|Canyon Trails 12x24 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson|
Available at Kolb Studio, Grand Canyon National Park
Friday, September 16, 2016
My goal Thursday afternoon was to finish the 12x24 I’d started at Yaki Point the day before. I was eager -- okay, let’s be honest and say “impatient” -- to get going. It was hard for me to waste time while waiting for the right hour of day so the light would be the same.
First, I drove out to the Visitor Center and took the last remaining parking space. In my four years of doing this particular event, I’ve never seen the Park so crowded. This year, a big flashing sign sits by the road saying “VISITOR CENTER PARKING LOTS FULL - USE LOTS A, B, C, D”. (I took a chance and found a spot in lot 4.) But I only really notice the crowds at the Visitor Center and the main shuttle stops in the village; elsewhere, the crowds seem to melt into the landscape of this big Park.
At the Visitor Center, I bought an ice cream bar at the snack shop, watched an 8-minute video about Canyon beginnings projected on on oversized (eight-foot?) tennis ball, and people-watched. Checking my watch, I saw it still wasn’t time. I drove to the Geology Museum, thinking I’d take a refresher course in the geologic eras and how they relate to the Canyon. The Museum, however, was quite busy, with tourists either taking photos of the displays or of the Canyon through the windows. (Funny, but you get the same view outside the Museum.) I finally decided to just drive on out to Yaki Point and set up.
But I was slowed down by stopped traffic. I was in a line of maybe six cars with a tour bus at the head. The bus had its flashers going. “Uh-oh,” I thought, “they must have had a breakdown.” I’m sure the wait wasn’t long, but it seemed that way. Turns out that everyone had stopped, including oncoming traffic, to take photos of a single elk buck by the roadside. There was plenty of room to pull off, but of course, no one did. I was finally able to pass when I was down to just one car ahead of me. Local residents don’t care for these “elk jams,” which apparently happen all the time.
Still, it wasn’t enough of a delay. When I reached Yaki Point, I still had another hour until the magic moment. But I set up anyway, taking my time, thinking about the painting, and then taking a short walk. A big fire was smouldering off to the north; a huge plume of smoke drifted east. (I think this is the Fuller Fire on the North Rim, which has burned nearly 15,000 acres; although the fire is much reduced in size, the recent winds may have kicked it up again.) By the time I got back to my easel, the time was close enough, so I launched into it.
I was missing the wind of the day before; it may have been windy, but at least it felt cooler. Here in the sun without the wind, it was quite warm. I sought shade but found none with my view. So, I drank a bottle of water an hour and took breaks in the shade. After a couple of hours, though, I was done. I am very happy with this painting.
I had the rest of the afternoon free to explore a bit before dinner. The Grand Canyon Association was again hosting a meal for the artists at a member’s home. In attendance was the new Park Superintendent, Chris Lehnertz, and it was a pleasure to meet her. By the time I wandered home, the stars were out, and the moon was full and bright. The air was filled with the scent of wood smoke.
Friday morning, artists were instructed to paint on the Rim Trail between Trailview and Mather Point from sunrise till 10. Ever the team player, I was out there at the crack of dawn. It was all of 41 degrees, but I was comfortable in layers. Knowing I had several hours, I took my time setting up, selecting my view and blocking in. I was done by 9. After that, I pulled out Thursday’s 12x24 and took another look at it. Satisfied, I framed it up and got the paperwork ready. I’ll be dropping it off Friday afternoon at the Kolb Studio.
That’s it for Friday! This evening at 7:30, Curt Walter will be giving a talk. Curt has painted the Canyon for decades and is very well known for his magnificent paintings. I always look forward to his talks.