Saturday, September 17, 2011

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 8

(Friday, Sept 16)


Most plein air events these days have a Quick Draw session.   I used to dread these sessions.  Imagine being surrounded by a constantly changing army of spectators, all with questions about what you do and why you do it - and at the same time, you're trying to do what you do, and to do it better than any of the other 29 artists!  But these days, I look forward to the challenge and the opportunity to meet some really nice people.

I headed out early to get a parking space up by El Tovar, which is where the Quick Draw was to be held.  It was 6:30, and the event wasn't until 9.  I used the time to stretch my legs, clear my head, see the sunrise over the canyon and call home.  Once I finished my coffee, I walked the length of the Rim Trail from Verkamp's Visitor Center to the Kolb Studio to find a good location.   I decided I wanted to save my energy for painting, not for lugging gear, so I chose one near the parking lot and right in front of El Tovar, the fancy resort.  Once I dropped my gear, claiming my turf, I chatted with some of the other artists and strategized.

Waiting for the Starting Gun
(No, there's not really a gun)

My strategy is two-fold.  First, work small.  Second, have fun.  So, I did an 8x10, and for fun, I used a painting knife.  People were really curious about the knife, having not seen it used before.  I gave them a mini-lecture about how it's hard to create mud with a knife - color is rich and clean - and how easy it is to clean up, with just a wipe of a paper towel, no mineral spirits needed.  I did block in the scene first with a brush to get it going, but everything else was knifework.   I was quite pleased with the results, and I guess the person who bought the painting was, too!

"Good Morning" 8x10

We painted from 9 until 11, and then promptly framed our work and delivered it to the auction tent on El Tovar's north lawn.  For an hour, artists milled around with patrons.  I ran into P.A. Nisbet and had a nice chat with him; he was one of the artist stars of last night's movie, "Chasing the Light."  He'd been one of the painters working the North Rim.  At noon, the auction began.  We had a real auctioneer, and sales were fast and furious.  I believe every single piece was sold, and for more than the reserve and often for more than fair market price.  Having sold mine made my day.  I promptly bought a sandwich from the luncheon tent to celebrate.

At the Auction

 Afterward, I headed over to the Grand Canyon National Park Museum Collection.  The curator graciously scheduled tours for artists and other interested parties, and she pulled out artworks that she thought we might like to see.  I particularly enjoyed seeing the two original Gunnar Widforss watercolors and an original Thomas Moran.  The Widforss works were intriguing because they are quite detailed yet still very painterly, and they were all done en plein air.  Gunnar must have been a very patient man with a steady hand and an eye that did not get lost while tracing the Canyon's complex topography.

After a respite, during which I did the usual post-event housekeeping chores such as cleaning brushes, I went off to the evening's event at the Kolb Studio.

The Kolb Studio sits perched on the South Rim overlooking the famous Bright Angel Trail.  The Kolb brothers, Emery and Ellsworth, daredevil photographers, lived there.  Since some of our work is down in their living quarters, I got to take a tour.  What a view!  The Kolb brothers had a good thing going.

By 7 p.m., the Studio was packed with patrons.  I was delighted to sell my studio piece plus a couple of the  plein air pieces.

Saturday morning, the show will be rehung with the sold pieces removed and more pieces added.   Then at 11, the show opens to the general public.  (Come on down!)  I'll be there from 11 to 1, and then I'll be heading back to the airport and Campobello Island.

I have to thank the volunteers, the Grand Canyon Association staff and board members.  They put in a huge amount of time and labor to make this event a memorable and successful one for the artists.  Thank you, too, to the National Park Service who gave the artists special access to the Canyon.  And finally, I thank my wonderful hosts, who gave me the peace, quiet and support that a working artist needs at these events.  Thank you, Rick and Chris!


Marsha Hamby Savage said...

Michael, I so enjoyed all your posts about the Grand Canyon Plein Air. Congratulations on all the paintings you did -- beautiful. I love your knife paintings. Also, great about the sales. You deserved them!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thank you, Marsha!

Marian Fortunati said...

Looks like it was a great event. One day I'll enjoy seeing it!

njart73 said...

I appreciate your taking the time to share with us
the Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim paint out .
Your blog postings made me feel as if I were at the event. Your paintings and photographs of the canyon are inspiring. Congratulations on your success at the auction.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thank you, Marian and njart73!