Saturday, September 15, 2012

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.


Kim Vanderhoek said...

Looks like a fun event in a beautiful location. I wish you lots of red dots and great weather!

Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Thank you, Kim!