Saturday, September 8, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Days 1, 2

Afternoon, El Tovar on the Rim

Friday, I drove from Sedona to Grand Canyon in a rainstorm.  It was the proverbial cats and dogs, and I couldn't imagine what it would be like higher up.  But it turned out all the rain was south of Flagstaff, and I had an easy drive to the South Rim.  I reached my guest lodging - thank you again, Chris and Rick! - around noon.  Having still several hours before orientation, I made good use of my time by walking the Rim Trail and reminding myself of some good afternoon painting spots.  Because we had to wait for orientation to get our canvases stamped, I couldn't do any real painting just yet.

At orientation, we were given a light supper and an opportunity to see some old friends and to meet a few new ones.  We were also given secret access codes - we lucky painters have permission to drive where normally only the shuttle buses can go.  Although the shuttles are very convenient for hikers, they're not very convenient for painters who need to tote a week's worth of painting gear!    I'm grateful for the access to Hermit Road and Yaki Point, two of my favorites areas to paint in.

Not all the painters were at orientation.  Two were headed for the North Rim, and three were heading down to Indian Gardens and Phantom Ranch.  They had to get a head start because of the travel time.  By the way, although you can drive to the North Rim, you can't drive to Indian Gardens or Phantom Ranch.  You have to hike.  Trina and I did the hike in and out several years ago.  I know that although going down is strenuous, hiking out is even more so.  Fortunately, the painters were able to arrange to have mules carry their gear.

Kolb Studio and Bright Angel Trail, 12x16 oil

After a good night's rest, I hit the road just before dawn.  I had in mind one particular place on the Hermit Road with a good view of the Kolb Studio perched on the rim and the Bright Angel trail descending below it.   Because the sun was just coming up, I decided to do a quick, 5x7 sketch just to warm up, and then I followed it by a 12x16.  While I painted, the mules began to worry their way down the trail past the Studio, followed by hikers.  I had just the tiniest breeze, but it wasn't cold at all.  Mornings seem warmer this year than last.

Pinon Tree, 9x12 (not quite resolved yet)

It was about 10:30 by the time I finished, and I needed a break.  I continued west on the Hermit Road.  About halfway out, there's a pulloff just big enough for one car.  It's right by the rim, and there's a picnic table there.  I had an apple and enjoyed sitting for a few minutes.  Then I pulled my gear out and did a 9x12 study of a piƱon hanging out over the edge.  While I painted, a quartet of condors wheeled overhead.  I tried to take some artsy photos of them, but by the time I got the camera out, they'd moved on.  I got one decent shot, though.  (Condors were recently introduced to the Canyon by the Park Service.   They seem to be thriving!)

El Condor Paseo Overhead

Following this, it was time for lunch, so I drove all the way to the end of the road and found another picnic table.  It was hot and dry at Hermit's Rest.  I didn't spend long, just enough time to scarf down two rice cakes slathered with peanut butter and apple butter and to toss back a half-liter of spring water.

Gregory Hull

I drove slowly back, trying to decide if I had energy for a fourth painting ... and then I came across Gregory Hull working hard.  He gave me the inspiration to tackle another.  I found an artfully-arranged clump of Mormon tea with some good shadows behind it.  This was also a 9x12, and I knew when I finished that I was tired and had had more than enough sun.  You have to be careful at 7,000 feet on a clear day, even in mid-September.

Mormon Tea, 9x12, oil

I stopped home briefly, and then headed over to El Tovar to watch John Cogan give an acrylic painting demonstration.  One of the neat things about the Plein Air on the Rim event is that every day you can see a demonstration by a master artist.  (They're also doing them at the other locations I mentioned.)  I try never to miss it.   John had great weather for his demonstration, unlike last year, when we had a good deal of raw weather that forced us to El Tovar's porch.

John Cogan Giving a Demonstration

By the way, I've had several people stop by to chat at each of my locations.   One of the purposes of this event is, of course, education.  I talk to people about what I do, what interests me in the Canyon, how I interpret it, and so on.  I want them to see the Canyon through my painter's eyes.  But I also let them know that they can buy the work we create this week and, if they do so, they will support the Grand Canyon Association's dream of creating an art center and museum for the Canyon.

Now it's late...time to rest up for tomorrow.  It looks like we might get some clouds,which I always like.


Grace McKee said...

Thank you for sharing your experience with us.

Susan Pitcairn said...

Interesting adventure, appreciate your taking the time to share it!

Deb Marett said...

I spent five days hiking though the back country during college--we started at Hermit's Rest. Thanks for sharing your journey & paintings; it's bringing back great memories!! Totally envious of your opportunity! :)

Dru said...

Love the Kolb studio painting and the mormon tea. Yes it is very green now, the poppies in Verde Valley are stupendous toward Strawberry on the 260. Happy painting!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thanks, everyone!