This is my first time at "In the Footsteps of Thomas Moran," the Plein Air Invitational in Zion National Park. Zion has a painting every hundred feet along the highway, and if you park and take any trail, the paintings multiply. Although I've been here a few times, I haven't had a full week of painting. Is it possible for one to overdose on beauty?
It was a six-hour drive from Sedona, and by the time I started snaking slowly on curvy Utah 9 behind two tour buses heading into the park, I was getting pretty tired. So, my first evening here was limited to unpacking and stocking up on groceries. I did check in with artists Anne Weiler-Brown and Kate Starling, who are coordinating the event, to pick up my goodie bag and packet of instructions, but after that, I took a short walk at dusk, and then went to bed and read up on travel literature about the area. (By the way, my lodging has been generously donated by Cable Mountain Lodge, right at the park's south gate.)
I was anxious to get going in the morning (Monday,) but Utah, unlike Arizona, respects Daylight Savings Time, and sunrise wasn't until 8. I headed out at first light. It was pretty windy - 53 degrees but a chill wind. The ranger at the gate let me know that it's always windy in the mornings here.
During the busier season, you can't drive your private vehicle up Zion Canyon. But the shuttle buses ceased operation for the season yesterday, so I was able to drive my own car, which is much more convenient. My first stop was Court of the Patriarchs. I followed the trail past the water treatment plant, crossed the bridge, and headed up to a little meadow with beautiful views. The wind was pretty stiff, so I sought shelter behind a small tree. Dawn lit up the mountains with brilliant orange and yellow. While I painted, three turkeys came walking by. To them, I was just part of the scenery.
I'd been painting in shade - it takes a long time for the sun to reach parts of the canyon floor - and my hands had grown numb by the time I'd finished painting. I had to retreat to the car to warm up. But soon I was ready to head out again, and I followed the same trail in and took a different view. I liked the Court so much that I could paint it all day, and I'll probably go back there.
After the second painting, it was time for a quick lunch and to drop off my studio painting at the Nature Center. Artists had to ship two studio paintings and then bring a third. I found out today from Trina that one of my first two studio paintings has already sold! I'm taking that as a good omen. (You can see this painting and others at http://www.zionpark.org/product_96.html )
After lunch, I drove on up the canyon, taking pictures and thinking about possible spots for later in the week. I found one pull-off past Angel's Landing with a gorgeous view of backlit cottonwoods and the Landing behind them. It was too good to pass up, so I did my third painting there.
Afternoon was dragging on, and so was I. I headed back, stopping at one place where I spotted a few familiar vehicles - Bill Cramer's CRV, complete with a full sheet of plywood mounted on top to make a painting stand, and Joshua Been's XTerra. I went down to visit. Unlike other events, where the artists have been able to use cell phones to organize impromptu painting sessions - our version of a "flash mob" - cell phones are pretty unreliable here, and I hadn't been able to contact anyone. I spotted John Cogan down by the water, too.
Now it's Tuesday morning. Even though yesterday was productive, I'll need to hustle again today. Weather is moving in for tonight - gusty winds - and possibly some snow later in the week.