Friday, April 25, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Zion Canyon, Part 3

Warm, pleasant weather continued Thursday as we prepared to head out to the ghost town of Grafton.  Last time we were here, our group went there on the very last afternoon not with the intention to paint - all the gear had been packed up as we prepared to depart Zion - but to explore.  As we drove down the road past turnoffs for Smithsonian Butte and the Grafton Cemetery, we were treated to stunning views of ragged-top buttes, cottonwood-clad arroyos and the distant peaks of Zion Canyon.  And Grafton itself turned out to be a treasure - four or five buildings from the past in a picturesque setting of green pastures edged with split-rail fences and mulberry trees.  We vowed to paint there next time.

After breakfast and the morning critique, we headed out.  The road had more pavement than I remembered, and then, as we got close to Grafton, a lot more dust than I remembered.  The last mile or so was composed of some fine dust that seemed like FFFF-grade pumice; and it was several inches deep and as slippery as snow.  A breath of wind stirred up a huge cloud of it.  We had our all-wheel drive Subaru, but the others had low-clearance rental cars.  We all made it, but the cars were amazingly dusty.  (Later, we found that the dust had penetrated every cavity of the car.)

Last Year's Rattler
We didn't see the rattlesnake we saw last year, which was a big one.  But since the weather had been warm for many days, we kept a lookout.  I found a good view of the church or schoolhouse (it had served both needs) with some nice shadows on the cliffs behind it.  As I painted, a variety of vehicles, including at least one Prius, crawled in on clouds of dust.  Most tourists stayed only five minutes; it was a rare group that stayed ten.  As painters, we absorb much more than the casual visitor.  After staring at a building against a shadowed hill for two hours, you have learned a lot not just about the scene but also about the overall temperament of a place.  It's like an intense conversation with a new friend.

Grafton Church, 9x12 oil
By lunchtime, the sun had gotten hot.  We retreated to a shady porch to eat and rest, and as much as we liked Grafton, we decided it was time to move on.  I personally felt the dust was rising like the tide, and if we didn't get out soon, the road would become impassable.

Back at our house, some of us spent time making adjustments to earlier work.  I found a bit of shade and enjoyed adding or correcting a brush stroke here and there.  My problem is that often I don't put deep-enough darks in the foreground; in the field, I have a hard time judging those darks and often deal with them later.  They're important for creating a sense of depth.

Virgin River Cottonwood, 12x9 pastel
Toward dinnertime, we went back to the Nature Center to work along the river.  We found some nice cottonwoods, and the roar of the water made a pleasant backdrop for painting.

Painter from British Columbia
Weather changes are afoot.  A big storm is predicted for the weekend.

The "Sundance Kids" at lunch.
"Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid," starring Paul Newman
and Robert Redford, was partly shot in Grafton.

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