Friday, September 12, 2014

Back in Arizona - And My Studio Painting for the Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon Winter - 18x24 oil/panel.  Available at the Grand Canyon
Celebration of Art Exhibit, Sale and Auction.

As I type this morning, I am back in Arizona in my winter studio.  I don't often get to see the Southwest during what is called "monsoon season" - that time of summer when thunderstorms rake the deserts and mountains daily with spectacular lightning and heavy rain.  I've never seen Arizona so lush!  My little community looks like Ireland, it is so green.  There are many wildflowers blooming, too.

I've sorted out my plein air painting gear and have loaded up the rental car for the drive up to Grand Canyon.  Frames, framing tools, extra Gamsol, plenty of painting panels - it's quite a list.  It won't do to forget anything, since the nearest art supply store is in Flagstaff, a good 90 minutes from the Canyon.

I plan to head up mid-day and deliver my studio painting this afternoon to the Kolb Studio.  If you've never been to Grand Canyon before, the Kolb Studio is a house perched on the rim with a gorgeous view of the Canyon.  It served as a photography studio, shop and living quarters for the famous Kolb brothers.   The story has it that, back in the early days of the National Park, the Kolbs would take photos of tourists sitting on mules just before being guided down into the Canyon.  Then Emery Kolb, who must have been quite the athlete, would run down to a darkroom the brothers had built at Indian Gardens, about 4 1/2 miles down the trail and 3,000 feet below the rim.  Indian Gardens was the only clean water source in the area.  After developing the film, Emery would run all the way back and have the photos ready for the tourists when their ride was over.  Today, Kolb Studio serves as an exhibition space for the Celebration of Art.

At the top of this post, you can see my studio painting:  "Grand Canyon Winter," 18x24, oil/panel.   (Although it's a plein air event, artists are allowed to include one studio painting in the exhibit.)  It's an unusual painting for a Grand Canyon piece in that, first, you don't often see paintings of the Canyon with snow, and second, the Desert View watchtower is rarely depicted.  I wanted to create a painting that is a little different from all the rest.  What I like particularly about it is that it contrasts the human element - the watchtower - with the raw energy of Nature.  And, despite the cold snow, you can feel the warmth of light as you look across to that sunny patch in the distance.

When I took the reference photos for the painting, I had to clamber down through the snow on a rather slippery slope - but the view was worth the trip!

The painting will be on display starting next week at Kolb Studios and will be up for auction and sale.  (Starting bid is $2000.)  For full details on the event, please visit

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