables and some wooden slats. This was the “Holy Shit” moment when fear raced through everyone’s mind, and even the bravado of youth seemed to disappear.

That old 70-year-old lady never even slowed down as I compared her unintimidated approach to my crippling fears. Did I have what it takes mentally and physically? I wouldn’t need an answer. For at that moment, fate intervened! As the 4 oldest kids started forward, my 13-year-old daughter Valerie and 10-year-old son Will began to tear up. Both confessed, “Dad, I’m scared.” "Yes! Oh thank you, God," I had an out. So without revealing my relief, I stayed with my two youngest who obviously needed company far more than I needed to conquer Half Dome. 

As anxiety left my body, everything suddenly changed again. My young son Will, sniffled, inhaled deeply, wiped his eyes, and declared, “I’m gonna do it!” And Val, seeing Will’s determination, followed with equal conviction, “Me too, Will.”

And, “Dangit,” there I was…with only one choice. Together we began the climb and I was filled with pride in the courageous decisions of my two children.

Did I regret the final decision to reach the top? Never! Well, maybe on the way down. With about a mile left in the descent and only moonlight and a flashlight to show the way, my legs cramped so badly I needed my two oldest sons, Brian and Joe, to lean on.


As I worked on the recent painting “Yosemite - The Merced Runs Through It” shown above, many memories and lessons learned returned. It was a time of reflection. After this year’s “atmospheric rivers” more than doubled the average California rainfall, the Merced River is raging through Yosemite. I researched YouTube and decided to use parts of multiple road-trip films for reference.

I’ve realized over many years that my best art is the result of feeling free to create rather than trying to duplicate or copy a single image. Duplicating tightens up the work, while painting with freedom demands overcoming the fear of failure.

The human emotion of fear has pros and cons. It can be a survival mechanism alerting us to danger. It serves as a warning to be cautious, observant, and prepared. And it is “being prepared” that motivates us to improve our performance and grow as individuals experiencing the joy of achievement. However, excessive fear causes anxiety that can prevent people from taking risks or embracing new experiences. Balance is recognizing the value of fear, yet understanding when it becomes an unwanted obstacle.


Richardson GD, Spano SJ. Death on the Dome: Epidemiology of Recreational Deaths on Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Wilderness Environ Med. 2018 Sep;29(3):338-342. doi: 10.1016/j.wem.2018.04.001. Epub 2018 Jun 7. PMID: 29887349.


Again, I thank each of you for your continued interest in this Newsletter. If you wish to make any art related announcements or comments that may benefit the readers, feel free to submit them for the next issue.

Past Newsletters

Past Newsletters are listed chronologically by title in the Newsletter section of my website www.BillHudsonArt.com/newsletter/

Events & Galleries

Singulart, an online gallery selling original art from juried artists with guaranteed customer satisfaction. I recommend Singulart for any collector or contemporary artist.

Fine Art America, is an online print-on-demand gallery which sells nearly all my images. These are available in a wide range of sizes on many substrates and objects including: coffee cups, shirts, towels, greeting cards, puzzles, phone cases, and tote bags.

Artist Eye Gallery in Laguna Beach, California. Located at 1294-A South Coast Hwy.

Art Instructor, Laguna Methodist Art Association, Mondays in January, 9:30 to 12:30