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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Two Ways of Approaching Painting

Fall Arrives at Cathedral Rock, 8x10 oil - SOLD

There are basically two ways of creating a plein air painting.  First is the one that's probably familiar to most people.  That is, one works from big shapes to small shapes.  Usually, the process starts with a block-in and putting color down on every square inch of canvas, and it then ends with adding detail.  In my mind, this method is very well suited to the time challenges of plein air painting.  If you can block in the shadows and lights in about 30 minutes, it doesn't matter so much if the light changes in the next couple of hours.

I have my own twist to this.  In the block-in stage, I don't agonize over precise color mixtures.  Instead, I make my best guess and go with it.  The block-in goes much faster this way.  But in the next stage, I spend considerable time adjusting my "best guess."  I do this by comparing adjacent shapes with respect to value, temperature, hue and intensity.  Have I painted Shape A cool enough with respect to Shape B?  Is it dark enough and dull enough?  Sometimes this refining process may take several passes.  I don't mind if this is all I accomplish in a single painting session, as it most accurately records the sense of light.  I've found with my students that this is a very intuitive and comfortable way to work.

The painting above is one that I did today this way as a demonstration.

The second way of painting is to mix exactly the right color and put it in the right spot from the get-go.  I know several very successful painters who work this way, but I personally find it agonizingly difficult.  It's also a very slow process.  If you are working in fast-changing conditions, it'll be impossible bring a painting to any sort of completion.  On the other hand, if you start with your center of interest and make an effort to get at least that part perfect, you'll have a vignette.  The rest of the painting can be finished - if one can use that term - in a very loose manner.

I liken plein air painting to sculpting a head.  It's a lot easier to start with a big lump of clay and massage it into something that looks like a head than to construct the perfect components of a head - ear, nose, eyes - and to then attach them to a ball.  This is because each part of the head exists only relative to every other part, and they all must look "right" together.   Every color shape in a painting depends on its neighbor to help create its identity.

By the way, we're still offering gift certificates for Paint Sedona workshops, and the studio sale continues.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Painting Sedona Gift Certificates

Well, I missed Cyber Monday because I was on the road, but why can't we have a Cyber Tuesday, too?  Or maybe even a Cyber December.  With that in mind, I thought I'd offer gift certificates for my Paint Sedona workshops.  If you have a loved one who might love to get away to Sedona for a wonderful painting experience, please consider giving a gift certificate to one of my Paint Sedona workshops.  (For details on Paint Sedona, visit  I still have several weeks available. The gift certificate is $350 and pays for a workshop in full.

To buy a gift certificate, fill in the student's name below, and then click on Buy Now.  During the payment process, you will also be asked where I need to send the certificate - this is important!  Once I  receive your payment, I'll send out the gift certificate right away.  Certificates are good through March 2012 only.  Once the student gets her gift, she should contact me right away to pick her week.  (Workshops are first come, first served, and limited to no more than four students.)

Student name

By the way, my holiday studio clean-out sale of sketches and demos continues!  Visit

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Waves and Robinson Jeffers

Tor House

We plein air painters, especially the ones who try to make a living of it, are sometimes too focussed in our interests.  It's like a diet of all chocolate - addictive, nourishing in its own way, but maybe too much of a good thing.  Well, here's a little fiber for you.    I want to introduce the poet Robinson Jeffers.

Jeffers was a popular poet back before World War II.  He built a home in Carmel out of stones he hauled up from the beach.  During the war, he fell from favor because he was against it.  But lately he's experiencing a revival as a poet for environmentalists.  He was very much grounded in nature and the landscape, which is why I recommend him to painters.  If Jeffers had been a painter, he probably would have been a plein air painter.

We took a tour of a home he built in Carmel - Tor House - and its accompanying tower, Hawk Tower.  Tours are given only on Fridays and Saturdays, with no more than six people.  The house and tower are very special, because they have all of the original furnishings and are in the spot Jeffers left them.  It's amazing to see the tower, which Jeffers built singlehandedly.  The tower had a room for him to write in, a room for his wife Una to hang out in - she had asked him to build the tower for her - and a room for the twins to play in.

Hawk Tower

We've been having some beautiful swells and crashing waves these last couple of days.  I've taken lots of photos and even some video of the waves.  (The best way for a painter to get a good shot of a wave for painting is to take a video and then step through the frames to find the one frame that has the best wave.)  With that in mind, here's a poem Jeffers wrote about waves.

November Surf

Some lucky day each November great waves awake
and are drawn
Like smoking mountains bright from the west
And come and cover the cliff with white violent cleanness:
then suddenly
The old granite forgets half a year’s filth:
The orange-peel, egg-shells, papers, pieces of clothing,
the clots
Of dung in corners of the rock, and used
Sheaths that make light love safe in the evenings: all
the droppings of the summer
Idlers washed off in a winter ecstasy:
I think this cumbered continent envies its cliff then….
But all seasons
The earth, in her childlike prophetic sleep,
Keeps dreaming of the bath of a storm that prepares up
the long coast
Of the future to scour more than her sea-lines:
The cities gone down, the people fewer and the hawks
more numerous,
The rivers mouth to source pure; when the two-footed
Mammal, being someways one of the nobler animals, regains
The dignity of room, the value of rareness.

Waves at Asilomar Beach

Just as a reminder, my studio painting sale continues for a little while longer.  I'm posting sketches and demos daily.  If you would, please check it out at my studio store where you can see the full list of what's available -

Thursday, November 24, 2011

17-Mile Drive and Cannery Row

We continued our explorations with a drive up to Pacific Grove and Monterey.  One famous route north is the 17-Mile Drive, which snakes through the Pebble Beach community.  Pebble Beach isn't just noted for its golf course; some of the oldest Monterey cypresses can be found along this route, and a good deal of dramatic scenery.  You'll have to be careful as a painter, though, because any images you make can't be used for commercial purposes - the Pebble Beach Company owns the landscape.  When you go out to the Lone Pine, which occupies a tiny foothold at the edge of a cliff, you'll see a note saying that the tree is a trademark and "photographs and artistic renderings" of not just it but anything owned by PBC are for personal use only.  (I don't make any money off this blog, so I can post a picture or two.)

That doesn't mean, of course, that you can't collect lots of reference material.  I didn't see any sign saying you couldn't take photos or paint.  Any photos and color sketches would be useful in creating a commerical work that depicts, for example, Monterey cypresses but without actually representing a particular, individual tree.  Of course, spectacularly-gnarled Monterey cypresses can be found elsewhere in the area, and you might just want to go paint those, instead.

Next, we parked in Pacific Grove and walked through Cannery Row and on to Fisherman's Wharf for lunch.  Cannery Row, made famous by John Steinbeck in the eponymous book, crashed after World War II when sardines began to disappear from overfishing and people could afford to eat something other than canned sardines.  (Few people really liked them; sardines were one of the few "meats" that were readily and cheaply available during the war.)  But today, many of the old buildings remain.  One was turned into the Monterey Aquarium and the rest of them into hotels, restaurants and tourist shops.  Here is a photo from long ago, and one I took yesterday.  Things look just about as busy in both.

We had lunch at Abalonetti.  It was hard to decide on the many restaurants - each had a barker out front, enticing customers with samples and coupons - but we chose Abalonetti mostly because its barker told us he had outdoor, oceanside dining for dogs.  But what a find!  I'd only had calamari once before, years ago, and didn't care for it.  But Abalonetti's Baja calamari appetizer was superb.  (And so was my entree, freshly-grilled sand dabs.)  Here's a link to the Abalonetti calamari story.

Today is Thanksgiving, and I give thanks for many things but also for the opportunity to visit the Monterey Bay area for a litle time off with the family.  I promise I'll get back to talking about painting real soon.

Just as a reminder, my studio painting sale continues for a little while longer.  I'm posting sketches and demos daily.  If you would, please check it out at my studio store where you can see the full list of what's available -

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Etiquette for Plein Air Painters

Point Lobos - Allan Memorial Grove

With the world predicted to add two billion more people between now and 2050, our precious resources will get even more precious.  One of these resources is recreational space - parks, reserves and forests.  Unfortunately, there are two conflicting uses of recreational space.  How do you preserve a park's natural beauty and the peaceful solitude that must necessarily accompany it, and yet give the public access to it?  This question will get harder to answer in a satisfactory way as the years go by.

We plein air painters are, unfortunately, not removed from this conflict.  We want our unspoiled, quiet spaces to do our work in, but we also want access to these spots - and so do a lot of other people.  Photographers and hikers have as much right to them as we do.

I bring this up because of an incident at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  It is a gorgeous spot, but management has curtailed access to much of it by roping off anything that's not on a trail.  They have good reasons - it cuts down on erosion and keeps hikers from wandering into poison oak.

We were hiking one of these trails when it dead-ended in a perfect "photo op" spot.  Two plein air painters had discovered the spot and had set up in such a way that it was impossible for anyone else to get to the view.  Since their location made it impossible to take a picture of the scene, I took a picture of them.

I blurred the photo to protect their identity, but you can see how the space is confined.  To the right of them is one rope, and just out of the frame to the left is another.   They had set up so they occupied the width of the trail and the last ten feet of it.  Now, if I were on a plein air adventure and had come across this spot, I would have thought, "Hm, enough space for one of us, but not for both of us."  I'd have moved on.  Also, judging from the traffic, this seemed a particularly popular spot, and I would have looked for one less popular.  Who wants to deal with people trying to edge in to get the view?

I like to teach my students plein air painter etiquette.  Here's what I tell them:

  • Never block the trail
  • Never block a viewpoint but set up to one side
  • Keep your gear compact and out of the way of others
  • Be respectful of other people's right to share the beauty

Once, when my students and I ended up painting at the oldest church in New Mexico's Hondo Valley, I had to chastise a student who had actually set up her gear on a flat tombstone.  The stone made a great surface to stand on, but I told her I doubted the locals would take kindly to it.

But getting back to the present, we had a great day touring Carmel for old homes and spending time with the Monterey cypresses at Point Lobos.  Tomorrow's adventure:  Monterey.

Just as a reminder, my studio painting sale continues.  I'm posting sketches and demos daily.  If you would, please check it out at my studio store -

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Good News - Grand Canyon Plein Air Event

I got the good word that I am being re-invited to the Grand Canyon Celebration of the Arts "Plein Air on the Rim" plein air event next September.  The 2011 event was very rewarding for me in a number of ways, and I'm excited that I'll be working again with the wonderful people at the Grand Canyon Association.  Also, the event is an important fund-raiser.  The web site says:  "Proceeds will be dedicated to funding an art venue on the South Rim that will preserve and showcase the spectacular collection of historic and contemporary paintings owned by Grand Canyon National Park and the Grand Canyon Association. This permanent art venue at the South Rim will help to ensure that future generations of Park visitors will be able to experience Grand Canyon art at its finest."  I hope you will also come out and support this worthwhile event.

Our explorations of Carmel continued yesterday, and we spent our time gallery-hopping.  Carmel has some excellent ones, and it was nice to see some good California "contemporary realism" in person.  Some of my favorites were Ken Auster, Ray Roberts, Michael Obermeyer and Brian Blood.  I also got to see a lot of older work by folks like Edgar Payne, Guy Rose and Hanson Puthuff.  I even ran into Randall Sexton, who was delivering some paintings. I also explored Carmel's curious trees - eucalyptus, Monterey cypress and others.

Today we're looking for interesting houses to paint and also Point Lobos, which I remember from my last visit has some spectacular scenery.  Time to charge up the camera batteries!

Just as a reminder, my studio painting sale continues.  I'm posting sketches and demos daily.  If you would, please check it out at my studio store -

Monday, November 21, 2011

Scouting with a Camera

Trina and I have made our way to Carmel, California, for a week of exploration.  We last came to the area thirteen years ago.  This time, we've come with the intention of scouting for plein air painting spots.  I might want to set up a painting retreat here for myself and other painters.  (Stay tuned!)

We drove up from the south along California Highway 1.  This is one of the most scenic routes in the country, and as we found, one of the most harrowing in a rainstorm.  Between San Simeon and Big Sur, we had heavy rain and small rock slides.  Rocks the size of cinderblocks bounced into our lane, forcing us to swerve around them.  (And yes, into oncoming traffic!)  In a few places, the road was one-lane-only and controlled by traffic signals because of "slip outs" that had occured recently.  At one slip out, we were stopped by a light where we had a steep cliff on our left and a torrent rushing along the roadside to our right.  I wondered how fast that torrent had to run to undermine what pavement was left and to send us all hurtling 600 feet down to the Pacific.  That stop light seemed to stay red forever.

The storm that we went though on Highway 1

Now that we're safely in Carmel, I'm looking forward to scouting.  But I'm doing so only with a camera.  Although I threw the pastel gear into the car at the last minute, I don't think I'll paint.  Sometimes scouting with a camera is better, so long as you're using your "painter's eye" while taking photos.  One of our cameras has a GPS built into it, so that'll be handy for finding the good spots next time we're here in full painting regalia.

By the way, even though I'm on the road, my studio painting sale continues.  I'm posting sketches and demos daily.  If you would, please check it out at my studio store -

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Editorial Changes and About the Studio Sale

Painting at Red Rock Crossing, Sedona, Arizona
photo by Trina Stephenson

You may be wondering where today's painting for sale is.  I did promise to post these demos and sketches here as I clean out my studio.  I am still doing that, but I have decided to post them instead to my studio store blog.    The reason is this.  In the past, I've used the blog you're reading now mostly for education.  If you're like me, you probably don't like sudden changes in editorial direction.  In this blog, you are most likely expecting an enlightening tip on the process of painting.  So, I don't want to disappoint my faithful readers.  If you want to follow the sale - and I hope you do - please go to .

We now resume our normally scheduled program, already in progress.

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook II

A little over two years ago, I wrote about Carl Judson's A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook. The book mentions that it is only the first volume, so I wrote that I was looking forward to the next one. Well, it's here - A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook II. And just like the last one, it's a really good read.

In this one, Carl, who is the founder of Judson's Art Outfitters and the inventor of the Guerrilla Box, of which I'm a big fan, goes on more adventures. He paints Nevada and France, experiments with acrylics and explains his color choices for his oil palette. One of my favorite essays, though, talks about a 26-foot panorama he did of the landscape around his home. Covering 24 panels, the panorama is a beautiful piece. I enjoyed reading the detailed description of how he went about painting it and managed to achieve a consistent "look" among all the paintings. (Tip: He unified the skies after he'd painted them.) It got me excited enough to consider perhaps a similar project.

Here's a picture of Carl out in the field, pondering his panorama:

I recommend the book, and it'd make a nice stocking stuffer for your favorite plein air painter. (I'm sure stuffing your own stocking is perfectly OK!)

A Guerrilla Painter's Notebook II by Carl Judson. 32 pages, and more images than I want to count. $9.95. Visit .

On another note, I want to mention again my upcoming painting retreat in Sedona for the week of March 26th. This program is only for intermediate to advanced painters or professionals. Participants are expected to be comfortable with painting outdoors and their chosen medium. Painters may work in any medium, but I'll be working in oil or pastel.

For the retreat, group lodging is included that has cooking facilities so participants may make their own meals. Artists are expected to stay at the lodging to ensure an "immersion" experience in which painting is talked about in casual conversation, and impromptu demonstrations, outings or group critiques may result.

This is not a workshop with formal instruction, but I'll demonstrate daily and offer end-of-the-day critiques. I'll also guide you to some of Sedona's prime painting spots.

Price is $1000, which includes six nights lodging (arrive Sunday, depart Saturday). Food is not included, but we'll have a kitchen. The retreat is limited to four participants. (Spouses and non-painting partners may be included, depending on the lodging.) If you're interested, please let me know right away. I need to have four committed by Thanksgiving in order to secure space. I hope you'll join us!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

APAA Pastel Workshop - and a Painting Retreat

Look closely to see the student at the bottom!
This past Saturday I taught a one-day plein air pastel workshop for the Arizona Pastel Artists Association.  One of the problems with large plein air workshops is finding adequate backup space.  Even if the weather is predicted to be perfect, the forecasts themselves aren't necessarily perfect.  So, you need a backup space.  This space is also handy for lectures and critiques.  We found a great space at Crescent Moon Day Use Area, right under the feet of Catheral Rock.  We had our very own group picnic shelter and restrooms.

For this day, they weren't forecasting perfect weather.  In fact, they were predicting clouds and showers.  The morning started somewhat ominous.  As I drove toward Sedona, I saw heavy-bellied clouds dropping showers over Bear Mountain and the Mogollon Rim.  But we ended up having a great day.  The sun broke out and shed a warm light on Cathedral Rock.  Beautiful, puffy clouds ornamented the blue sky.  We got some really nice paintings out of the day.

One of my demos, a 5x7

I want to announce a special painting retreat for the week of March 26th.  This program is only for intermediate to advanced painters or professionals. Participants are expected to be comfortable with painting outdoors and their chosen medium. Painters may work in any medium, but I'll be working in oil or pastel.

For the retreat, group lodging is included that has cooking facilities so participants may make their own meals. Artists are expected to stay at the lodging to ensure an "immersion" experience in which painting is talked about in casual conversation, and impromptu demonstrations, outings or group critiques may result.

This is not a workshop with formal instruction, but I'll demonstrate daily and offer end-of-the-day critiques. I'll also guide you to some of Sedona's prime painting spots.

Price is $1000, which includes six nights lodging (arrive Sunday, depart Saturday).  Food is not included, but we'll have a kitchen.  The retreat is limited to four participants.  (Spouses and non-painting partners may be included, depending on the lodging.)  If you're interested, please let me know right away.  I need to have four committed by Thanksgiving in order to secure space.  I hope you'll join us!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

One-Day Pastel Workshop and Las Vegas Plein Air Expo

photo © Trina Stephenson

If you're in the Sedona area, you might like to know that I still have some openings in my one-day pastel plein air workshop this Saturday, November 12.  The workshop is $60, runs 9-4, and beginners to more advanced pastel painters are welcome.  We'll be painting at the Crescent Moon Recreation Area at Red Rock Crossing, and the price includes the $10 admission fee to the recreation area.  If you'd like to join us, please let me know right away.

By the way, I have just started teaching my Paint Sedona workshops again.  I'll be teaching them from now into April.  If you're interested, please visit for details and to sign up.  Cost of the 20-hour, four-day workshop is $350.  Starting in February, we may also be able to get a Jeep ride to some very special locations, courtesy of my painter friend Tony Donovan!

On another note, I'm proud to announce that I am one of the plein air painters invited to demonstrate at the upcoming Plein Air Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, next spring.  (Click here for the official announcement.) The convention, which is sponsored by Plein Air Magazine, is scheduled for April 12-15, 2012, and will be held at the Red Rock Casino, Resort and Spa.  I'll be demonstrating with the others in the Red Rock Conservation Area.  Some of my favorite landscape painters will be there, including Ken Auster, Jeremy Lipking, Matt Smith and Ray Roberts and his wife, Peggi Kroll-Roberts.  I hope you'll join us!  For full details on the convention, visit the website

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Zion National Park Plein Air Event - Day 6

We had rain in the night!  Which meant beautiful clouds and peek-a-boo sunshine in the morning.  After dropping off my replacement paintings, I went off to Court of the Patriarchs.  Not to paint, but to hike.  I had my eye all week on a trail that seemed to lead into the furthermost reaches of the Court's canyon.  Snow pellets were spitting down as I hiked in.  I ran across two herds of turkey, none of which seemed to mind that I was a bipedal predator on the prowl.  The trail was easy-going most of the way, but got much steeper as I approached the back wall.  The views from the trail were just amazing.  The clouds were, in my mind, too fickle for painting, but perfect for photography.

Here's a Thomas Moran moment

Speaking of photography, the shutterbugs were legion.  A combination of romantic, beclouded vistas and it being the weekend brought them out in droves.  Not to belittle photographers, but why do they group together like this to take the same shot?  Painters seem to be a little more independent.   I'll give them the benefit of a doubt and assume it was a photography workshop.

Afterward, I headed back to the Nature Center to hang out.  I met some really nice people, but I also got to participate in an impromptu paint-around.  Las Vegas painter Kathleen Strukoff decided to fill her time by setting up an easel at the window and painting.  When she took a break, I suggested we turn it into a paint-around, and so I got to do the next stint.  Several other artists pitched in, too.  The photo below shows Kathleen painting; the bat, which must be either a vampire bat or maybe a blowup of a Mexican freetail, is actually a decal on the window.  (It is a nature center, after all!)  It didn't make it into the painting.  By the way, we gave the painting to the event's organizer, Anne Weiler-Brown, as a parting gift.

By mid-afternoon, I was getting pretty beat, so I left the park to top off my gas tank for the trip home and to check out a few galleries in Springdale.  Then I continued my pre-packing.  After a stop at the Nature Center to see how things were going, I took a sunset walk along the Pa'rus trail.  I was feeling a little wistful, as this is probably my last visit to Zion until after the snowy season ends.    And it does seem to be upon us!  They're predicting some light snow - maybe an inch - along my route home.

That evening, we had the final lecture of the event.  It was on collecting art.  The speaker, Kevin Barry, is a gallery owner from Los Angeles who works mostly with corporate clients.  His primary advice is sound - buy what you like.

This morning I'm off to the Nature Center again.  The show's last run is from 9 until noon.  After that, I'll head home, hoping to get out of the mountains before this little storm gets to percolating.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Zion National Park Plein Air Event - Day 5

A reader asked, Why don't you do pastels at the plein air events?  This is a good question, since I'm probably more noted for pastel than oil.  I love pastel, and I paint in pastel about half the time.  But because pastels are more difficult to frame, I haven't painted in that medium for any of these events.  With an oil painting, I can simply stick it in a frame and put in points to secure it.  With pastel, there is always glass to worry about, even if one frames without a mat.   Of course, one might argue that oil paint is wet and easily damaged by an incautious hand.  I may paint in pastel at my next event - stay tuned!

But for this one, of course, I'm still painting in oil.  I dropped off my five paintings yesterday morning and actually got to hang them myself.  This is a pleasure, because we painters always worry when someone else is responsible for hanging.  Afterward, I headed over to the Zion Lodge to get a parking space for the Quick Draw.  But I had a couple of hours, so I took a nice hike along the Virgin River, playing tourist.

I've been thinking lately on the differences and similarities between plein air painters and your average tourist.  As a tourist, I take many photographs and try to cover a lot of ground.  As a painter, though, I take few, if any photos, and I'm tempted to paint at the same spot repeatedly.   It's more about quality, not quantity.  It's more about the deepness of seeing.  In many ways, it's a richer experience.

We had beautiful weather for the Quick Draw on the lodge lawn.  The wind held off until 12:01, one minute into the painting session, and then it became very gusty.  It was comical to see little balled-up paper towels from the oil painters flying across the lawn like tumbleweeds.  The wind stopped about 90 minutes later, just as the Quick Draw ended.  We then had 15 minutes to get our work framed and to the auction block.  I also picked up my paper towels.

After the auction, we had some free time before the Buyer's Preview Gala at 7 p.m.  Although a few painters went off to paint, most went off to rest.  I, however, went grocery-shopping to get some lunch.  (The restaurant at the Lodge was inconveniently closed before the Quick Draw and after the auction.)  I also spent some time cleaning brushes and pre-packing for my trip home on Sunday.

The Gala at the Nature Center was packed with buyers and artists.  I wish I'd had about three hours all my myself there, because I really wanted to spend some time looking at all the fine work.  We had a great sales staff - each festooned with a blue sash to identify themselves - and it was nice to talk with a lot of people about my work.  I think I gave away more business cards than at any of the other events.

This morning, it's time to frame up some backup paintings and to take them at 9 to the Nature Center.  Today's public sale runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Artists aren't required to be at the sale - it is a very long day! - but being there always helps a sale.  So, I'll be there as much as possible.   It's a good time to talk with me about my paintings, workshops and books.  Please stop by!  I'll give you a business card with a nice picture on it, and you can also buy a nice oil painting.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Zion National Park Plein Air Event - Day 4

Thursday was another crisp start, though not as cold.  I felt like a hike to get the blood moving, so I parked at Zion Lodge and hiked to one of the Emerald Pools.  There are three of them, and I went to the lower pool (above.)  The pool is filled by a falls from a cliff high overhead the trail, and as I wanted to stay dry - and thus warm - I didn't venture past the falls.  Admittedly, the falls didn't have much water at this time of year, but I think they would be very impressive in the spring.  This side canyon had a lot of good color in it, especially the red of the oaks, which glowed in the canyon's shade.

Once again, I headed back to Court of the Patriarchs.  This time, I made a point of hiking out into the sun to stay warm, where I did a 9x12 and a quick 5x7.  The 5x7 was more of an abstract set of color-notes of cliff shadows than a full-fledged painting.  Afterward, I headed down the canyon to a pull-off near the start of the canyon road.   It's where I saw Josh Been and Bill Cramer the first day, and it seemed worth exploring.  It was overwhelming!  The view from the edge of the river encompasses enough material for dozens of paintings.  Below is a shot of the location.  Dwarfed by this majestic view is painter Dennis Farris of Texas, who recently was the artist-in-residence in the AIR program at Zion.

But I didn't paint the view.  For my last unscheduled painting of the week, I wanted something more intimate and, to my majesty-weary eyes, less tiring.  I found a large sandstone boulder surrounded by chamisa.  I know, it doesn't sound like much, but the warm, reflected lights in the boulder's shadow really caught my eye.

In the afternoon I had to select five paintings to prepare for the show today (Friday.)  It was a tough choice, as I have several good ones beyond the five.   Below are the ones that'll be in the Friday night Buyer's Preview Gala.   I'm sure they'll look better in person - they always do - so make sure you come to the Nature Center to see them firsthand!

Autumn's Turn, 9x12, oil

Beneath the Great White Throne, 9x12, oil

Little Gem, 12x9, oil

Patriarch, 16x12, oil

River Dance, 9x12, oil

In the evening, we had the second and final Meet the Artists event, held at The Spotted Dog Cafe.  I enjoyed dinner with Royden Card and his wife, and it was also good to see new work by all the artists.   Thanks to owner Rebecca McKown for sponsoring our dinner and a space to show our work.

So, what's left as we draw toward the end?  Today is the noontime Quick Draw event, held at the Zion Lodge, followed immediately by an auction.  (We have only 90 minutes to start and complete a piece!)  Tonight is the Gala, which I've already mentioned.  On Saturday, there's is the public sale at the Nature Center from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., followed by a lecture at 7:30 on "Creating and Sustaining an Art Collection" at the Lodge.  Sunday we have the final sale from 9 to noon.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Zion National Park Plein Air Event - Day 3

Early Morning Photographer

Yesterday dawned crisp and cold.  It was 30 degrees by the time I got to Court of the Patriarchs, which has become my all-time favorite morning spot.  I like it for morning because it's one of the first places that gets sun at 8 a.m.  But of course, somehow I always end up painting in the shade.  I wore my parka, corduroy pants and glomitts this time.  And also two hats.  My sun hat shades my eyes and my wool hat keeps my head warm.

The other day I had turkey; this time I had mule deer passing by.  Some of the bucks wore the largest racks I've ever seen.  That's another reason I like Court of the Patriarchs - here, very few people venture over the bridge that spans the Virgin River, and often it's just me and the wildlife.  If people want to find me, though, it's not hard.  There's only one obvious trail, and I'm on it.  Plus, I have a big sign in my car that says ARTIST (in all caps) and the Zion National Park Foundation, the event organizer, has stuck a sign in the parking lot that tells the public artists might be painting nearby.  I'll probably be there again today, so stop by!  You might see a turkey.

I did two paintings at the Court.  The second was a beautiful little pool, and it was nice to paint something more intimate.  I had to put away my "majestic awe" brush and pull out the "small gem" one.

Later, I headed up to Big Bend.  I'd scoped it out the day before, and I loved the way the light filled this little horseshoe bend and bounced into the shadows.  I also like the way the Great White Throne, which is featured on the event literature, loomed over the shadows.  For this one, I actually pulled out my collapsible camp chair - my feet were tired - which allowed me to really get into the "zone."

I liked this last piece so much I chose to bring it to the "Meet the Artists" event last night.  All the artists' paintings were nicely displayed on tabletop easels at Parallel 88, a fine dining restaurant in Springdale.   We had wine and tapas, courtesy of executive chef and owner Jeff Crosland.  A number of non-artists stopped by to chat and view the work.

Even though I was beat, I drove up to the Zion Lodge afterward for a lecture.  There's an educational aspect to the event, and lectures, demonstrations and workshops are offered.  (All but the workshops are free.)  I missed the lecture the night before, but I enjoyed this one.  Deborah Reeder, curator for the St George Art Museum, spoke about Thomas Moran's travels to the National Parks and his influence on  the creation of  the National Park system.  I didn't know Moran travelled exactly once to Zion and spent only five days here.  But in that time, he made many, many sketches.  I also learned that his Zion sketchbook is, curiously, not at Zion but at Yellowstone.  And also, the event logo uses one of his sketches of the Great White Throne, superimposed over a photograph.  It shows how accurate his drawing was.

Today is another painting day, and this afternoon I'll need to start framing work.  Artists need to deliver their five best pieces tomorrow morning to the Nature Center.

Tonight (Thursday) is the second "Meet the Artists" event.  Artists will be arriving after 5 at the Spotted Dog Cafe.  Tomorrow (Friday) is the Quick Draw, starting promptly at noon.  Artists have exactly 90 minutes to start and complete a painting, and then 15 minutes to get it - framed - to the auction block.  Full details on all of this are at  I hope to see you there!