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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Grand Canyon: Through a Painter's Eyes

Sunset Glow, 16x20, oil - Available

Recently, I was asked if some of my Grand Canyon paintings might be included in a series of presentations at Grand Canyon National Park.  (The lecture series, "The View from Point Sublime - Art in the Grand Canyon," continues at the Park through the end of November and coincides with the Celebration of Art exhibit at the Kolb Studio.)  Of course, I said yes!

I was also asked to comment on the current role painters play in depicting the Canyon.  A century ago, painters like Thomas Moran brought its grandness to folks back east and were instrumental in having it turned into a National Park.  But what about today?  Here is my response:

I'll never forget what one spectator told me during a painting event similar to the recent Grand Canyon Celebration of Art.  He was watching me paint, and as I added the finishing touches, he remarked:  "You know, I don't paint myself and I can't afford any of these paintings, but just looking at them has changed the way I see.  Now, when I hike through the Park, I feel like I'm in a painting."

His statement really made me think about the role of today's painters as they work within the boundaries of these beautiful national treasures.  The days of showing people scenes they may never see are long past, since today they can hop on a plane and be at the Canyon in just a few hours.  Also, the Canyon is now protected for all time, so no PR campaign is needed to save it.  And with a few clicks of a keyboard we can see thousands of snapshots of the Canyon's beauty.  So what is there left for the painter to do?

My tourist who said paintings changed the way he sees had it exactly right.  A painter's role isn't to reproduce the scene photographically, but to capture and convey the sense of the Canyon's magnificence by stating more firmly the beautiful contrasts of light and shadow, of warm and color colors, and of near and far.  The painter pares down the Canyon to its essential grandness and presents that to the viewer.   Each painter has his own idea of what to pare away and what to emphasize.  The painting that results puts the viewer in the "driver's seat," as it were, and shows him the Canyon through the painter's eyes.  The painter is an individual, and as such, each painter has a unique interpretation of the Canyon.

If you've seen the Canyon firsthand, seeing the Canyon as the painter sees it adds a richness to your experience and makes it all the more memorable.  And if you've not see the Canyon firsthand, then painting will make you yearn to do so.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

September 2012 Newsletter

September 2012
Campobello Island, New Brunswick, Canada

I hiked one of my favorite trails the other day, the one from the Roosevelt Cottage to Friar's Head.  The air was thick with the smell of apples and alders, and so many blackberries lined the path that you could have a feast.  This is the best time of year on Campobello Island.

But unfortunately, the day to leave the island is fast approaching.  We've already shut down the gallery for the season, and in a few days, we'll be on our way west.  We'll have stops for workshops in Acadia National Park (Maine); Middlebury, Vermont; Millheim, Pennsylvania; and Blue Ridge, Georgia.  We won't arrive in Arizona until October 22nd.

First, some news.  I am fresh back from the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art "Plein Air on the Rim" event.  We had perfect weather and got a lot of painting done, even with a few clouds and a little fog, to keep things interesting.  It was also great to meet some old friends and to make some new ones.  As with last year, the event was a fundraiser hosted by the Grand Canyon Association to raise money for an arts center and museum, something the park is sadly lacking.   The park's very existence is due to artists like Thomas Moran, whose paintings helped spark the concept of a National Park of the Grand Canyon, and it has a large collection of art that needs a home.  The exhibit continues through November 25 at the Kolb Studio on the South Rim.  Although many of my paintings sold, there are still some left.  You can see all the Grand Canyon paintings at my Facebook page (Michael Chesley Johnson Studio).  Ones that are for sale are marked as such with details on how to purchase them.

"Storm Rising" 9x12, oil - Grand Canyon Celebration of Art "Plein Air on the Rim"
(See all the Grand Canyon paintings on my Facebook studio page.)

Although I won't be participating in the Sedona plein air festival this year, I will be teaching a workshop that week.  I'm pleased to say it is full, but I have many other workshops coming up this winter.  If you're interested, go to the end of this letter to see a schedule or visit the workshop page of my website.

Speaking of Sedona, I'm happy to announce that I have been juried into the Sedona Arts Center Fine Art Gallery at 15 Art Barn Road.   Additionally, I'll be teaching a two-Saturday plein air class in February for them (February 16 & 23).   You could come out for a week and take the class - and even take another workshop with me between the two sessions!

By the way, if you've taken a workshop with me, I'd love it if you would write about your experience.  If you do so in your blog, or on WetCanvas or LinkedIn, and include the URL to my website (, send me the link to your essay.  I'll give you a 10% discount on any Paint Sedona or Paint Campobello workshop you take within the next two years.  (Sorry, Facebook doesn't count.)

In case you missed my last letter, my new book, Through a Painter's Brush: The American Southwest - Painting the Four Corners States, is available.  You can also get my 2013 calendar now.  To preview or order, please visit my Lulu Spotlight page.  (Hey, it's never too early to be thinking of Christmas!)

I also want to mention an upcoming plein air-to-studio workshop in Carmel, California, through the Carmel Art Institute.  Carmel is a fantastic place to paint and is right near Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.  If you haven't seen this part of the world, take a look at the Point Lobos site and the Carmel Chamber of Commerce site.  The workshop runs November 13-16 and costs $440.  For details or to register, visit the CAI website.

For a full list of upcoming workshops and events, please see my website.

That's all for now.   I'll write again once we're back in Arizona.  Till then, have a great fall!

Michael & Trina

Monday, September 17, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim 2012 - Thoughts

The 5x7 study I did in preparation for my 9x12 Quick Draw piece.
I gave this to the buyers of my 9x12 as a bonus.
(Photo courtesy of Amery Bohling.)

[Update:  I've posted the paintings on my Facebook studio page, Michael Chesley Johnson Studio.  Some of the paintings are still for sale and benefit the Grand Canyon Association's project of an art center and museum.]

Every time I come back from a major event such as the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art "Plein Air on the Rim" event,  I like to take a moment to reflect on what I learned and what I might have done better.  I also like to spend a little time looking over the paintings I did that week.

One thing I learned is the power of violet in dulling green.  First, let me say that the greens you see in the Canyon aren't as bright as you think.  Most novice Canyon painters push the chroma too high.  To be sure, the Canyon got a lot of rain this summer, and the greens were unusually vivid.  Also, the abundance of pink rock in the Canyon always makes the greens seem much richer than they are.

In the past, to dull down green so it seems more natural, I used Gamblin's Chromatic Black.  But because it seems to have a greenish cast, it doesn't do as good a job as I'd like.  This time around, though, I threw in a tube of Dioxazine Violet - and I found it works miracles on greens.  You can make them as grey as you'd like by just adding more violet.

By the way, some of the painters this week just painted those distant greens as blues.  That's another way of attacking the problem, but again, the blue shouldn't be too rich or too cool.

So, that's what I learned.  What could I have done better?  I might have varied the format from my standard dimensions of 9x12 and 12x16.  The Canyon really is about depth and breadth.  It is deep, and it is wide - a mile deep, ten miles across from South Rim to North Rim, and 300 miles from east to west.  Does a 3:4 ratio really work for the Canyon?  It can, but I think the viewer gets a better sense of the spectacle if a 1:2 or 1:3 ratio is used.  (I used 1:2 in my 12x24 studio piece, below.)  A couple of painters tried vertical long formats, and some of those were truly stunning, as the view looked down a tall tower into the Canyon.  Of course, now you have a custom framing job!

"Glorious Evening" 12x24 oil
As I mentioned in my last post from the Grand Canyon, I immediately sold half of the paintings I made.  There are still some left, plus a few that didn't get framed that I have in inventory.  Once I'm back home - I'm currently sitting in the Phoenix Sky Harbor waiting for my flight, and there's a nice exhibit of Grand Canyon paintings by Bruce Aiken, Curt Walters, Gunnar Widforss and others at the PHX Airport Museum - I'll post the ones that are available.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Last Day

Chamisa in bloom

It was my last day at the Grand Canyon, so I started the morning by doing some cleanup.  I figured that, if I cleaned my brushes and scraped my palette, I wouldn't be tempted to paint.  I was hoping instead to do a little hiking and photography.   I wanted to see the canyon with different eyes today.

At 11, I went back to the Kolb Studio for the public opening of the "Plein Air on the Rim" exhibition.  We had a great turnout, but by 1, it was time to say our goodbyes.  It's always sad when you have to say goodbye to not just the canyon but to your painter friends.  We also said goodbye to the wonderful staff and volunteers of the Grand Canyon Association and to the National Park Service.  This superb event would not have happened without their help.

The artists before the rush
And then I took off my name tag and became a civilian again.

That afternoon, I parked my car and rode the shuttle out on the Hermit Road to Mohave Point.  Many of the painters found Mohave to be a special spot; I did, too.  I hiked out a mile to the west, to the Abyss.  I not only took lots of photos, I also spent some time just looking.  Looking without a paint brush.  I enjoyed letting my eyes rove over the landscape, finding little nooks and crannies I no doubt would have missed if I'd been painting.  Painting had sharpened my observational skills, but sometimes I miss seeing the little things.  I discovered a little pair of towers I'd never seen before, deep down in the Abyss.

Two towers
My next stop is Sedona, then the Phoenix airport.  I should be home on Campobello Island Tuesday.  As much as I've enjoyed these last two weeks, I'm really looking forward to seeing my family again.

Here are a couple more photos of the Grand Canyon.

Beautiful junipers on the rim

Just a nice view

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 8

"Morning Light" 9x12, oil - Sold!

Today was the big day, the day of the Quick Draw.  No matter how much you've painted outdoors with a crowd watching, you will still get butterflies in your stomach before a Quick Draw.   Your mission:  Take the complexity of the Grand Canyon, reduce it down to a 9x12 panel, and then frame and deliver it to the auction spot - all in just two hours.  Oh, and while you're at it, field questions from inquisitive spectators about where you live, how long you've been a painter and where else in the Canyon have you painted.  And, yeah, one more thing, you'll need to stop and pose for photographs.

Mission: Impossible?  Not if you plan for it.  Also, I've found that once the painting begins, it's enjoyable.  Plus I love all the attention.

I arrived at the El Tovar resort around 6:30.  Even though the event didn't start until 9, I had things to do.  First, I wanted a good parking spot.  Even though I'm known for "backpacker painting," I didn't relish the idea of lugging my gear a quarter-mile because the closer lots had gotten parked up.  Second, I wanted to take a walk and scope out possibilities.  And finally, I wanted to do a 5x7 practice piece before embarking on the real one.

Painting Along the Rim

I got my parking spot and saw a beautiful sunrise, and by the time I finished my 5x7, I was relaxed and ready to go.  With 15 minutes left, I grabbed another cup of coffee and visited some of the other painters.  I saw that most of us had set up along the rim right near El Tovar and, not surprisingly, had chosen the same scene to paint.  But except for the one, very identifiable rocky outcrop, all the paintings would be different - different compositions, different color palettes, different styles.

"Morning Light" 9x12, oil

My approach to doing "Morning Light" was exactly the same as for all the other paintings I did this week.  Lightly sketch in a design, block in and bring to a finish any area in which the pattern of  light and shadow was going to change quickly, and then work at my leisure on the area where that pattern was slower to change.  In this painting, I worked on the distance first - the area around Zoroaster Temple and lower down near the Tonto Plateau - and next on the rocky outcrop.  I also spent a good amount of energy just observing and memorizing the quick-changing color relationships.  As the sun rises, these color relationships change by the minute.

Auction Preview

At 11, I popped my finished painting in a frame and walked it over to the auction area on the north lawn.  The crowd was already there, milling about and previewing work.  I checked in and ran over to the concession tent for a sandwich and a moment of quiet time.

The Auction Begins!

At noon, the auction began.  Right away I sensed something different - prices were quickly edging up higher than last year's Grand Canyon Celebration of Art auction.  I was very pleased with the price my painting brought.  The Grand Canyon Association (GCA) did an excellent job and sold over $30,000 of art in the auction.

Afterward, I called home with the good news, and then ran over to the Grand Canyon NP museum to view a sampling of their collection.  Once the GCA has enough funds in its coffers, it will build a new museum and art center to house the collection.  Right now, the museum is small, and when a group comes to visit, there's space to pull out only a few things.  I particularly enjoyed getting my nose about three inches away from a Thomas Moran painting of the canyon.   I include a photo of it here; the image is angled in an odd way because I was trying to photograph it without a reflection.)

Thomas Moran Grand Canyon Piece (image size about 5x12)

After a short rest (shower, e-mail, blog, Facebook, but no nap), I headed over to the Kolb Studio for the buyers'  preview and reception.  It ended up being a fun night with lots of activity. I'm pleased to say that I sold half of my paintings.  One of the highlights of the evening for me was listening to people who love the canyon and want to take a piece of it home with them.  One gentleman, a chemist, was so happy to have one of my 9x12s for his office in Kentucky.  It's a good feeling to connect with someone like that.

My Wall at the Exhibition - More Paintings are Downstairs!

Artist's Previewing the Work Before the Doors Open

Saturday is the official opening of the exhibition and sale, starting at 11 and ending at 1.  (After that, the show will be open through November 25.)  I'll be there again with the other artists, of course.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 7

Have I really been at Grand Canyon a week?  Every day here is like a first day.  Morning dawns fresh and new, and you'd think you'd just arrived in the world.

This morning, all the painters were asked to be painting on the rim between Mather Point and the Trailview Overlook from dawn and 10 a.m.  That's a lot of territory to choose from!  I chose a spot with good parking and a short walk from the car.  For me, that meant Yavapai Point.  There, I found a nice little nook with a view of Zoroaster Temple in the distance and Yavapai Point in the foreground.

Zoroaster's Court, 12x16, oil

When you paint early in the day, shadows in the canyon change fast.   For this piece, I worked exclusively on the shadowed canyon before anything else.  I had to "nail" the pattern of lights on the rocky slopes around Zoroaster before they shifted.  Part of painting this area also required observation and memory work - I wanted to remember the subtle relationships of value and color temperature, even if I didn't record them yet in paint, so I'd be able to go back to that area later.  Once I'd done that, I was able to work on the view of Yavapai Point at a much more leisurely pace.

After the session, I headed home to frame.   All my frames, of course, had been pre-wired and were ready to go.  One might think that it's then a simple matter of slipping in the panels and applying the point driver.  Well, there's more.  First, I had to choose which paintings to frame.  (I liked them all, and  I'd painted five more than I had frames for.)  Next, I gave each painting a shot of retouch varnish to even out the gloss.  As I framed each piece, I gave it a serial number and a title, and duly recorded both on a sheet of paper as well as on the back of the panel.  Finally, I photographed the piece before putting it in a box.

After delivering the paintings to Kolb Studio, I always feel a certain sense of relief.  I imagine God felt that way after his six days.  But there's still more to do.  There's a Quick Draw Friday morning (9-11 between Verkamp's and the Kolb Studio), followed by the Quick Draw auction on the lawn of El Tovar and the Friday night Buyer's Preview, and finally the opening of the exhibition on Saturday.  The Quick Draw is probably the most intense - we'll have two hours to paint, frame and deliver a painting, all the while on display to the public.  But I don't mind.  Talking and painting are second nature to me, thanks to all the workshops I teach.

Now, it's off to an evening lecture with P.A. Nisbet, Bruce Aiken and Serena Suplee.  Below are the paintings I've chosen for the exhibit.

Colorado River Ravens, 9x12, oil

Indian Gardens View (top)
Yaki Tower, Clearing (left)
Isis Revealed (right)
All 5x7 oil

Kolb Studio Lookout, 12x16 oil

Mather Lookout Afternoon, 9x12 oil

Mormon Tea, 9x12 oil

Wotan  Speaks, 9x12, oil

Storm Rising, 9x12, oil

Yaki Point View, 12x16 oil

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 6

It's hard to believe, but we are almost at the final round.  Paintings are to be turned in tomorrow afternoon at 4.  That leaves just tomorrow to paint a couple more, make any adjustments and then frame our best pieces.  Where did the time go?

Of course,  once the work is turned in, we won't rest.  There's a Quick Draw Friday morning followed by an auction of the Quick Draw pieces, and then the Buyer's Preview that night.  Saturday, the exhibition will officially open to the public at the Kolb Studio.  (You can find all these details on the web site.)  In addition to my large studio piece, I expect to have ten plein air pieces.

But back to today.  After a night of heavy rain, I woke to fog.  Having had cold cereal every day for the last week, I decided to go out to the Maswick Lodge for a hot breakfast.  Following that, I walked my coffee over to the rim to get an update on the weather.   Was that actually sun I was seeing?  Sure enough, a little yellow glow was filtering through the fog.  I decided to head back over to Yaki Point to finish a rain/fog painting I did yesterday - I needed to refer again to my subject - and to paint some 5x7s.

I ran into several painters who were already there wrestling with the fickle weather.  Dan Schultz, Jake Gaedkte and Dave Santillanes were soon followed by Glenn Renell and Gregory Hull.  I chatted with Dave for a moment, because I was curious about his experience down at Phantom Ranch.  He and Cody Delong had hiked down to paint and hiked back out Monday.  He said they actually started their hike back at 1 a.m., traveling by moonlight, to avoid the sun.

Dan Schultz

Jake Gaedtke

David Santillanes
I did two pieces,  9x12 and a 5x7 plus the adjustments on the 9x12 from the day before.    You'll note that two of the pieces are of the same feature, but with much different lighting.  This is what makes plein air painting in a complicated place like the Canyon challenging but also exciting.

9x12 from day before (rain/fog day!)

5x7 from today - same tower, different light!

9x12 oil - "Wotan Speaks"

Around 11, I was ready to pack it up.  The fog was evolving into clusters of thunderheads over both rims.  But of course, that made for more good painting!  I headed out to the area around Verkamp's, met up with Bill Cramer, and painted two more 5x7s.   The clouds and shadows were challenging, and I had to work fast on the little impression of Isis Temple.  In the second piece, I'm looking off the rim and down toward Indian Gardens.  I had some good, steady light for this one.

Isis Revealed 5x7 oil

Indian Gardens View 5x7 oil

Next was a demo by Joshua Been, followed by an artist's reception at Verkamp's, which is where the  Grand Canyon National Park South Rim artist-in-residence stays.  It's a nice apartment with a view unlike any other.  I closed up the day by having dinner with my hosts down in Tusayan.

Joshua Been Demo

Tomorrow, the artists will all be painting on the South Rim between Mather Point and Trailview Overlook so interested visitors can find us.    We'll be there from dawn until 10 a.m.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 5

We woke to a chilly, overcast morning here at the Grand Canyon's South Rim.  I was up early to get to Yavapai Point by dawn; I hoped to get some good fog effects in the Canyon before the sun dried things out.  And I wasn't disappointed!  The fog was a magician and the Canyon a vast magic trunk, with temples and buttes vanishing and then suddenly reappearing.  But, in my opinion, it was weather more suited for photography than for plein air painting.

Short of going back to bed, how does a painter handle such frustrating ephemera?  Fog with the attention span of a two-year-old is certainly more challenging than the slow, predictable shift of sunlight.  One approach is that of painter Julia Seelos, whom I ran into later in the day at Yaki Point.  She'd chosen to do a tree study.  Selecting something close at hand minimizes the effects of fog.  Another option is to pay attention to the fog, and when it parts to reveal some useful feature, stop.  Stop painting, observe and memorize.  When the fog closes up again, you can then commit what you have memorized to canvas.

After leaving Yavapai, a little rain moved in, so I went to the Grand Canyon Visitor Center to watch the free movie there.  I've seen it before, but it's worth seeing again.  It's a great introduction to the Canyon, and it also offers some stunning cinematography.  The whitewater rafting scenes left me breathless.

When I left the theatre, I saw that the weather hadn't improved at all.  In fact, it looked more threatening.  But I wanted to make another stab at the unusual weather, so I drove over to Yaki Point.  I set up not too far from Julia.  Perched at the edge, I spied a single condor far below swimming through the thin fog.  But the fog wasn't thin for long.  After arranging my paints and brushes, I looked up from my pochade to discover that I couldn't see anything beyond ten feet.  But that all changed two seconds later, of course, and I caught a glimpse of Vishnu Temple.  I decided to make that a focus, while working mostly on modelling a nearby tower that seemed to point to it.  I just left Vishnu a flat, abstract shape in the distance.

I finished up in time for the rain to begin.  Curtains of it had been moving through the Canyon in the distance, and finally one brushed by me.  I packed up, went to the car and then did some grocery shopping before heading home for lunch.

The sun seemed to be coming out early in the afternoon, so I headed back up to El Tovar to check out the scenery, thinking I might get in a small painting before P.A. Nisbet's demonstration at 4.  Well, the Canyon was all fog from the rim down.  So instead, I took a walk - and I took photographs, too.  By 4, Peter was set up on the rim and ready to paint.  Just as he began his block-in, the fog ate the scene.  Professional that he is, he forged ahead working from memory.  But then the heavens broke and the rain hammered down.  We quickly helped move his gear to the El Tovar's porch, where he continued to work from memory.  It was a great demo and a privilege to see him work.

You're probably wondering where my paintings are for today.  They need a little more consideration first.

As I write, it is now after dark, and it has been raining for five solid hours.  A little lake has developed outside my hosts' home.  I think I just saw a boat go by.

P.A. Nisbet demonstrating on the South Rim

Peter's palette

Peter on the El Tovar porch

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 4

Desert View Watch Tower

 After last night's gorgeous, jewel-studded sunset, I suspected that we were in for a change in the weather.  Sure enough, today saw thunderheads building up over higher terrain.  But after two days of painting in perfect weather - and full sun - I am grateful for the clouds!  Not only do they add interest to the sky, they also cast beautiful shadows in the canyon.

View from Desert View

I headed out first thing to Desert View, 25 miles east of the village.  I knew that the canyon beneath the historic watchtower would be in deep shadow for awhile.  Deep shadow normally doesn't interest me, but in this case, I also knew that I'd see a silver ribbon of the Colorado River snaking through it, which would make for a nice point of interest.  I arrived at Desert View so early that the snack shop wasn't open yet, and only a few tourists were wandering around.  It wasn't long, though, before the busloads arrived.  In the course of a couple of hours, I had conversations with people from France, Germany and Ireland.  The fellow from Ireland and I talked about family names; I learned that "Chesley" is not an Irish name, but "McCulley" - my grandparents' surname - certainly is.  My new friend said that although he is from Dublin, his family is originally from Moscow.  I guess even the Irish had to come from somewhere.

The River - 9x12, oil
At Desert View, I was serenaded by ravens.  Ravens are the most remarkable creatures, and I almost feel a soulful connection to them.  I love to watch them gliding on the wind.  I thought about putting one or two in my painting; I may still yet.

After closing up, I got some coffee at the Desert View snack shop and hiked around looking for other spots.  Although the views were promising, I decided to head back.  I painted a nice piece at Moran Point last year.  Moran Point is stunning with the early morning light, but as I discovered, it's not so interesting at mid-morning.  (I wonder if Thomas Moran, for whom it is named and who painted there, thought the same?)   So I moved on to Grandview Point, which is good any time of day.  Before Grand Canyon was established as a park and Grand Canyon Village was settled, Grandview was where the tourists went.

Monsoon Weather - 9x12, oil
By this time, the thunderheads were building over the North Rim, and I could see rain coming down.  I love a good storm.  And 10 miles was a good safe, distance to be from it.  Knowing that the clouds would change quickly, I blocked in and finished those before working on the land.  (I used a similar approach with the Desert View piece, blocking and completing the shadowed canyon first.)

Linda Glover Gooch and Glenn Rennell were there at Grandview, as well.  After finishing up, I had a light lunch with Linda, sitting on a rock wall and watching the clouds.  We talked shop, of course.  Then I went home to plan the rest of the day.   Coffee helped ratchet up the enthusiasm for a third painting.  So, I drove up to Verkamp's in the village to paint, thinking that afterward I'd hop over to El Tovar to catch Paul Kratter's 4 pm demonstration.  But as soon as I exited the car, the heavens opened.   I scurried back to my car and sat for nearly an hour until I had exhausted all my reading material.  When the next lightning bolt struck directly in front of me in the Canyon and striking a spot below the rim, I knew it was time to head home.

It ended up raining all evening.  I enjoyed a nice, homecooked meal with my hosts.  (Thank you again, Chris and Rick!)  Maybe with all the rain we'll have some nice fog to paint in the Canyon come morning.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Grand Canyon Plein Air on the Rim - Day 3

I've never seen the Grand Canyon quite like this.  Everywhere you turn, thanks to the summer rains, there is a beauty bonus.  Everything is blooming - apache plume, chamisa, Indian paintbrush, and countless other flowers I don't know the names of.   I haven't included any in my paintings, but you can bet I've included them in my photos!

We had another great start to the day.  It was cooler - 52, according to my rental vehicle's thermometer.  I never mind a cool start.  (Today especially, since I slept a little later due to being worn out from yesterday's efforts.)  After coffee and a call home, I drove off to Yaki Point.  As I did yesterday, I sent a text message to the event coordinator of my whereabouts.  This information is made public so visitors can find the painters.  This time, however, I remembered to include who the text message was from!  I forgot yesterday.  Visitors love to see painters in action, and I hope I didn't disappoint too many.

View fromYaki Point 12x16 oil

Yaki Point is one of my favorite areas.  With nearly 360 degree views, you can find good shadow at any time of day.  Shadow is very important in canyon painting; without shadows, the Grand Canyon becomes a flat piece of cardboard painted in pastel tints.  Early in the day, I painted on the west side, and then as noon drew near, I painted on the east side.

Linda Glover Gooch and Paul Kratter

Glenn Rennell

As I painted, I was serenaded by an unseen osprey.  (I'm very familiar with the calls of both osprey and bald eagle, which are fishing birds, from painting around Campobello Island.)  I also spotted another condor but, better yet, several painters!  I checked a few more off my life list:  Linda Glover Gooch, Paul Kratter, Jim Wodark and Glenn Rennell.  Some of these I've already checked off, but it doesn't hurt to see them in their native habit more than once.

One new thing I'm doing this year is writing on each painting the GPS coordinates of the location at which it was painted.  This means that if you buy one, you can use your GPS to get within a few meters of where it was actually painted.  Now, as the informed collector knows, few painters create a photographic rendering of a scene.  Things get left out, things get moved, or things get added from a scene the painter saw a half-mile away.   This happens more, though, in studio paintings, where the artist has more leisure time to design.  In the field, these changes happen in a more minor way.  At any rate, part of the challenge of this kind of plein air painting - that is, painting in a national landmark - is to make the painting look like the actual scene.  It'll also help me if I decide I want to go back and work more on a particular painting.

Looking Down from Yaki Point, 9x12, oil

As an example, here is a painting I did at Yaki Point with its latitude and longitude. You can search this on Google Maps, too.  Just copy and paste the text string "36° 3' 29" N, 112° 4' 52" W" and search.  The view is even better in Google Earth.

Mather Point Afternoon 9x12 oil

After a break for lunch, I went back out.  This time, I decided to brave the crowds near Mather Point.  I set up a little to the east where I had a view of Mather Point itself and the conveyor belt of crowds going down to the overlook.  I got my picture taken several times.  "Can I take your picture?" most ask.  I say, "Sure, but you also have to take my card" - and I give them a postcard with a Grand Canyon image on it and my website.  (If you look closely, you can see the people.)

Joshua Been

Bill Cramer

To cap off the day, I took a walk and ended up near Yavapai Point where I ran into Bill Cramer and Joshua Been.  They were finishing up and the sun was setting, so we all went down to a private perch Bill had found and watched the sunset from there.  Get three painters together to watch a sunset, and you'll hear all kinds of interesting talk.  Most of the time, we were trying to figure out what kind of green that was we were seeing in the sky holes of the clouds.  It was fascinating to watch the colors of the canyon change as dark deepened.

Sunset was followed by a visit to the Pizza Pub at Maswik Lodge and then home to bed.  Where to tomorrow?