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Monday, April 30, 2012

A Visit to Santa Fe

Spring in Santa Fe!
As we planned our cross-country trip, we decided to stop in Santa Fe for a day.  Santa Fe, if you have the time and energy, is always worth the visit - especially if you're a painter and you want to see what's happening in the galleries.  It's been about a year since we were here last, and I'm glad to say the City Different hasn't changed much.   Our visit this year was timed particularly well, since everything was in bloom - roses, lilacs, ornamentals we don't know the name of, and all of it at once.

We did note some gallery closures and changes.  Our old favorites are still there - Ventana, Meyer, McLarry - but we were pleased to find a few new ones.  Also, Sage Creek Gallery, which I always found hard to get to at its old location, is now conveniently located on Canyon Road.   Here are some notes from the road.

At Hunter Kirkland Contemporary, we ran into the beautiful color harmonies of Gregory Frank Harris:

Gregory Frank Harris, "Pecos River" 38x40 oil
At S.R. Brennan Gallery, I finally got to see some of Adrian Gottleib's fantastic figure work:

Adrian Gottleib, "Truth Corrupted by Vanity"
At McLarry Fine Art, I encountered the work of David Ballew:

David Ballew, "Spring Afternoon in Santa Fe"
And finally, Ventana Fine Art had some nice new work by my perennial favorites, Doug Dawson and Albert Handell:

Doug Dawson, "Fountain of Light" 34x38 oil
Albert Handell, "Very Early Spring (Dogwood)", 12x18, pastel
We'll get back to Santa Fe again.  It's always inspiring to stop.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Heading East

"Thunder Mountain Colors" 9x12, pastel

The time has come to say goodbye to Arizona and head east.  East for us is a 3500-mile trip with a final destination of Campobello Island, New Brunswick.  Along the way, I'll be teaching workshops in Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.  As always, though we have enjoyed our winter here in Arizona, we're looking forward to hitting the road and finally being back at our quiet island home again.

Spring is already moving into summer here in Arizona, and the roses are beautiful in our community.  But by the time we get the Campobello, it will be barely spring, and our lilacs there will be just starting.  The apple trees will be another month before they strike their floral crescendo.  May is always a slow start for the Maritimes, and we'll have some fog, some rain and some cool weather.  But it won't be long before the sun rolls back the fog and hammers the sea into a broad blue shield.

By the way, in case you aren't on my newsletter mailing list, here is a link to my latest newslettter.

I'll write again from the road.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Painting in Zion National Park - Part 6

Plein air painting at Zion National Park with Michael Chesley Johnson

Update!  We liked the retreat so much, we're going to do it again in April 2014.  Visit for details as they develop.

The final day of our plein air painting retreat dawned clear and warm.  After a quick breakfast, we hustled out to Court of the Patriarchs to finish up the paintings we'd started yesterday.  The great thing about splitting the painting over a couple of days is that on the second day, there is no messing around.  You know where you're going to set up, you're familiar with the scene, and you've already figured out most of the problems.  Basically, you set up your tripod and go.  I finished up a couple of pieces.  Here's one of them, a 12x9 oil of Mount Moroni.

"Mt Moroni Shadows" 12x9, oil - SOLD

Afterward, we went back to the house for lunch and said goodbye to a couple of participants who had to drive to Las Vegas for flights.  Once lunch was done and the goodbyes were said, some of us headed for the shaded deck to tweak the week's paintings.  It was hot - over 90 - but the shade was cool enough, and we got some good work done.

As evening drew on, we decided to head out for one last field trip.  Destination:  Grafton.  Grafton is a ghost town, and perhaps best known these days for having had a small part in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.   (It was the scene where, if I recall correctly, Paul Newman rides a bicycle to the tune of "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head.")  Grafton and the road leading to it have some of the best scenery I've seen all week.  For the next retreat we do in Zion, we'll definitely plan two days around Grafton.  Below are some photos to whet your appetite.

This is my final post about Zion.  Tomorrow morning the rest of the participants head out.  It's always a sad time, since it has been an intense week of painting and living together.   I say goodbye to them, knowing that because we've all learned a lot from each other, we are now well-prepared to move on in our lives as painters.  And it cheers me to think that I'll see many of them again someday.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Painting in Zion National Park - Part 5

The excellent weather continues in Zion National Park, and so we were up early again for breakfast and to make sandwiches for lunch.  Here, Trina mans the lunch counter while some of the others finish off breakfast.

We headed back to Court of the Patriarchs again.   (Did I mention this is one of my favorite places?)  When we went there the other afternoon, we found it rather warm with little shade; the cottonwoods still hadn't filled out enough to provide anything other than a diffuse shadow.  So, we decided to try it this morning.  We got there when the "court" was still in shadow, and sunlight was gradually creeping down the sides of the three Patriarchs.  We did some good painting, and Trina caught a turkey in full regalia with her camera.

Trina's Turkey
 Because the shadows do change so quickly on the cliffs, we decided to return to the "court" tomorrow morning to finish our first paintings of the day.  I like to sometimes split the painting (as well as my infinitives) over a couple of days; if the scene changes so much that you find you're working from memory, this is a good way to handle it.  The weather in the southwest is usually reliable enough that you can count on the same light at the same time of day.

Here's one I did finish:

Court of the Patriarchs, 9x12, oil - SOLD
We did our round of "show-and-tell" in the afternoon.  Here's my setup for showing both one of today's oil paintings plus yesterday's pastel (both are sold!)

This evening, we had our final group dinner at the Flying Monkey.  Although we have one more day of painting together, a couple of our friends will be leaving tomorrow.

Painting in Zion National Park - Demo

My readers are lucky enough to have had one of my paintings photographed, step-by-step, by one of our painting retreat participants.  I thought I'd post Nancy Vance's photos here.  Nancy has also been documenting the trip in her blog.

This is the painting I did yesterday down by the Virgin River in pastel.   The light was changing fast, and since what stirred my soul was the effect of shadow on water, that's what I started with.  Once I got the foundation of that down, I was able to move to the trees and the mountains in the distance.

The painting was done on a 9x12 sheet of white Wallis sanded paper with a mix of Polychromos and Mount Vision pastels.  The actual painting time in the field was maybe 90 minutes (plus 30 years, as they say) plus another half-hour back at the house.

Adjusting back at the house
The finished painting - SOLD

Friday, April 20, 2012

Painting in Zion National Park - Part 4

Jim and Ed Painting by the River

After breakfast and an early round of "show-and-tell" in which we shared yesterday's paintings, we boarded the shuttle for Canyon Junction.  This is another of my favorite spots because you can get right down to the water among the cottonwoods and get fantastic views down the canyon toward the Watchman.  Today, the water was rushing fast, thanks to some snow Zion had a few days before we arrived, and it was a beautiful blue-green with coppery accents.  The weather has warmed up some, and the morning winds have disappeared, so it was delightful down by the water.

I did a 9x12 pastel of the view.  I was itching to capture the cool cast shadows on the water and its juxtaposition to the warmer, sunlit water.  The view was, really, just secondary.

Cool Waters, 9x12, pastel - SOLD
Afterward, I wandered along the river for awhile, taking pictures, before heading to the Museum for lunch in the shade and a quick afternoon piece of a closeup of West Temple.  But rather than show you that one, here's an oil painting I did the first day of the Watchman.

The Watchman, 12x9, oil
Later, some of us headed back to the house to touch up our pastel pieces.  One or two took naps - it's hard work, being out there all day - and they went out to do a little more painting.

Nancy and Lyn Touch Up their Pastels

Dinner tonight at Cafe Soleil.  Then tomorrow, I think we'll head back to another of my favorite spots,which I'll reveal in the next blog post.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Painting in Zion National Park - Part 3

Today we had a special treat.  Paul Bingham of the Bingham Gallery and the Thunderbird Foundation  invited us to visit Maynard Dixon's home and studio and to paint on the grounds.  Maynard Dixon is one of my favorite painters, and we were all eager to spend the day at such a historical spot.  During the tour of the gallery - Paul made us coffee, too! - I saw some of the most beautiful work by a number of wonderful artists, including some amazing works by Milford Zornes.

Next, we walked through the buildings and toured the grounds.  We headed up on the hill behind the property, where Maynard Dixon's ashes were scattered, and also those of Zornes and his wife.  They have a nice view up there, and I bet they're happy.

Finally, we headed around the property to paint.  It was magical, knowing that Dixon had lived and painted there.   I painted the overlook from the property to the mountains to the southwest, and then a little sketch of Maynard's house.

Looking Out (Diana's Throne), 9x12, oil - SOLD

Maynard's House, 5x7, oil
It was an exhausting but very productive day.  Congratulations to all the participants, many of whom are completely new to the Utah landscape!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Painting in Zion National Park - Part 2

Our second day of painting started with a hearty breakfast followed by an equally hearty "show and tell" of the work we did the day before.   These sharing sessions always on go longer than one might expect, so it's tough to get out to the field early!  But, considering how windy it was again this morning, that was a good thing.

After sharing, we drove out to the Human History Museum, where the back porch offers stunning views of the Altar of Sacrifice, the Sundial and West Temple.  We were also able to escape the wind here and then to have lunch after we finished painting.

For the afternoon, we hopped aboard the shuttle and went to one of my very favorite spots to paint, Court of the Patriarchs.  There were some good shadows on the rocks, but since it was warm, we headed down to the Virgin River and into the shade of the cottonwoods.

Here's a little video I shot while exploring for a painting spot -

Plus a pastel sketch I did.

Path to the Patriarchs, 12x9, pastel - SOLD

Two painting sessions a day plus exploration up the river tired us out.  I went back to the house to do laundry - we'd been on the road since before the Las Vegas Plein Air Convention & Expo - and shower.  This evening, folks went out for dinner in small groups.  (I know, these sound like rather quotidian details, but they give you an idea of how the retreat works.)

Tomorrow, we have a very special trip planned - a tour of Maynard Dixon's home and studio in Mt Carmel plus painting on the property.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Painting in Zion National Park - Part 1

After the Plein Air Convention & Expo in Las Vegas, we headed for Springdale, Utah, where we are coordinating a weeklong painting retreat.  We arrived Monday afternoon to get the rental house ready for our participants.  The house is located right in the middle of town so we can walk to restaurants and shops, but it lies secure in its own quiet compound off the main street.  If we want to take the shuttle into the park, the shuttle stops right at the end of the road.  As you can see from this photo taken in the living room, it's in a beautiful spot:

We are delighted to have a wide-ranging group, with people from Ontario, Tennessee, Florida, New Hampshire and Ohio.  We've got both oil and pastel painters, so there'll be plenty of opportunity to learn from each other.  Today we ended up at the park's Nature Center, where we had great views looking up the canyon.  We started perhaps a little early - 8 a.m. - and the canyon was a bit windy and cool.  (Tomorrow, we'll head out later to give the wind a chance to die down.)  After a lunch respite, we rode the free shuttle through the canyon, looking at a variety of possible painting spots.  The last time I was here, it was in November with the beautiful fall foliage; I can say that spring is just as lovely, with the cottonwoods showing their full spring green.

Riding a shuttle builds up an appetite, so we stopped by the Bumbleberry Bakery and bought two bumbleberry pies and ice cream.  Yum!  Afterward, we painted around the evening view around the house.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Plein Air Convention & Expo - End

We were up early this morning to head out to Bonnie Springs, about 10 miles west of Las Vegas.  Although the Bonnie Springs paintout was advertised as "optional," I do believe nearly the entire convention showed up to paint!  What brought everyone out was the superb weather - plenty of sun and a mild breeze.

Bonnie Springs Ranch was originally built in 1843 as a stopover for wagon trains heading to California along the Old Spanish Trail.  Today, it's a tourist attraction that looks like an old movie set, complete with Wild West storefronts, boardwalks and pistol-toting denizens.  I half-expected James Arness to pop out from the shadows.  I opted to paint outside the town, with the Bonnie Springs Motel-Resort sign in the distance by the cottonwoods.  (Once we get settled at our place near Zion National Park, I'll take some photos of the pieces I painted and post them here.)  It was interesting to see what scenes the other painters picked.  I'd say about half set up outside the western town, and the others inside.

Late in the morning, Eric Rhoads announced it was time for a group photo shoot.  At one point, we were all talking about having our easels with us, but when we realized how many of us there were and that we'd never fit in the lens, we gave up that idea.  You can see how many of there are in the photo below.  Is it possible this is the largest gathering of plein air painters ever?

This has been a great convention.  Over the weekend, I ran into a lot of old friends and folks I've met over the years:  Anne Laddon, Kim Lordier, Margi Lucena, Anita Louise West, Scott Prior, Brad Holt, Ed Terpening, Jeanne Mackenzie, Paul Kratter, Scott Gellatly...the list goes on, and I apologize if I've omitted anyone!  If you're reading this, it was wonderful to see you again.  I must say that plein air painting sets up some enduring friendships.  Some friends I see only once a year at plein air festivals - and sometimes the interval is even longer than that.  But, it's always like we'd only seen each other yesterday.

Scott Prior

Ken Auster

Margi Lucena, Anita Louise West, Trina and Me

So now we're on our way to Springdale and Zion National Park for a painting retreat with some friends.  Along the way today, we stopped at the Virgin River for a hike.  Here's a taste of what's to come this week.