Authentically Human! Not Written by AI!
All Content Copyright © Michael Chesley Johnson AIS PSA MPAC

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Video Previews for My Three New Painting Instruction Videos

Good news! Previews are available for my three new painting instruction videos from North Light Shop and  Here they are, along with links to the order pages and also a link to a page where you can buy all three in a kit.

The Secret to Oil Painting Wet-into-Wet

The Secret to Oil Painting with Light and Color

The Secret to Pastel Painting en Plein Air

Michael Chesley Johnson's Secrets to Oil & Pastel Painting Success Collection 

(all three videos plus a downloadable version of my book, Backpacker Painting: Outdoors with Oil & Pastel, and an ebook of my articles from The Artist's Magazine)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Arrived at Acadia Workshop Center, Bernard, Maine

We made the short trip from Campobello Island to Bernard, Maine, and Acadia Workshop Center where I'm teaching a four-day plein air painting workshop this week.  I'll try to post over the next few days as the workshop progresses.  I think this is my eighth time teaching for AWC.  It's always a great time with beautiful scenery, and the students enjoy poking around Mount Desert Island's "quiet side."  The "quiet side" is the west side of the island, far away from the maddening crowds of Bar Harbor.

To whet your appetite, here are a few photos I took yesterday.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Arizona-Bound - Again!

I'm fresh back from the Grand Canyon plein air painting event and now on Campobello Island, packing up for the drive west.  I've had a few minutes to cull through the thousands of photos I took at the Celebration of Art to create a short movie.  It's only five minutes long, but it gives you an idea of the view from my "office window" each day.  Sunrises, sunsets, artists painting on the rim - it's got it all!

Here's the video:

Now I'm off to teach a four-day plein air painting workshop in Bernard, Maine, on Mount Desert Island (home to Acadia National Park) followed by one near Keene, New Hampshire.  After that, we'll have a long drive out - but I'll be in Sedona just in time for the Sedona Plein Air Festival.

I am proud to say this will be my seventh year participating in Sedona as an invited artist.  If you're in the area, please stop by to visit while I'm painting in Red Rock Country.  For details on the event, please visit

Once I'm done with the Sedona Plein Air Festival, I'll launch into my season of teaching plein air painting workshops in the Sedona and Verde River Valley area.  If you'd like more information or to register, please visit  I have space left in several of the weeks, and it's a great winter escape.  A week would also make a great gift for that painter friend of yours.  Contact me if you'd like to arrange a gift certificate.

Till then, happy travels!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 8 and the End

You can see rain falling over by the North Rim, at Point Imperial

The last day of the artists' participation in the Sixth Grand Canyon Celebration of Art dawned with bands of clouds sweeping the Canyon with rain. Before the Buyer's Brunch, I said a long goodbye to the Canyon by taking the rim walk from the Kolb Studio to the Park Headquarters and back. Having neither raincoat nor umbrella, I kept an eye on the clouds.

It's an interesting walk. It's part of an interpretive trail called the Trail of Time. Every step, the pavement is punctuated by a brass ring the size of a penny that marks off a million years, and every ten rings, a large marker announces the passage of ten million years. If you start at Verkamp's Visitor Center, you'll be at the beginning of the Canyon's geological record (1.8 billion years), and if you go all the way to the Yavapai Point Geology Museum, you'll come to the end of the record (270 million years.) Along the way, you can see rock samples from the Canyon that were created at different times in the Canyon's history.

Along the Trail of Time
The Trail also gives you spectacular views of the Canyon. Sometimes, you can run across the unexpected. Here's a cute little guy that I found walking the trail:

Tarantula - about 4" across
The brunch ran from 10-12. As with the the opening reception the night before, the food was great. This morning we had mini quiches, mini breakfast burritos, diced fruit and an assortment of cheeses and pastries plus, of course, coffee. I don't think we had quite the frenzy of the night before, but things definitely were moving. Following the brunch, the doors were opened to the public, and by the end, the Grand Canyon Association had sold a total of $200,000 worth of art. (This includes the Saturday morning auction and evening reception as well as the brunch.) Half of the money goes to fund the proposed art museum with the other half going to the artists.

Of the 14 paintings I created for the event, seven sold. The remaining paintings will be on exhibit and are for sale until late January at the Kolb Studio. As paintings sell, artists are asked to supplement the exhibit with other Grand Canyon plein air paintings. I have several more I will be adding as time goes by.

This last day is always bittersweet. Many of us felt we could easily stay another week painting the Canyon and were sad to leave our painting friends; all of us were eager to get home to our loved ones.

I am honored to be part of this worthwhile event. I would like to thank the staff, volunteers and sponsors of the Grand Canyon Association as well as the National Park Service for working together with the GCA to make the event possible. I would also like to thank my hosts who, for the third time, made my stay a very enjoyable one. Thank you, Chris and Rick!

For me, I am heading back to Campobello Island for a few days - just long enough to pack up and start the long drive west with workshops in Maine and New Hampshire. When I get back to Arizona in mid-October, I will arrive just in time for my next plein air painting event - the Sedona Plein Air Festival.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 8

Rain over Grand Canyon during the Buyer's Preview

Our final day of painting, Saturday, began with artists arriving extra early for the Quick Draw to find a parking spot. There's never an abundance of parking in the Village, and what with the gear some of us have, it's important to get a spot somewhat close to the painting and auction locations. I arrived about 6:30, and a few moments later, the remaining spots were taken by hikers preparing to hike down the Bright Angel Trail. I'm not sure where all the other 24 painters parked!

Once parked, I relaxed a bit by walking to the Maswik Lodge for a quick breakfast to hold me through the morning. By 7, I was back at the Rim, checking out painting spots. ML Coleman and Serena Supplee arrived about then. We all found good morning views just east of Kolb Studio and not a far hike from the auction tent. (You don't want to be running a half-mile from Verkamp's at 10:59 a.m. back to the auction tent, which was all the way down by the Bright Angel trailhead, when your painting is due signed, framed and deliverd by 11.) I sat down on the stone wall that edges the rim and watched ML and Serena's gear while they went off to breakfast.

These are my thumbnail sketches.  While I was doing them, noted Grand Canyon painter
Bruce Aiken came by, leading a small group of NAU students on an art tour.  He saw my sketches and told these
youngsters, "T'HIS is how it all begins, with the sketch!"  I was honored that he came by and used me as an example.

The last time I did the event, I worked on a 5x7 color sketch while I waited for the 9 a.m. starting time to prepare. This time, the clouds and sunlight were so fickle it didn't make sense, so I made some thumbnail (value) sketches instead to get my head around the scene. There was so much to see at this spot - Maricopa Point and the Battleship formation to the left, Yavapai Point to the right, Indian Garden directly below and, across the gulf, Cheops Pyramid, Isis and Buddha Temples. While I sketched, a cute little Abert's squirrel darted in and out of the rocks below, looking for food.

"Aberts with pinecone" by NPS Photo by Sally King - (archive link). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons -

By 8:30, all the artists had set up for the Quick Draw in the designated area, between Kolb Studio and Verkamp's Store. Although there wasn't to be any starting gun cracking at nine sharp, you could feel the tension. But once nine came and that first stroke went down on the canvas, everyone relaxed and got into the "zone."

ML Coleman

Aaron Schuerr

Serena Supplee

Dawn Sutherland

Many of the collectors who would be at the Buyer's Preview that evening stopped by to watch the progress of my painting. I had decided on a view of Indian Garden below. I liked the contrast of the green cottonwoods against the reddish rocks. Some of the buyers who were familiar with the Canyon and the art remarked that Indian Garden was an unusual and good choice because it is not often painted from this view.

Indian Garden, 9x12 oil - My Quick Draw Painting

10:45 came all too quickly, but I was pretty happy with my piece. I framed it and took it over to the auction tent. I was surprised I was the first artist to turn in a painting. There was only an hour for people to preview the paintings before the noon auction. Some artists even turned in their work as late as 11:30.

The Auction

The auction was a frenzy. Although there was a variety of sizes, from around 8x10 on up to maybe 16x20, paintings generally went between $1000 and $3000. My 9x12 went for $1050, which I felt was about right. When about two-thirds of the paintings had sold, a big thunderstorm began rumbling off not far off to the south, and there was some urgency to get the auction over. Despite that, over $40,000 worth of work sold.

After an afternoon break of cleaning up, I headed back to the Kolb Studio for the Buyer's Preview, which ran from five to seven. This year, tickets had gone up to $100 each, and I noticed a thinner crowd than what I'd experienced in previous years. Still, the price left the serious buyers in the running, and over $100,000 worth of work was sold. I sold my studio piece, which is always satisfying, plus a few of the smaller ones. It's great to see collectors supporting the Grand Canyon Association's goal of funding a permanent art museum on the South Rim.

Buyer's Preview

I was amazed at all the quality work at the event. The main gallery was filled with beautiful paintings of the Canyon, each of them different and special. But the lower level of the Kolb Studio held just as much work. These were backup paintings to replace the ones sold in the main gallery. Buyers were allowed to visit the lower level and buy from there, too. People went up the stairs and down the stairs, into the rooms and out of the rooms. I now understand what is meant by a crowd "milling" around - there was a constant movement of people, and I'm sure the floorboards had been milled down a good half-inch by the end of the night

During the event, a big storm popped up over the Canyon. I could barely hear the thunder and rumble of rain on the roof, but when I peered out the window, I could see it was a real downpour. I thought of all those buyers having to cart their paintings to a car parked who knows where. But by the time the event was over, the rain had stopped and the stars were glinting brightly as they can only at the Grand Canyon.

Sunday is the final day of the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. There will be a Buyer's Brunch from ten to noon, and then a Public Sale from noon to two. I hope to see everyone there!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 7

Our last day of free painting arrived with plenty of clouds. For this day, we were asked to paint on the rim between Mather Point and Trailview Overlook from dawn until 10 a.m; I chose Yavapai Point, near the Geology Museum. As I packed up, I immediately noted how damp the morning was - the windshield of my car was covered in dew, and everything felt, well, damp! It felt a lot like a morning on Campobello Island.

Elizabeth Black had already set up and was hard at work, even though the sun had just barely risen. ML Coleman arrived shortly after, and we set up together. You'll note that I mention ML frequently during my posts this week; he's a good friend, and he was the one who first took me to the Canyon to paint several years ago and gave me some tips on painting it. We're also sympatico in other ways. Plus, we look somewhat alike and are often mistaken for one another. It's uncanny

I did two 9x12s during the morning, one of which I framed up for the exhibit. For some reason, they're a little hard to photograph, but here they are. I'll try to get better photos later.

Isis in the Morning 9x12 oil

Sunrise on the Battleship 9x12 oil (submitted to the exhibit)

After the delivery, I was basically free for the day. I was determined not to paint again, so I spent the afternoon re-organizing my car studio and packing things I would need for Saturday's Quick Draw. I didn't want to forget my framing tool and Sharpie, as they are crucial for framing up the piece and identifying it on the back of the panel. More about that in a moment.

Around 3, the clouds were building up. (Damp mornings here in "monsoon season" often portend a stormy afternoon.) I decided to use my special access permit one last time - it was set to expire today - and drive up the West Rim Drive to take photos. I also had a couple of paintings that I wanted to adjust, and I knew of a quiet spot where I could set up in the shade and make a few adjustments.

Clouds continued to build and gather, and it wasn't long before some good thunder was cracking overhead. This always makes me a little nervous, since the last time I participated at the Canyon event, two Dutch tourists were struck and killed by lightning on this road, which goes up higher than the Village. (Actually, it was the week before the event, and after that, the Park instituted the policy of closing the road whenever a dangerous storm approached.)

As luck would have it, as I finished up, ML came by in his motor home. There was no way I could avoid painting now! We caravanned further up the road beyond Mohave Pont but before the Abyss, where we had a great view of clouds and sweet little sunspots down in the shadowed canyon. But just before we set up, the heavens split.

It rained hard for a good 30 minutes. I sat in my car listening to music and watching the storm. Once it was over, we had a nice wedge of open blue sky over us that looked like it would last a couple of hours. I got out to set up and discovered that we had about a foot of water around us. Each pulloff on the road has a rock wall edging it, and at this particular pulloff, the drain in the wall had gotten plugged. I could get out of my car, but ML couldn't get out of the RV without getting his feet soaked. He managed, however, to span the distance between RV and rock wall, and to walk along the top of the wall to a dry spot.

We scratched out heads for a few minutes, and then I remembered my useless umbrella. It has a long metal extension pole. This proved to be the perfect thing for routing out the drain. It only took a few minutes to drain the flood. Just call me "Roto."

The clouds were just beautiful, so I pulled out a 14x18 and got to work. I also simplified my palette to speed things up. Rather than my usual split-complementary palette of six colors, I used yellow ochre, burnt sienna and Prussian blue. I really liked how this one turned out.

Rain over the River 14x18 oil

After that, I went home. It was about sundown. I watched two episodes of "Boardwalk Empire" with my hosts and then went to bed.

Saturday is the Quick Draw in front of El Tovar. The starting gun goes off at 9, and then we have two hours to complete, frame and deliver a painting. At noon, the pieces will be auctioned off at an area set up at the Bright Angel trailhead. Then, to end the day, the Buyer's Preview starts at 5 at the Kolb Studio. I hope to see some of you there!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 6

Rim Tree Near Pima Point 9x12 oil

Below the Tower of Seti 16x12 oil
Most people, when they come to Grand Canyon, don't do much more than peer over the rim, take a few photos and leave. For them, it is purely a visual experience. I, too, enjoy the Canyon with my eyes. After all, I'm a visual artist. However, as a plein air painter, I spend hours immersed in the landscape quietly. When I do so, the other senses begin to take notice:

  • The whoosh of a raven overhead just before it plummets deep into the Canyon
  • The vanilla scent of ponderosa pine on a damp morning
  • The descending musical scale of a canyon wren
  • The hard limestone beneath my shoes, sometimes cushioned by pine needles
  • The burning heat of the September sun at 7000 feet
  • The sudden but welcome chill when I move into the shade
  • The prickliness of a juniper's needles as I brush against them

If I stop painting for a moment to pay attention to all this, I am overwhelmed. I have to start painting again to get back on track.

When morning came, we had just two free painting days left, Thursday and Friday, with final delivery of work due Friday afternoon.  Thursday, we were free to paint anywhere; Friday, we will be required to paint along the Rim between Mather Point and Trailview Overlook in the morning. It's hard to believe we're nearly done with the painting portion of the event.  (Next comes the Quick Draw and auction, followed by the Buyers' Preview, Buyers' Brunch and the public sale.)

To make the most of Thursday, I headed up to just east of Pima Point, where I met ML Coleman again. I painted a 12x16 plus a 9x12 (see above). Clouds moved in as I was finishing up, and I decided to head home for lunch.

I had lots to do. I needed to frame up as much work as possible for delivery, which also meant taking photographs, filling out forms and recording the paintings for my own records. I drove over to the Community Hall with my carload of paintings and frames and got to work in the room that the GCA had set aside for us to use. When I laid out all the paintings, it was a tough choice!

I made my selections, which you can see below. You'll note that I'm including some 5x7s. These sold well last time I was here; I like to have something for every budget! All of these paintings (along with the framed larger ones in my earlier posts) will be for sale at the Kolb Studio starting Saturday evening at the Buyers' Preview. Whatever doesn't sell that evening will be available to the general public on Sunday and then until late January (unless they sell, and I hope they do.)  If you're interested in any of these pieces, I urge you to contact the Kolb Studio right away or make sure you attend the Buyers' Preview.  I will have one more 9x12 to post after Friday morning, and then I will have another at the Quick Draw on Saturday.

(For details on all these scheduled events, please visit

Off Yaki Point 9x12 oil 
Rim Tree 9x12 oil

Building Clouds 9x12 oil
Dawn Over the River 5x7 oil

Sunset Over Kolb Studio 5x7 oil

Sundown 5x7 oil

That evening, I went to a reception for the artists at Park Superintendent David Uberuaga's residence.  The reception was scheduled to start after dark so those of us who wanted to paint the sunset could do so.  The Uberuagas were wonderful hosts, and it was a great chance to talk to the other artists.  The only other chance, other than the orientation last week, will be at the sales events, which aren't a good time to be swapping stories about the pitfalls and pleasures of plein air.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 5

Retreating Storm (Yaki Point) 16x12, oil

Wednesday dawned with a good bit of cloud cover, and as I drove out to Yaki Point to meet some of the other painters, I wondered how the light would be. But during monsoon season, as it is called, any morning clouds typically dissipate quickly. Sure enough, by the time I'd picked out my spot, the clouds had begun to retreat. But I really liked the cloud patterns, so I spent the first part of the session getting the sky right and finishing it before working on any other part of the painting.

I've found that clouds can really help a Grand Canyon scene. It's a mistake to include too much sky if the sky is empty. A clear, blue sky is pretty to look at, but in a painting the effect is largely lost. For this painting, however, the sky was so beautiful with patterns and rhythm that I gave it plenty of room.

Usually toward the middle of a painting event, artists start to get a little tired. I took a break and wasn't sure if I was going to even paint another piece today. I went east from Yaki Point for a long walk to clear my head. I discovered that, since my last time there, a horse trail had been put in and graveled. My first clue to that was the sound of hooves and voices. I met two groups of riders on my walk. If I had to pick a riding activity at the Canyon, I'd definitely choose the horse ride on the rim over the mule ride down to Phantom Ranch. It feels safer, and you still get great views.

Brahama Temple View (Yaki Point) 9x12 oil
I caught up with ML Coleman on the walk back to the parking lot, and he laid a guilt trip on me for closing up shop early. So, I reluctantly hauled out the gear and found another spot to paint. It's pretty much always the case with me that, once I start painting, the enthusiasm kicks in and I wonder why I even considered not painting. This is a different view of that little tower that sits off Yaki Point that everyone paints; I minimized it in favor of focusing more on Brahama Temple.

Retreating Storm (Moran Point) 16x12 oil

Once I finished that painting, I knew I was done for the day. I headed back to shower (I'd been so busy I hadn't showered in two days), did a load of laundry (have I been traveling that long?), called home (oh, yes, I shouldn't forget I have a family), and framed up my two 12x16s and delivered them to the Kolb Studio. Above, you can see the other piece framed.

James McGrew Demo
Then I wandered back up to El Tovar to watch James McGrew's 4 pm demonstration. Each day, a different artist is giving a demo. (You'll remember I gave mine the day before.) He won Best of Show last year plus some other awards, so I was eager to meet him and see how he paints. Like me, he's a fast painter.

After that, still determined to not paint again, I ran into John Cogan. He, too, had hit the wall. "I think I'll just go set up my umbrella and chair and sit and look," he said. After walking around a bit along the rim, I ran into him again. He was hard at work on a painting. I looked at the evening light and realized that if I hurried, I could get in a small painting, too. So I got my gear and set up near the Kolb Studio and made a little 5x7 painting of it. One nice thing about this event is that the other painters can inspire you to keep going.

Evening Light on Kolb Studio 5x7 oil
The remnants of Hurricane Odile are dropping rain over southern Arizona. Chances for rain are a little higher for Thursday. Maybe I'll get some more good clouds!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 4

Another early morning arrived, this time with the coyotes in the brass section outdoing the elk over in the woodwinds. After a quick breakfast at Maswik Lodge, I drove west to hook up with ML Coleman just past Hopi Point. This was a great spot, and I managed to paint two 9x12s without changing locations. I long ago learned my lesson of trying to paint everywhere; you just end up with a bunch of "snapshot" paintings of the Canyon. You're better off picking a couple of spots for the week and doing all your work there. You end up with more in-depth knowledge of a particular location.

View of Buddha,  9x12 oil

The Alligator 9x12 oil

In between paintings, I enjoyed a cup of coffee in the cool shade of ML's LazyDays motor home. About that time Bill Cramer arrived, followed soon by Carl Ortman. They headed down the trail, just below where I was painting. But before they left, Bill discovered that the window of the LazyDays makes a remarkable mirror. It allowed me to take a couple of "selfies" with the Canyon in the background. (Bill didn't make it into the photo.) Curiously, the view is a broader one than the one my camera takes alone; the window seems to violate some law of optics. The Canyon is indeed a magical place.

Me, ML Coleman, Carl Ortman (L to R)

Today (Tuesday), we were asked to start bringing in framed pieces. I went over to the Community Hall in the Village, where we had a room reserved for framing and other tasks we might not be able to do in our host's home. I framed up my two larger pieces and then trucked them over to the Kolb Studio. I'll be trying to do this each day now, with the final day of delivery set for Friday. Here are my first two pieces:

Mohave Point, Morning 18x14 oil

West of Hopi, 14x18 oil

By the way, I don't want to give you the impression that a plein air festival is all fun and games.  There is a great deal of housekeeping one needs to do.  In addition to framing, you need to record inventory, photograph pieces, deal with the logistics of painting delivery - basically, all the stuff you would do in your home studio, but you're doing it out of the back of your car!

After a short break, I headed over to the El Tovar resort for my 4 pm demonstration. We've had great weather all week - sun with scattered clouds - but today the weather began to turn. A huge storm was building up to the south. I set up by the stone wall that edges the rim, hoping that the cloud wouldn't block the sun. I wanted some good light on Maricopa Point, which you can see from that spot.

I'm not sure how many people attended the demonstration, but I sensed there were maybe a half-dozen genuinely interested listeners. Others were genuinely uninterested tourists oohing and ahhing at the view in twenty different languages. I had some great questions and the demo went really well; in fact, I think it is one of the best one-hour paintings I've ever done. At the end, the painting was auctioned off to a very happy lady from California. (She got a really good deal on it). I did fail to get a photo of the painting, but photos were taken, and I am promised one soon, which I will post.

Then the storm really began to bloom, killing the good light. There was no point in painting more, so I drove out to get a few photos of clouds before heading to the Market Plaza to eat. I ran into Cody DeLong, a longtime friend from Sedona, and we had a nice talk. We decided to meet at Yaki Point in the morning to paint.

The storm didn't do much after all. I heard it rain briefly in the night. I wonder what kind of clouds we'll have in the morning? Every day is different at the Canyon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 3

Storm Over the North Rim

It was another early dawn with the elk calling somewhere in the Park. This morning, I headed over to Mohave Point. Amery Bohling and I had talked about how it might look in the morning. It's always been a great evening painting spot, so we decided, based on a number of arcane calculations and formulae known only to master plein air painters, that it would be a great morning spot, too

Well, the light on those beautiful cliffs came - and went. Fast.

I wanted to paint my largest size this week, another 18x14. By the time I'd gotten the shadows all blocked in, they'd changed dramatically, thanks to the restless sun. There were numerous details I could still get from the scene, but I had to resort to memory and my knowledge of how light and shadow work in the Canyon. Amery and I both agreed that this particular scene should be labelled, "Not For Beginners."

Mohave Point, Morning 18x14 oil

All that said, I was pretty happy with my piece. I may head back to Mohave the next morning just to double-check some of my facts. (I also have some reference photos, but we're not supposed to use those for this plein air event; if I were painting on my own, I'd have no qualms about referring to them.)

Amery asked if I was going to paint another, implying that she was going to. Guilt is a great motivator among us painters, but I resisted. Instead, I drove up the West Rim Drive a few miles, and just past the Abyss pull-out I spotted a picnic table along the edge. And it was in shade! I spent an hour or so pulling out paintings and evaluating them, and adding a tweak here and there. It's worthwhile doing this earlier than later. Rather than spending a full day agonizing over these paintings at the end of the week, I like to nibble my way through them. Plus, this year we are being asked to deliver paintings as we complete them, starting Tuesday.

After a short walk along the rim, I headed back home for lunch and to figure out my next plan. For the afternoon, I noticed we had some nice thunderstorms popping up over the North Rim. I always like these monsoonal storms. From a distance, they are lovely to see. I don't particularly like them overhead, though; the lightning can be dangerous. I drove over to the Visitor Center for a treat (ice cream sandwich) and walked over to Mather Point to get a better view of the weather. It looked like the South Rim would be safe from storms, so I drove east toward Moran Point.

Moran Point, as many Grand Canyon painters will tell you, is named for the Hudson River School painter Thomas Moran. But research shows this might not be the case. The Arizona State University's website on the history of Grand Canyon says:
Many people erroneously assume it is named for famed American landscape artist Thomas Moran, but it is probably named instead for his brother, Peter Moran, an accomplished artist in his own right. Peter Moran traveled to the South Rim in 1881 with explorer and Army Captain John Bourke, who probably named the point in his honor. Thomas Moran never saw the South Rim until 1892 when he visited as a guest of the Santa Fe Railway. 
I've always disliked myth-busters for stomping on my buzz. Well, it doesn't matter - it's a beautiful scene, anyway. I got there about mid-afternoon, just in time to see a large storm dissipating over the North Rim. I really had to push on this painting, as it was a 16x12, the sun was hot, and some lady had left her two Westies barking in her car with the windows rolled up. I'm sure the dogs were only in there for 15 minutes, but they worried me and it seemed a lot longer.

Storm Over the North Rim 16x12 oil

It wasn't quite sunset yet, so I drove back slowly, looking for spots that might have artists painting. I didn't see a one, so they must have all been back on the West Rim Drive. I ended up at the Market Plaza and grabbed a sandwich for dinner.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you are at Grand Canyon today (Tuesday), I invite you to watch my hour-long painting demonstration on just outside El Tovar on the rim at 4 pm. The painting I make will also be auctioned off at the end. You can get educated and get a great painting all in the same afternoon!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art - Day 2

Another Postcard Sunrise

Morning came early with the bugling of elk. This is the start of their mating season, and at 4 a.m., it was an eerie sound to have with my morning coffee. Speaking of coffee, my hosts use an espresso machine for theirs, and I treat myself to a double while waking up. Who thought life could be so luxurious at Grand Canyon?

As dawn was breaking, which is around 5:30 here, I drove on the West Rim Drive to Hopi Point. There I was to meet up with ML Coleman for a little quick sunrise panting. When I got there, he had already parked his LazyDays RV and was sketching out his first one. When you want to capture the sun, you have to work fast, so I didn't dally over design. I did a little 5x7 just to capture the sense of light.

After that and a cup of coffee in ML's motor home (again, who thought life could be so luxurious?) I decided I was ready for one of my big ones and pulled out a 14x18. I had pre-toned it with yellow ochre, so it was perfect for a sunny day scene. I ended up staying right in the same spot. You don't have to move to get a half-dozen paintings out of one location.

West of Hopi Point, 14x18 oil

Before I knew it, it was lunchtime. But I stopped for one quick 9x12 near Maricopa Point.  I love these twisted junipers.  This one looked something like a snake coming out of the ground.

Maricopa Mambo 9x12 oil
After five paintings the first day and two before lunch this day, I was beat. Plus, the sun was getting very intense and things were warming up. I headed back to the house for lunch, shower and a little Web time.

Around 3, I headed back to Mohave Point to re-evaluate the 12x16 I'd painted the day before. I needed more information from the scene and wanted to bring the level of "mark making" with the brush up a notch. This time, I pulled out my French easel rather than my tripod-mounted pochade box, which let me use the umbrella. (Still, I had to use a bungee cord to keep the umbrella from sagging under its own weight. If you're going to use an umbrella, make sure you get one you don't have to wrestle! I like the Best Brella -

About that time, Amery Bohling wandered by, looking for a painting spot. I lost track of her. Quick on her heels was Carl Ortman. He likes to paint figures and asked how long I was going to be there. I thought he wanted my painting spot, but all he wanted was to know if I'd be there long enough to paint me. I wasn't totally sure of my next move, so he, too, moved on.

Next, I pulled out a 9x12 I'd worked on that morning and made an adjustment to it; one branch of the juniper needed to be lopped off for the sake of design, and I didn't see that until I'd taken a photo of it and was looking at it on-screen. I often find that looking at a photo of one of my paintings gives me a fresh look at it.

Now it was 4:30. Sunset was coming. I decided to hang it up and head back. Plein air painting all day is, in many ways, like digging ditches, and it is just as tiring. But as I was driving down the hill toward the Village, I saw about a half-dozen cars pulled off - each of them had the "Event Artist" placard in the window. What's one more painting? I thought, so I joined them. Amery was there, along with ML Coleman, Bill Cramer, Dave Santillanes, Julia Seelos, Hai-Ou Hou, and Jim Wodark. We had a great time, and then came the sunset. It was a real Curt Walters moment, if you've seen any of his magnificent Canyon paintings.  I don't have a good photo yet of my painting, so I'll take that today.

How many painters does it take to photograph the sunset?

Our Curt Walters sunset - and it just kept getting better!
We all decided to head to the Bright Angel Grill for supper. But after making two passes through the Village looking for a parking spot, I decided to call it a night .