Sunday, June 28, 2020

Painters on Wheels: Lyman Lake State Park, Arizona

5x8 gouache on 300 gsm cold-press paper

In my last post, I told the story of getting our PleasureWay, touted the benefits of painting by RV, and mentioned our first trip, to Lyman Lake State Park in Arizona.  In this post, I thought I'd share some of the sketches I made on that trip.

We'd last been to Lyman Lake maybe 20 years ago.  I scarcely remembered anything about it when M.L. Coleman, posing it as a possible painting destination, asked if I'd ever been there.  All I could remember was flatness—the lake is a manmade reservoir used for irrigation—but that there was something scenic about it.   It hadn't seemed to make a big impression on me.

After fighting the afternoon winds across the shale hill flats south of St John's—even in our Subaru Outback, I would have been fighting the wind—we descended into the park.  I don't know where I dredged up that sense of flatness, for the lake was surrounded by little interesting hills, topped with rocky bluffs.  I looked forward to not just painting them, but also to hiking some of the trails we'd heard about, trails that wandered through outcrops decorated with Ancestral Puebloan petroglyphs.

After stopping at the little store to claim our reservation, we headed down to our campsite.  M.L. was already there and hooked up.  Our site was directly across from his, and I could see that every site had a view of the lake.  Although we had tested some of the RV's systems, I'd not hooked up before, but it was extremely easy hooking up to electricity and water.  The electricity was especially important, as the highs were supposed to be in the 90s for our two days there, and neither Trina, Raku nor I can tolerate heat.  We had the air conditioning running almost 24/7.  From bed, I'd reach up around 3 a.m. to switch it off until shortly after sunrise, when we'd turn it on again.  (Yes, we like it cold.)

Mornings were quite pleasant, and M.L. and I would head out shortly after breakfast with our packs.  The hill on Petroglyph Peninsula was like a magnet for us with its morning shadows and picnic tables that were ideally placed for plein air painters.  Then, in the middle of the day, we'd take a break.  (I've been working my way through Emily St. John Mandel's Station Eleven, which is set in a global pandemic.  Believe me, our current pandemic could be a lot worse!)  In the late afternoons, our attention was drawn to a hill closer to the campground, so we'd set our chairs up in the shade of a cottonwood.  Although the mornings were cool and calm, not requiring any shade, afternoons were hot with a gale blowing, and the tree was important not just for shade but also for protection from the wind. 

Before painting each day, Trina, Raku and I hiked the trails at Petroglyph Peninsula.  There are enough interconnecting trails that we were able to do interesting variations each day, with panoramic views around the lake.  If I'd had another day or two, I would have taken my gouache kit on the hikes to do some very early morning painting, as the sunrise light on the rocks was spectacular.  The light was particularly rich because of smoke from the wildfires east in New Mexico, tinting the light with all the warm colors of the spectrum.

I took both gouache and pastel on the trip.  I had time for six sketches, four in gouache and two in pastel.  You'll find some “repeats” of scene in these; I don't mind painting the same feature over and over again.  I always see something different, and thus the experience is always different.

5x8 gouache on 300 gsm cold-press paper

5x8 gouache on 300 gsm cold-press paper

5x8 gouache on 300 gsm cold-press paper

9x12 pastel on UArt 500-grit paper

9x12 pastel on UArt 500-grit paper


Mary Ferguson Domec said...

Love the sketches, or references, thanks for shstening

nean12350 said...

Looks like your maiden voyage was a success. The work looks wonderful. really fresh color. Nothing like a painting camper. Everything is right there. I don't know how you withstood the AZ heat though. I could only go out in the evening after the sun started to go down. Glad you have a good AC system.

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thanks, Mary! Nean12350, it wasn't so bad. Early mornings were great up until about 10 am, and by lunch we just stayed in the RV with the AC running. I read, read, read...and then went out again in the evening.