Saturday, April 26, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Zion Canyon, Part 4

Painters from Maine and Massachusetts
Friday we went down to one of my favorite spots - Canyon Junction.  This is where the shuttle buses depart the main road and head up into Zion Canyon to follow the river.  A large bridge spans this spot, and the paved Pa'rus trail runs under it.  Also, the canyon widens out to give good views of both the Sentinel and the Watchman with the river lazily winding in the foreground.  There are also big boulders, rapids and waterfalls, a small dam, cottonwoods - plenty of scenery for the painter.  I've painted here several times over the years.

Although you can take the shuttle, there is also a wide shoulder for car parking on the west side of the bridge and a smaller area on the east side.  If you get there early enough - 9 a.m. in the busy season - you'll find a few spaces left.  Later than that, though, and you will need to head back to the Museum where you can park and take the shuttle in.  Our small caravan of three cars had no trouble parking.

Under increasingly cloudy skies, I lead everyone across the bridge and just past the shuttle stop where there is a river access path.  At the bottom of the trail you can wander freely in the sand among the boulders and cottonwoods.  I found myself returning west, passing under the bridge, to a spit of land that let me look back at the Sentinel.  (This year, for some reason, I keep finding myself drawn to this feature.)  It was a nice composition with water, boulder, tree - just about everything.

The Sentinel and the River, 12x9 oil

The painting was a struggle because of the peek-a-boo shadows.   The changing light had the biggest impact on the rock face, so I focused on that, waiting for the moments when the light gave me the effect I wanted.  I painted the rest of the scene at a more leisurely pace once I'd finished the important part.

You can't see my feet in the photo, but my heels are in the river.
I had to head back to the house early for a conference call with my editor.  I was to discuss my upcoming video shoot with her and the videographers and needed some time to study up on the outlines.  After the call, which I was able to do via Skype and another artist's portable Verizon wifi unit, I set up my easel on the patio with the other painters to tweak paintings. The wind was kicking up huge dustdevils, and storm clouds loomed over Zion, so we all decided it was best to stay at the house for the afternoon.

I took my tree pastel from the day before and adjusted the drawing on it; then I adjusted my Grafton church piece by darkening the foreground shadows; and finally I took my latest Sentinel scene and added some dark accents there as well.  These foreground darks continue to elude me in the field, but I am reluctant to automatically apply the darkest dark I can make.  I don't want to make any assumptions.  Quite often, you just don't see that kind of dark in nature.  But if in the studio the painting seems to call for it, I'll listen and add it.

By dinnertime, the wind had died down and patches of blue sky appeared.  Did the storm pass us by?  Not at all.  As I write this at 5 a.m., this rain is falling steadily.

Painter from New Hampshire

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