Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Outlands of Sedona - Road Trip

Painting at Palatki
At least once a season when I'm in Sedona, I like to take a painting road trip with my friend, M.L. Coleman.  M.L. has a Lazy Daze motorhome that's perfect for several days or even weeks on the road.  Together, we've traveled up to the Grand Canyon, both the North and South Rims, and the Vermilion Cliffs.   There's plenty of room in the Lazy Daze for our painting gear and wet paintings.

This time, in advance of a predicted cold front moving in with rain and snow, we headed out for a more local trip.  There's much to explore just outside of Sedona.

Forest Road 119
Our first stop was on the east side of  Interstate 17 in the Red Tank Draw area.  Unfortunately, a forest road that overlooks Beaver Creek with some fantastic cliffs was closed, no doubt because of a heavy rain last week.  (Red dirt roads here are quick to turn slimey with rain, and they stay that way for a long time, even after several dry days.)   We decided to explore a little more, taking a forest road past the V-Bar-V Ranch and on down to Camp Verde.  This road was basically a two-track road that could be rough in rain or snow.

We crossed a bridge with some interesting, exposed red rock and running water.  We went down to explore, and I came across what appeared to be a miniature version of crop circles, only made in rock.  Three sets of these on one side of the creek and three sets on the other side indicated the foundation of a bridge that must have washed out long ago.  I love finding odd things like this when I'm poking around for a painting spot - it makes for a much richer experience.

But we preferred a vista, so we headed south on this primitive road to Camp Verde and then went back north on I-17.   As fate would have it, we ended up finding a good spot to paint not far from where we started by Red Tank Draw.  We'd gotten a late start that day, so we decided to camp here as well.  The sky was grey and leaden, and the light, absolutely flat.  But we made the best of the view and did a little painting before sundown.  (We are fast approaching the shortest day of the year.)  Afterward, we cooked up a couple of cornish game hens for dinner, accompanied by a little merlot.  Later, I poked my head out the door before bed and saw stars overhead, so I thought the weather might be better than predicted the next day.

Evening Toward Rarick Canyon 9x12 oil - $700 framed, includes shipping
Morning dawned with lots of scattered clouds, which was much better than the grey lid that clamped down on us the day before.  According to the weather forecast, the cold front was still en route, but it looked like we were going to enjoy a respite before the rain.  (Our cell phones worked out there so we were able to call home for weather reports.)


After breakfast and coffee, we drove over to Sedona, heading down Boynton Canyon Pass toward Palatki.  Palatki is an archaeological site complete with cliff dwellings left by the ancient Sinagua peoples.  You can feel their spirits when you stand amongst the hills painting.  Their spirits didn't help me much, though, because I ended up scraping both a 9x12 and a 5x7.  I did get one 9x12 I was very happy with, though.

Sacred Space - 9x12 oil - $700 framed, includes shipping

We liked this area so much that we went farther in and toward the other Sinagua site (Honanki).  The road, however, got narrower and rougher.  It was also all red clay, and if the rain came during the night as predicted, we would have a time coming out.  So, we got onto a better forest road and slowly made out way back so we wouldn't be so far from the paved highway.  We found the perfect hilltop camping spot with a 360 degree view.

Sunset Over Mingus - 9x12 oil - $700 framed, includes shipping
After painting the sunset, we sat until it got cold, watching the lights of Jerome come on, far across the Verde Valley.  Then we withdrew into our warm home and treated ourselves to a dinner of baked ham and cauliflower.

Before bed, I stepped out again to check the sky, and I saw no stars.  I woke in the morning to rain drumming on the roof.  That spelled an end to our adventure, but I'd gotten out of it three nice paintings plus some excellent conversation.

By the way, for this trip, I changed my palette.  Although I teach and use the traditional split-primary palette  for oil, it is always a struggle to make color harmonious.  Because I wanted a more relaxing trip, I used just yellow ochre, burnt sienna and Prussian blue (plus white, of course.)  You can't go wrong in color harmony with this palette.  The two earth colors are naturally muted, and  the Prussian blue greys down nicely with them.  To be honest, though, for the one sunset painting, the yellow ochre just wasn't intense enough, so I added a tiny bit of cadmium yellow light to the halo around the sun.

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