Thursday, April 24, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Zion Canyon, Part 2

Painter from Massachusetts

Wednesday dawned mostly clear and about 60 degrees.  Much of the dust from the afternoon before had settled, and from the house we could see the Watchman clearly.  Painters woke early for coffee and scrambled eggs.  Although we had talked about having breakfast at eight, it seemed we were all hungry by seven.  We had thought that getting a too early start didn't make sense, as the canyon is narrow and the walls, steep, which means that it takes a long time for the sun to spill in.  But we found that in the lower canyon, from the Court of the Patriarchs and below, it's wide enough for some good light early.

After breakfast and a group critique of work from the day before, we saddled up and rode the shuttle to the Court of the Patriarchs.  The shuttle plays a tape loop as you run up the canyon and tells you many facts about the Park.  These are interesting the first time you hear them, but by the third or fourth trip it's a little tiring.  (Fortunately, the loop isn't played on the return trip down the canyon.)  As we approached our stop, it let us know that there was a short, steep trail to the right that would give us views of the Patriarchs.  These are three awe-inspiring peaks that tower over a broad sand bench and box canyon.  But I knew from previous experience that the view is partially blocked by trees and there'd be lots of tourists.  Better is the service road on the other side of the road, which takes you by the river and, via a bridge, out to the sand bench, where few people go.

A short hike took us past cottonwoods that lined the river and a horse barn that houses the horses for the guides that run tours up and down this part of the canyon.  The cottonwoods were huge, and several of them showed the work of beavers.  I was surprised that they would go after such large trees; in my experience, they prefer the smaller saplings, which are more tender.   The horses were already gone; we could hear the guides in the trees on the other side of the river, coaching the tourist riders.  A couple of wild turkeys appeared and sparred briefly, but their calls rang out all morning.

Some of us painted down by the water and others up on the sand bench.  I went up on the bench to paint a vista.  After a couple of close-ups of rocks the day before, I felt like painting something a little broader.  I faced up the canyon, where I had views of the spring-greens of cottonwoods against the red-violet of the shadowed cliffs.

Court of the Patriarchs, 9x12 oil

We'd packed lunches with us, so when I finished, I walked around to see what the others were doing while eating a sandwich.  Afterward, I thought about making another sketch, but instead decided to return to town with a couple of the others.  We explored a few galleries and then, after a break, headed back into the field late in the afternoon.  We went to the Nature Center, where we'd gone the first morning, and painted the shadows.  I tackled the Watchman in pastel; my first try this week was in oil, and it had been a hazy-light situation, but this time I had some good, crisp shadows.

The Watchman. 6x9 pastel.

Three of the painters made dinner - grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and asparagus followed by bumbleberry pie and ice cream - and then we settled down to view a short art instruction video one of the painters had brought.  This reminded me that I'm supposed to shoot a series of three videos in a few weeks for Artists Network.  You can bet that I wasn't paying attention to the lesson but instead to how the artist performed in front of the camera.

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