"Bear Mountain View" 6x12, oil
One of the problems with painting in truly spectacular places is that it is so easy to paint the obvious. Especially if it's a famous spot, the chances are you'll paint a hackneyed view, something that's been on hundred of postcards and in thousands of family photo albums. Sedona is a bit like that. Everyone likes to photograph (and paint) Cathedral Rock with the waters of Oak Creek shimmering in the foreground. I'm guilty of dozens of such photos and paintings. But it is a pretty scene!
What is the obvious? I'm speaking more about design than anything else. Even if Cathedral Rock weren't famous, it'd still be an obvious scene. The creek provides a great lead-in for the viewer, and the rock itself is a perfect center of interest. Frederick Law Olmsted couldn't have designed a more visually pleasing landscape.
But it's too easy. Plant a dozen painters in front of it, and they'll paint virtually the same design. (Granted, media and style will be different.)
When you're confronted with the obvious, turning around 180 degrees and painting something else will force you into discovery mode. Discovery mode is something we should all stretch for. It's what makes us grow as painters.
There's one place where I've never been able to find the obvious. Compositions are frustratingly hard to come by. It's the old town dump, now overgrown with prickly pear, creosote bush and juniper. You do get views of the Sedona red rocks, but they are distant. What a great idea it would be to take a group of students there and tell them to find something to paint. They'd probably scratch their heads, ask me why we just didn't go to Cathedral Rock where there is something to paint. Someday, they'd understand I was doing them a favor.
Above is a sketch I did there yesterday.