Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 5

We woke to a chilly, overcast morning here at the Grand Canyon's South Rim.  I was up early to get to Yavapai Point by dawn; I hoped to get some good fog effects in the Canyon before the sun dried things out.  And I wasn't disappointed!  The fog was a magician and the Canyon a vast magic trunk, with temples and buttes vanishing and then suddenly reappearing.  But, in my opinion, it was weather more suited for photography than for plein air painting.

Short of going back to bed, how does a painter handle such frustrating ephemera?  Fog with the attention span of a two-year-old is certainly more challenging than the slow, predictable shift of sunlight.  One approach is that of painter Julia Seelos, whom I ran into later in the day at Yaki Point.  She'd chosen to do a tree study.  Selecting something close at hand minimizes the effects of fog.  Another option is to pay attention to the fog, and when it parts to reveal some useful feature, stop.  Stop painting, observe and memorize.  When the fog closes up again, you can then commit what you have memorized to canvas.

After leaving Yavapai, a little rain moved in, so I went to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to watch the free movie there.  I've seen it before, but it's worth seeing again.  It's a great introduction to the Canyon, and it also offers some stunning cinematography.  The whitewater rafting scenes left me breathless.

When I left the theatre, I saw that the weather hadn't improved at all.  In fact, it looked more threatening.  But I wanted to make another stab at the unusual weather, so I drove over to Yaki Point.  I set up not too far from Julia.  Perched at the edge, I spied a single condor far below swimming through the thin fog.  But the fog wasn't thin for long.  After arranging my paints and brushes, I looked up from my pochade to discover that I couldn't see anything beyond ten feet.  But that all changed two seconds later, of course, and I caught a glimpse of Vishnu Temple.  I decided to make that a focus, while working mostly on modelling a nearby tower that seemed to point to it.  I just left Vishnu a flat, abstract shape in the distance.

I finished up in time for the rain to begin.  Curtains of it had been moving through the Canyon in the distance, and finally one brushed by me.  I packed up, went to the car and then did some grocery shopping before heading home for lunch.

The sun seemed to be coming out early in the afternoon, so I headed back up to El Tovar to check out the scenery, thinking I might get in a small painting before P.A. Nisbet's demonstration at 4.  Well, the Canyon was all fog from the rim down.  So instead, I took a walk - and I took photographs, too.  By 4, Peter was set up on the rim and ready to paint.  Just as he began his block-in, the fog ate the scene.  Professional that he is, he forged ahead working from memory.  But then the heavens broke and the rain hammered down.  We quickly helped move his gear to the El Tovar's porch, where he continued to work from memory.  It was a great demo and a privilege to see him work.

You're probably wondering where my paintings are for today.  They need a little more consideration first.

As I write, it is now after dark, and it has been raining for five solid hours.  A little lake has developed outside my hosts' home.  I think I just saw a boat go by.

P.A. Nisbet demonstrating on the South Rim

Peter's palette

Peter on the El Tovar porch

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