Wednesday, November 28, 2018

My Love of Landscape - Part 12

Part 12 of My Love of Landscape:  Move to Arizona

Just Before Sundown 12x16 Oil
(Cathedral Rock, Sedona AZ)


We ended up spending winters in the Sedona area for nine or ten years.  I modelled my teaching program there on my Campobello program, focusing on just a few students at a time, usually no more than four, and making it a morning program, which left students time to explore with family and friends or to paint on their own in the afternoons.  Again, as with Campobello, I accrued a wealth of knowledge about the area and enjoyed sharing my "secret spots" with my students.  I liked Sedona so much I even wrote a small guide:  Paint Sedona!: A Plein Air Painter's Field Guide to Sedona, Arizona.

Teaching a larger workshop

On-location in Sedona

Sedona is "Red Rock Country."  Settled over a hundred years ago along Oak Creek, at the bottom of Oak Creek Canyon, it presents beautiful vistas of the characteristic geology, exposed by wind and water.  Thunder Mountain, Courthouse Butte, Bell Rock, Snoopy Rock—if you've ever been to Sedona, these names will immediately conjure up a visual of a skyline of curious shapes that glow with a powerful incandescence at sunset.  But even better, for the hiker or painter, there are many trails that take you right into this landscape.  We have many favorites that we hiked repeatedly, but while we were there, we continued to discover new hikes, new vistas.

Sedona is a beautiful place, but it is being "loved to death," as the saying goes.  Squeezed into a corner by national forest and the topology of the local landscape, it has three congested roads in and out, each of them scenic.  I thought about describing the travel issues here but decided to keep things light and cheery; just know that Sedona has traffic.  I had a student from Los Angeles come and ask, "What traffic?" but for a person who loves rural life, believe me, it has traffic.  But more than that, increasingly the surrounding forest is being over-used and commercialized by jeep and bus tours and other ventures.

Slide Rock Fault 16x20 Oil

Mitten Ridge with Snow 12x16 Oil

As much as we loved the Sedona landscape, we began looking for a place a little quieter.  We soon discovered interesting towns to the south:  Page Springs, home of many vineyards and wineries; Cottonwood, a "service town" that had a not-so-well-known Old Town section; Clarkdale, once a flourishing copper mine town; Jerome, a ghost town perched on a steep hillside and which was recently revived by an art culture moving in; and our favorite, Cornville, which, despite its name, doesn't have a single cornfield  and was once the home of Senator John McCain.  We finally chose Cornville.

Our community in Cornville sat at the confluence of Oak and Spring Creeks where, because of spring floods, much of the flood zone was left natural, with huge cottonwood trees, cobble sandbars and cattails.  Two trails follow the creeks, and each of them ultimately takes you out of the community and into national forest, where you can hike for a very long time before running into another person.   On our hikes along the creeks, we saw ducks and flycatchers, herons and bald eagles, turtles and river otters.  I especially loved the smell of the young cottonwoods in the fall as the leaves turned yellow; it was a wild scent that whispered of secrets yet to be found on our hikes.  As part of my workshop week, even though I continued to teach in Sedona, I always included a day in our community to share something a little different from Sedona but equally beautiful.

Albert Handell in Sedona

Doug Dawson in Sedona

During this time, I began to invite master artists to teach workshops for me, both in Maine and in Arizona.  Both Albert Handell and Doug Dawson, with whom we have become good friends, have taught mentoring workshops in Sedona and Lubec.  Although it took a lot of work to market and coordinate, for me each week was like a vacation; I didn't have to teach.  Also enlightening was to see my landscape through the eyes of these excellent painters.  One of my favorite comments was from Doug, who said, "If I see the obvious, I turn around 180 degrees and paint something else."  He made this in the context of a visit to a lighthouse with the students, and I think they were all surprised that he painted an exquisite vignette of a clump of trees rather than the obvious.

On the road with the Lazydays and M.L. Coleman

I should also mention that I began to take road trips with another painter.  M.L. Coleman lived in town, had a Lazydays RV, and liked to go out on excursions to paint.  He invited me along, and we now make it an annual date, to take at least one trip together.  We've made trips to, among others, Grand Canyon, both the North and South Rims; the Arizona Strip and Vermilion Cliffs; and Canyon de Chelly.  But we've also just explored the local scenery around Sedona.  Going out "boondocking"—camping without hookups to water or electricity—in your own neighborhood is much different than just driving off to paint for a couple of hours.  You get to see the landscape sunrise to sundown, moonrise to moonset, and to experience it at its fullest.  There's nothing quite like hearing the coyotes a few feet away on the other side of a very thin wall at 2 a.m.

Then Trina discovered a property for sale in Ramah, New Mexico—just a few miles from where we first came to New Mexico to work as caretakers on a small ranch, 20 years ago.

(to be continued)

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