Monday, September 12, 2016

Grand Canyon 2016 - Part 3

Monday, September 12, 2016

After lunch yesterday, I headed west on the Hermit Drive, also known as West Rim Drive. The wind had gotten up, and sure enough, it was worse at the Abyss. The Abyss is a box canyon that faces northeast, and its immense walls seem to capture the wind and turn it right at you. It’s also the drainage for Monument Creek, which flows into the Colorado, and a popular destination for hikers from Hermits Rest at the far west end of the Park. But what’s more, the Rim Trail at that point provides a sheer, vertical, 3000-foot drop to the Tonto Platform below.

And you feel the fear in your groin when you’re perched right there above the Abyss. Yes, at the parking pull-off there’s a metal rail, but it doesn’t go very far. I had in mind painting a particular overhang, and the viewpoint I’d scoped out yesterday would put me in danger of being seized by the wind and possibly yanked over the edge. (A good book to read while you’re here is Over the Edge: Death in Grand Canyon. It’s a hefty tome.) So, I found a different spot with an even better view on the lee side of a big clump of apache plume.

For this painting, I changed my palette. The question came up recently about what I use; normally, it’s a split-primary palette of a cool and a warm version of each of the primaries, although I vary that by using phthalo green rather than cobalt. For this one, I used yellow ochre, burnt sienna, Prussian blue and raw umber. (White is always assumed; I use titanium-zinc white, and all colors are from Gamblin Artists Colors.) I love this palette because color harmony is so easy to achieve. Of course, you sacrifice the ability to mix intense colors.

This is a 9x12 oil. (I’ll have titles for the ones I frame later, when I post my chosen ones just before delivery to the Kolb Studio on Thursday or Friday.)

Next, I took a hike with a big water bottle. I’ve been feeling like I haven’t been drinking enough water, so now I’m making a conscious effort to stay well-hydrated. This is my driest, warmest visit to the Canyon yet. Other times, we’ve had some good, moist air because of the active monsoons.

On my hike, I started noticing the ravens. Actually, I’ve been noticing them all week. They are playful birds. They love to swoop, roll and dive in pairs or groups of three or four. You can tell with their aerial acrobatics that they are playful. There’s no point in what they do, so far as I can see, other than to play. They made me cheerful (not that I needed cheering up.) If reincarnation can happen, I hope I come back as a Grand Canyon raven.

Ravens weren't the only ones in the air.  A rescue copter passed beneath me.  I imagine they were either training or on a search-and-rescue operation.

After the show, I set up to do a small painting. I like doing 6x8s once in awhile; I can focus on a single feature in the Canyon rather than laboring to capture the vista. In some ways, it’s my version of what the ravens do. It’s play.

Finally, I went home to have dinner with my hosts, Dave and Judy. They wanted to take me to El Tovar, which is a very fine restaurant with a very fine view. I told them the story about how, years ago, Trina and I had hiked down into the Canyon to Phantom Ranch and then out again. It’s an eight-hour hike out, and we were famished on our return. We plodded into El Tovar and ordered apple pie a la mode. It was the best apple pie I’ve ever eaten, before or since. I didn’t have apple pie last night, since I didn’t want to tarnish that cherished memory.

I was up early again this morning (sunrises are hard to beat) and headed toward the Village. I had in mind to paint a piece of architecture. After getting a coffee at the Bright Angel Lodge, I settled on the historic train depot. The chamisa is in full bloom now, and I found a beautiful scene with the chamisa showcased and the depot in the background. I had to work quickly, though; the view I wanted required me to have full sun on my painting surface, which isn’t desirable with oil paint. It causes a huge problem with glare. Fortunately, the sun was still behind some ponderosa pines, and I was able to get most of the painting done before the sun swung around. I didn’t quite finish, so I will have to go back.

Another scene I wanted to paint was a view of Mather Point with all the little people on top. (This came as a special request from Trina, and I always listen to her.) Monday, I figured, would be a good day because lots of tourists have left after the weekend, and I’d be able to park pretty close to the trail. This all worked out, but again, the sun was coming over my shoulder, throwing a glare on the panel. (Yes, I have an umbrella, but it has a discipline problem, and is now dead weight.) I actually turned the easel 180 degrees away from the scene so it would be in shade. With the scene literally behind me, I had to look, memorize, paint a few strokes, and then repeat the process. Passersby thought I was painting the sidewalk and the scrubby junipers.

And so we come to lunch time again. This afternoon, I think I’ll find a quiet spot to pull out my work thus far and review it. I usually find a correction or two that needs making.

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