Monday, September 12, 2011

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 3

(Sunday, Sept 11)

The Grand Canyon is some 227 miles long, averages 10 miles wide and is about a mile deep.  I witnessed a thunderstorm on this day that seemed even bigger than that.  

After another night of torrential rain - it seemed to drum all night on the ceiling over my head - morning came clear and cool.  (By the way, I'm really enjoying the 50 degree mornings here.  It's much pleasanter than the 100-degree afternoons in Sedona!)  I grabbed a cup of coffee at the Yavapai Lodge Canyon Cafe, which opens at 6, and headed out on the West Rim Drive.  I finally settled on Trailview Overlook for some painting.  Linda Glover Gooch had already set up nearby.  Following proper plein air painter protocol, I said good morning to announce my arrival and then departed for a spot of my own.   As I do for each session, I texted my location to the event organizer, who conveys the information to the Visitor Center so tourists can find the painters.   As I painted, a few trail walkers stopped to watch and ask questions.  I'm always happy to talk a little bit as I paint, as I meet some nice people that way.  You never know who might become another painting student or your next collector!

The clouds began to build again as I worked.  I watched one storm slide over the San Francisco Peaks and Flagstaff, nearly 80 miles away.  By the time I finished, clouds had moved over me, and the good light was gone.  I drove on west and ran into Bill Cramer.  He'd found a small pulloff and was adjusting some paintings he'd done the day before.  Since I didn't feel like starting another one, I joined him, and tweaked Saturday's  paintings.

It still wasn't quite lunchtime, but I felt I was done for the day.  I find it important in these events to pace yourself.  I'd pushed my limit on the first day, and I was feeling it.  So, I drove on up to Hopi Point and took a walk.  I sat awhile on a bench, just looking at the view.  It was incredibly calming to do so.  It was just me, a rock squirrel and some chickadees.

The heavens broke open around noon.  Rain spattered down.  I hung out at my hosts' house, reading Over the Edge:  Death in Grand Canyon.  This hefty tome records, in excruciating and gut-wrenching detail, the variety of ways incautious visitors met their maker at the Canyon.  This is not something you want to read before going to bed.

When the rain stopped, I'd regained my energy and headed out to Yaki Point.  By the time I got there, a magnificent storm was boiling up to the west.  It was clearly heading my way.  But the light on the cliffs was magical, so I started a painting.   It wasn't long before this storm took on Canyonesque proportions.  Lightning bolts hammered down.  The clouds took on that weird shape and color that often come with tornadoes and hail.  As I packed up, the storm creeped closer and closer.  By the time I got to the car, tourists had lined up along the rim to gawk.  Every lightning strike was followed with a wave of oohs and aahs.  One lady was taking a movie of the lightning with her iPad.  I couldn't help but think of Death in Grand Canyon.  (It says, interestingly, that only a few people have been fatally struck here, and they've all been men; so she was probably safe.)  I drove down to the village with pea-sized hail hitting the windshield.

Dave Santillanes Demo

I wasn't sure if the 4 p.m. demo would happen, but the rain stopped, the sun came out and a double rainbow appeared.  Dave Santillanes of Colorado was the day's demonstrator.  He had a good start, but within the hour, the rain started again.  I went home to read more about people trying to hike 25 miles in 120-degree heat with only a jelly jar filled with water.

Below are today's pieces, both 9x12 oil.  Again, I'm not sure of the image quality.  On these, I used "autocontrast" in Photoshop.


Ida M. Glazier said...

Really a vry intereswting blog today, I loved reading all you had to say about your experiances at the canyon. It must be most incrediable, the vast view and the dramtic weather. Your plein-air's say a lot about the area, the color is wonderful. Must be a wonderful experiance just being there, and a chance to both be there and take a workshop there with you would be great!! This year I did one with pastels artist, Bill Cone. Doing these things sure makes life good!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thank you, Ida! Maybe we'll get one up here soon.

daniela.. said...

I am enjoying your Grand Canyon expedition very much, the closest thing we have in New South Wales is the Blue Mountains to the west of Sydney, but I prefer your blog and what you are saying. You must feel you are on top of the world! Thank you for sharing it with us all.