Showing posts with label painting retreat. Show all posts
Showing posts with label painting retreat. Show all posts

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Zion Canyon, Part 5

Falls to Lower Emerald Pool

Saturday morning dawned with steady rain.  The rain, which had begun in the night, came down hard enough to wake us.  At breakfast, fog shrouded the mountain tops, but as it parted, we saw snow at the highest elevations.  After our group critique, I proposed the idea of my doing a pastel demonstration indoors, an idea which everyone eagerly accepted.

Big Sur Coast - 9x12 pastel - color temperature study

I parked myself in front of a large window for light and pulled up a photo on my my tablet.  I decided to paint a "rehearsal" of a piece I plan to make for one of my videos; this particular video will feature oil, but I wanted to try it in pastel first, which I find easier for working out design issues.  The chosen scene was of the California coast near Big Sur, but the real subject was color temperature in the landscape.  I didn't refer to my outline as I worked, but just tried to keep in mind my focus on temperature as I talked.  It was good to go through the steps, since I discovered a compositional problem that needed resolving.  Since I ran into a problem with this one, you can bet I'll rehearse the other two videos, as well.

After lunch, the weather finally broke - or seemed to.  A glimpse of sun came out and the rain stopped.  We had heard Zion can have some great waterfalls after a storm, so we headed up the canyon on the shuttle to see if anything interesting was happening.  We're glad we did!  Trina and I hiked part of the Angel's Landing trail from the Grotto and saw a small waterfall just where the route creeps up a steep wall.  Then the showers began again, so we turned around and hiked over to the Emerald Pools.  An awesome, triple waterfall surprised us as we rounded a corner.  We headed for the lower pool, which required us to hike below and behind the noisiest waterfall.  We hugged the cliff wall to avoid the spray as the water thundered over head and cascaded among the rocks.  Although our shoes were a muddy mess, it was worth the effort.

Triple Waterfalls at Emerald Pools

We and scores of other hikers felt the effort required a break at the Zion Lodge.  We got a bottomless coffee/hot chocolate blend, which we refilled twice, and sat with the other artists and people-watched.  The canyon was surprisingly busy; we thought the rain would keep people away, but maybe they had heard about the waterfalls just as we had.

Evening was spent with saying goodbyes to some of our crew who would be leaving early Sunday morning.  Departing were Tennessee and Maine.  British Columbia had already left, shortly after breakfast and crits.  New Hampshire and Massachusetts wouldn't depart until Monday, as would we.

Sunday dawned clear and cold.  Someone reported it was 37 degrees.  After an early breakfast of oatmeal, we headed up the canyon via shuttle for one last painting expedition.  We stopped at Zion Lodge, about halfway up the canyon, where the sun hadn't quite penetrated yet.  That was good, as I always like to anticipate where the sun is going to hit and work toward it, especially in early morning canyon situations.

We hiked just past the Lodge along the river where the land opened up and gave us excellent views of Angel's Landing, the Emerald Pools waterfalls (still going strong!) and Mountain of the Sun.  I set up facing south and painted a view of the latter with the river in front.  To make sure I got the light on the mountain accurately before the shadows changed, I worked exclusively on just that feature, leaving the rest of the panel empty.  Once I'd finished blocking in the light and shadow patterns and painting in some of the warm, bounce-light on its cliffs, I worked on everything else.

Mountain of the Sun, 12x9 oil

Afterward, we hiked back to the Lodge to eat our sandwiches in the sun and to take the shuttle home.  Once back, it was time to clean up and pack.  Since we'll be traveling for a few more weeks, we had to do the laundry and repack all that stuff that we will need for workshops.  The light continued to be beautiful, and although the brushes are stowed, we still enjoyed an afternoon walk.   The last day is always sad, but we know we'll paint together again somewhere along the road.

Now we are trying to revise our route east.  We had hoped to take I-70 through Vail to Denver, but lingering snow in the Rockies and northern New Mexico may push us as far south as I-40.

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

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.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Road Trip, West to East - Zion Canyon, Part 2

Painter from Massachusetts

Wednesday dawned mostly clear and about 60 degrees.  Much of the dust from the afternoon before had settled, and from the house we could see the Watchman clearly.  Painters woke early for coffee and scrambled eggs.  Although we had talked about having breakfast at eight, it seemed we were all hungry by seven.  We had thought that getting a too early start didn't make sense, as the canyon is narrow and the walls, steep, which means that it takes a long time for the sun to spill in.  But we found that in the lower canyon, from the Court of the Patriarchs and below, it's wide enough for some good light early.

After breakfast and a group critique of work from the day before, we saddled up and rode the shuttle to the Court of the Patriarchs.  The shuttle plays a tape loop as you run up the canyon and tells you many facts about the Park.  These are interesting the first time you hear them, but by the third or fourth trip it's a little tiring.  (Fortunately, the loop isn't played on the return trip down the canyon.)  As we approached our stop, it let us know that there was a short, steep trail to the right that would give us views of the Patriarchs.  These are three awe-inspiring peaks that tower over a broad sand bench and box canyon.  But I knew from previous experience that the view is partially blocked by trees and there'd be lots of tourists.  Better is the service road on the other side of the road, which takes you by the river and, via a bridge, out to the sand bench, where few people go.

A short hike took us past cottonwoods that lined the river and a horse barn that houses the horses for the guides that run tours up and down this part of the canyon.  The cottonwoods were huge, and several of them showed the work of beavers.  I was surprised that they would go after such large trees; in my experience, they prefer the smaller saplings, which are more tender.   The horses were already gone; we could hear the guides in the trees on the other side of the river, coaching the tourist riders.  A couple of wild turkeys appeared and sparred briefly, but their calls rang out all morning.

Some of us painted down by the water and others up on the sand bench.  I went up on the bench to paint a vista.  After a couple of close-ups of rocks the day before, I felt like painting something a little broader.  I faced up the canyon, where I had views of the spring-greens of cottonwoods against the red-violet of the shadowed cliffs.

Court of the Patriarchs, 9x12 oil

We'd packed lunches with us, so when I finished, I walked around to see what the others were doing while eating a sandwich.  Afterward, I thought about making another sketch, but instead decided to return to town with a couple of the others.  We explored a few galleries and then, after a break, headed back into the field late in the afternoon.  We went to the Nature Center, where we'd gone the first morning, and painted the shadows.  I tackled the Watchman in pastel; my first try this week was in oil, and it had been a hazy-light situation, but this time I had some good, crisp shadows.

The Watchman. 6x9 pastel.

Three of the painters made dinner - grilled chicken, roasted potatoes and asparagus followed by bumbleberry pie and ice cream - and then we settled down to view a short art instruction video one of the painters had brought.  This reminded me that I'm supposed to shoot a series of three videos in a few weeks for Artists Network.  You can bet that I wasn't paying attention to the lesson but instead to how the artist performed in front of the camera.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Road Trip, West to East: Zion Canyon, Part 1

We arrived in Springdale, Utah, on a glorious day filled with air so crisp it was like biting into a good apple.  I imagine it was the kind of day that the first Mormon settlers experienced when they pulled their wagons into Zion Canyon.  They saw it as a place of not only peace and beauty but also as a place of refuge.

The Sentinel, 9x12 oil
(The sun was still out when I painted this one.)

This is, I think, my fourth trip to this land of cloudscraping towers, weeping springs and light-filled canyons.  My first time here, back in the 90s, I hiked Angel's Landing, a 1488-foot climb, after suffering a bout of food poisoning that I acquired in Moab the day before; my next time was in 2011 as an Invited Artist at the Zion National Park plein air painting event; then, shortly after that, I joined a group of artists to spend a week painting here.  (Click here for past posts on Zion.) Now, I'm doing that again.  I'm finding that with each visit I get to know Zion better and better as a painter.

We got to our rental house, which is right in downtown Springdale and close to galleries and restaurants, on Easter Sunday, a day early, which gave me an opportunity to refresh my memory.   Town and the Park were incredibly busy - every lot in the park was filled, and the town's streets were lined with RVs and cars.  Not only was it Easter, it was also a "free weekend" at the National Parks across the country.  Trina talked to one ranger who said that Saturday had been a record, with 27,000 visitors.  To us, Sunday seemed just as busy.

The Watchman, 9x12 oil
(The clouds were beginning to move in.)

But the town and Park have a great shuttle system.  We left the car parked at the house and rode the shuttle, which was filled to capacity, into Zion Canyon and along the North Fork of the Virigin River.  Every stop was a rich painting spot.  You could spend an entire day painting at any of them.  We rode all the way to the end, to the Temple of Sinawa and the Narrows trail, to take the 2.2-mile hike there.  Columbines, Zion Shooting Stars and other flowers clung to the canyon walls, dripping with moisture.

The next day, we prepared for the other artists, buying food at the local grocery store (literally a one-minute walk from the house) and running around making sure we had enough towels.  The first arrival came mid-afternoon, an artist from British Columbia, and while we waited for the others, we did a little sketching in the shade of the house.  Neither of us wanted to get too messy just yet, so he did a pencil sketch and I did a little digital painting.  I continue to play with Sketchbook Pro and find that I'm getting better at quick color-mixing; but even in the shade, on that bright day it was somewhat difficult to see what was happening on-screen.

Digital Zion
The others - a total of nine that included six artists - arrived by dinnertime.  We headed across the street to the Flying Monkey for pizza and then bed.  We were from everywhere, east coast and west coast, and what with the travel and time zone changes, we were beat.  Artists hailed from not just B.C. but also New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Tennessee.

From Tennessee
Tuesday morning we all woke up early, had a light breakfast and then headed out.  A big spring storm to the north with high winds in our area were predicted.  But dawn came surprisingly calm and clear.  We set up, two pastel painters and four oil painters, along the Pa'rus Trail near the Nature Center, with views of the peaks to the west.  I did two paintings, and then the sun disappeared and the wind began.  We headed back to the house for lunch with the idea of everyone taking the shuttle ride in the afternoon to get familiar with the terrain.  Some of us had been here before, others not, but I thought it'd be good for all of us to scope out painting spots for the week.  By the time we reached Big Bend, the wind was howling.  By the time we headed back down the canyon, the air was so full of dust the canyon looked like Peking on a bad day.  We'd made the right decision to not paint in the afternoon.

The cold front moved in quickly, though, and by the time we finished our dinners at the Flying Monkey, the air was clear, the setting sun bright on the cliffs, and we knew the next day would be beautiful.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Road Trip: Painting the Arizona Strip

Vermillion Cliffs cast a shadow on Echo Cliffs at sunset

No, we're not talking about comic strips here.  The "Arizona Strip" is that part of Arizona that lies north of the Colorado River and the Utah border.  It's sort of a no-man's land, a stark but beautiful landscape.  I had the opportunity this past week to spend several days painting the Arizona Strip with my friend M.L. Coleman.  We traveled about 500 miles in his 22-foot Lazy Daze RV to visit such places as the North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park, Vermillion Cliffs National Monument, Marble Canyon and Lees Ferry.

Near Lees Ferry

A break in an oil coolant line in the RV and problems with getting replacement parts delayed our departure until Tuesday.  That was just as well, since a small weather front moved through on Monday, dropping snow in the high country.  Tuesday morning dawned cool and clear in Sedona, so we headed up toward Page.  Getting to Page,  however, was out of the question because of the monumental "slump" in the road bed of Route 89.  This happened over a year ago, and it still has engineers scratching their heads over how to fix it.  This was not a problem for us, though, since we weren't trying to get to Page.  To reach the Strip, you head west on 89A a few miles before Page.  I bring up the "slump" to show you how the strange geology in northern Arizona can puzzle even the experts.  This geology is what painters go to the Strip to paint.

After a four-hour drive, we ended up near Lees Ferry, which marks the one place in Arizona where you can easily cross the Colorado river via boat.  Lees Ferry, as a historic site, is administered by the National Park Service.  Here's what the NPS web site has to say:
Lees Ferry is the only place within Glen Canyon where visitors can drive to the Colorado River in over 700 miles of Canyon Country, right up to the first "rapid" in the Grand Canyon. A natural corridor between Utah and Arizona, Lees Ferry figured prominently in the exploration and settlement of Northern Arizona. Lees Ferry is now a meeting of the old and the new.
Lees Ferry sits hunkered down beneath the Vermillion Cliffs.  The Cliffs are about 1500+ feet high and yes, the name is accurate.  Even at high noon, when color is usually washed-out, they glow a stunning vermillion hue.  In the evening, as the sun drops in the west and the shadows grow, they become breathtaking.  We arrived at the campground in time to do a quick painting before sunset.

Camping at Lees Ferry

Surprisingly, the campground was mostly empty.  I imagine it must get busy sometime, since it had not one but two campground hosts.  Save for a couple of generators running - they both stopped by 8:30 - it proved a quiet place to spend the night.  It was the only night we spent in a campground; other nights, we "boondocked," as RVers call it, finding a quiet spot off the road.  The Strip is mostly either National Forest or BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, and you can camp anywhere but in the Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, which is off-limits to internal combustion engines.  If you want a superbly quiet night with plenty of stars but without smokey campfires and noisy generators, this is how to get a great camping experience.

After painting, we had dinner.   All our meals were simple.  M.L.'s wife had roasted a chicken and made some soup that we brought with us; otherwise, M.L. cooked steak (beef and pork) and always made a small salad.  For lunches, I'd brought some bagels and peanut butter; M.L. shared his carrot and celery sticks with me, and always gave me a thumb-sized chunk of Dove chocolate for dessert.  Breakfasts were a scramble of eggs, veggies and some sort of meat.  As a swap for his cooking, I was in charge of washing dishes.  Doing any kind of food prep, dish washing - and also personal bathing - in an RV requires careful monitoring of quantities.  We had about 40 gallons of fresh water in the tank, and I had no idea how capacious the grey water tank was.  But a gauge showing levels of fresh water, grey water, sewage, propane and battery power was very useful in helping us trim our usage of resources.   (I should mention that we returned home with about a third of our fresh water and our propane unused.  M.L. says he can usually go about five days in the RV without dumping grey water or sewage.)

Pulled over for a quick one (no, it's  not a scene from 'Breaking Bad')

That night, the temperature plummeted.  It was our coldest night.  When I woke just before dawn to get the coffee perking, it was 31 degrees inside the RV and, I think, 28 degrees outside.  I'd brought an old Coleman sleeping bag, which was totally inadequate, as well as a down "mummy" bag.  But rather than use the mummy bag, which though warm can be rather confining, I chose the Coleman.  I had a cold "skunk stripe" down my back all night where I had failed to zip up the bag.  For the rest of the adventure, I used an old National Park Service sleeping bag that M.L. had brought.  (He once worked for the Park Service.)  I don't know what the bag is made of, but I stayed toasty warm no matter how cold it got.  (We left the heat off at night, turning it on only when we got up in the morning.)

Wednesday, we headed out of the campground toward the North Rim.  I'd never been to the North Rim and was excited to be heading that way.  But first, we did a quick painting on the road somewhere beneath the Vermillion Cliffs.  After that, our first stop was Jacob Lake to fill up on fuel.

Lodge at the North Rim

Jacob Lake sits at just a hair below 8000 feet.  It was noticeably colder, and the price of gas noticeably higher.  It was another 43 miles from Jacob Lake to the North Rim, and we were averaging 10 miles per gallon.  A big sign flashed, "North Rim Open - No Services."  So, filling up made sense.  And the sign was right - no services were open at the North Rim, but the Park itself was.  But only barely.  We were disappointed to learn that the roads to Point Imperial and Cape Royal were closed.  The only road open was the main one to the lodge.

North Rim view, looking to South Rim

The North Rim sits about a thousand feet higher than the South Rim, and it gets considerably more snow.  Because of this, it closes on October 15th each year, but remains open for day use until snow closes Route 67 from Jacob Lake.  Since the snow from Monday's storm had pretty much vanished, we imagined the park roads that led to interesting painting spots would be open.  Not so.  We talked to a Ranger, and even though the recent US government shutdown had re-opened the park, it was too late to re-staff the Park.  So, since there was no one left to patrol the roads and help visitors who might need assistance, the roads were closed.  Worse yet, the lodge itself was being re-roofed and was cordoned off by yards of yellow tape, which also prevented access to other trails along the rim.

Despite all that, we were able to do a nice hike out to Bright Angel Point and to paint a little.  The North Rim affords different vistas than the South.  Rather than being perched on a sheer cliff looking straight out and down, you are on cliffs and shoulders that project out into the canyon with gentler slopes below.  You're also a lot closer to many of the buttes and features you see from the South Rim; M.L. told me that, at Cape Royal, you could almost reach out and touch Wotan's Throne.

My North Rim painting, in process

Photo by M.L. Coleman

Here's a short video panorama I shot from the rim:


The North Rim campground was, of course, closed, so we headed out to find a spot in the adjacent National Forest where we might camp.  One of the Rangers helpfully told us about a Forest Road that would take us out along the Marble Canyon rim, if we wanted to go that far.  Since the sun was setting fast, we didn't.  Instead, we ended up about four miles up a gravel road that took us to a trailhead for the Arizona Trail, right next to the Saddle Mountain Wilderness.  It was a beautiful, quiet spot, with only one other camper.  (They were from Holland and had spent the last 14 months driving up from Cape Horn, but that's a different blog post.)

View from East Rim, down toward North Canyon

It was another cold night - this time we were lodging at 9000 feet - but Thursday morning dawned clear, and the sun warmed things up nicely.   We painted in the sun along what's called the East Rim, overlooking North Canyon.  We had a fine view of Marble Canyon, the smokestacks of the Page power generating station and Navajo Mountain in the distance.  I even hiked down the Arizona Trail a bit to stretch my legs.

I should mention the difficulty of painting with cold oil paint.  My white, especially, resembled putty more than paint.  The old-time outdoor painters used to add kerosene to the paint to loosen it up in the cold.  I didn't have any kerosene available, so I added a little Archival Lean Medium to it, which helped.  Positioning my palette so the sun hit it helped, too.  If I'd been smart, I would have put my tube of white paint in the drawer over the RV's heater vent.  I already had my toothpaste and sunblock in there so they would be warmed up by the heater.

Afternoon came with a few clouds, and we decided to paint a few aspens in the hazy light.  It's almost as if we were painting according to a checklist of Arizona scenery .  Tall cliffs and shadows, check.  North Rim of the Grand Canyon, check.  Aspens, check.  We would move on to include arroyos (check), chamisa (check) and water (check.)

Evening light on the Vermillion Cliffs

That evening, we drove back through Jacob Lake and then down to a lower elevation of 5000 feet or so to find a place to boondock along Route 89A.  Because of the imminent sunset, we didn't have time to research a location as much as we might have liked, so we ended up about 50 feet off the highway.  Fortunately, 89A traffic petered off after sunset.  The following morning, I took a short walk along a fence line and discovered an official BLM parking lot and trailhead to Soap Creek just a couple of hundred yards from where we had camped.  Even so, we had a beautiful sunset with the the Vermillion Cliffs to the north and the Echo Cliffs to the east all lit up with red fire.  A crescent moon was also beginning to show.

Friday morning we went in search of more cliffs with shadows and arroyos with chamisa.  The arroyos required a little driving back and forth to find suitable pull-offs and arroyo walls that ran north-south to give us good afternoon shadows.   (In the desert southwest, shadows make all the difference between a good painting and a lousy painting with flat lighting.)  I'd always wanted to paint chamisa in raking sunlight in an arroyo.


By the way, for most of my paintings, I stuck with a 9x12 size, mostly because of RV storage space and the lack of a suitable wet canvas carrier for anything larger.  I did bring several 5x7s and used my Art Cocoons to hold those.  M.L., on the other hand, went larger - 12x16 and beyond - and the RV has some built-in cabinets to hold his paintings.  The last couple of days, he dragged out his Take-It-Easel and went even larger - 16x20.   He paints almost exclusively with a couple of large knives, so it doesn't take him much longer to paint one of those than it does me a 9x12.

M.L. Coleman painting Lees Ferry

Saturday, our last full day of painting, we went to Lees Ferry.  From a short hill just before the boat launch, we had a fine view of the bend in the Colorado River by the boat launch.  There were even some golden cottonwoods by the water (check).  The cliff on the far side of the river stayed in shadow a long time, giving me time to paint two pieces.  I borrowed one of M.L.'s knives to paint the first one.

My borrowed knife and Lees Ferry painting, in process

What did we do in the evening?  We had to finish painting by 4:30 in order to get a campsite by dark, and we didn't eat dinner usually until about 8.  We always spent a little time outside at sunset to take photographs and to marvel at the color of a clear November evening in Arizona.  After that, we'd talk about art business and maybe even gossip a little.  After dinner, I went to bed with my Kindle to read, although I didn't last long before sinking into sleep.  I'd brought along a couple of art-related magazines, but there wasn't much time for any of that.

Crescent moon over the desert

After a final night of boondocking, we had breakfast and headed south.  We stopped for one last painting in Cedar Ridge.  This was in Navajo country, on the reservation.  As we were finishing up, we had two sets of visitors.  The first was an elderly Navajo couple who arrived in a recently-washed, white pickup.  They were dressed in their Sunday finest, he with a brightly-polished silver belt buckle.  "That is our house," the woman said, pointing into the scene that M.L. was painting.  They admired our work and said mine looked just like a photograph.  That is, of course, the last thing I want my paintings to look like, but I knew that it was meant as the highest form of praise, so I thanked them.  The second set were from China, puzzled by the fact that they couldn't get to Page and that their smartphone wanted to them to take for a detour the dirt road leading into the Navajo settlement behind us.  We weren't sure how to get to Page, either, so we sent them down to the gas station in Gap for directions.

At the very end, M.L. didn't know what to do with the 12x16 he'd just finished.  He'd run out of storage room.  So, into the oven it went.  Helpful Hint from Heloise:  In a pinch, your RV oven can make a nifty wet canvas carrier!  I hope he remembered to take it out.

This kind of trip with another artist is a rare treat, filled with camaraderie and a lifting of spirit.  I got several good paintings out of it, but I got a lot more than that, too.

Below are a selection of the paintings I did on the trip.  These are all 9x12 (or 12x9, depending on orientation.)  Some are on panel, others on linen.  The ones on linen are from Plein Air Panels; it was my first time using them, and I have to say, they are beautifully made.  I don't usually like working on a cloth surface, but these are made with Claessen's #66 Belgian Linen, and they are superb.   I will probably put these paintings up for sale in the near future when I have photographed them properly and finished them off.  As they say, watch this space for details!  (In the meantime, please check out my continuing holiday sale for some great deals.)

East Rim Aspens, 9x12 oil/panel

Ledge, 9x12, oil/linen

Shoulders, 9x12, oil/linen

From the North Rim, 12x9, oil/linen

Vermillion Cliffs, 9x12, oil/panel

From Lees Ferry, 9x12, oil/panel

Towers, 9x12, oil/linen

From the East Rim, 9x12, oil/panel

Lees Ferry I, 9x12, oil/linen

Lees Ferry, 9x12, oil/panel

At Cedar Ridge, 9x12, oil/linen

Chamisa, 9x12, oil/linen


More Art & Painting Blogs