Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Grand Canyon 2016 - Part 4


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

At lunch on Monday, I spent a little time reviewing my paintings thus far. The temptation with this event is to just keep painting; it’s like harvesting a garden, where you know you have only a limited time before the frost, and you don’t want to miss a single tomato. But at some point, you need to start making tomato sauce. I find that most of my paintings need a few adjustments before I frame them--and there are always culls, too.

By the time I was ready to paint some more, the wind had begun to pummel the Rim. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the weather service had issued a high wind advisory. I headed up the West Rim Drive. I knew I’d be able to find some shelter, especially on one of the points, where there is always a lee side.

I ended up at Hopi Point. But when I looked at the lee-side view, I realized that it faced a part of the Canyon where the sun was hitting the rocks dead-on; there weren’t any shadows. Without shadows, it’s hard to pick out form and thus hard to make a successful painting. So I went over to the windy side. I found a couple of twisted junipers that seemed to provide shelter and set up to paint a 6x8 study of the Alligator. But a moment after I set up, a particularly powerful gust came and nearly tipped over my easel. And it wasn’t just one gust, but a whole train of boxcars coming at me. I persisted, but after that one 6x8, I moved on.

As I passed Mohave Point, I spotted another painter. How clever, I thought; he’s painting out of the back of his car where he’s protected from the wind. But that wasn’t the case. It turns out the wind had snatched up his French easel, dashed it to the ground and broken its legs. He had the body of the easel in the back, just resting in the car, while he was perched on a little stool. “I’m now confined to painting out of the back of my car,” he lamented.

I drove past the Abyss and toward Pima Point. Just before Pima, I parked and walked a bit. I really wanted to be out of the wind. I have painted in every weather condition, including rain, snow and sleet, but wind is the worst. It is a battle. Fortunately, I found a little section off the trail where I had a nice view of a formation that always has a beautiful shadow on it late in the day. (I apologize for not knowing the name of it.) I returned to my palette of Prussian blue, burnt sienna and yellow ochre for this one, but added some of the cadmium colors for a little more brilliance in the sunlit areas.

On the way back down from Pima, I joined a few thousand other visitors in watching the beautiful sunset. I helped a German family take a snapshot of them against the sunset. All along the rim in the distance, flashes popped as tourists snapped pictures.

I woke Tuesday morning to another high wind advisory. Winds were predicted to gust up into the 50 mph range. That meant I needed to find some serious shelter. I hadn’t been out east of Grand Canyon Village yet, so I decided to make my way to Grandview Point where I knew there were lots of little pockets I might set up in to escape the wind. I found a nice ledge to hide behind. It only required moderate rock-climbing skills. There was quite a bit of dust in the air from Monday’s wind, but once the sun rose a bit more, the air seemed clearer.

I painted a 12x16 but forgot to get a photo of it on the easel when finished. I was busy making plans for hiking back to the car without getting blown away.

View of Desert View Watch Tower

I headed on east to Desert View, which is about 25 miles from the Village. A watchtower, built by famous architect Mary Jane Colter, is the centerpiece, but I didn’t need to climb it to see the view. From ground level I could see the canyon formed by the Little Colorado River and far beyond, the Vermilion Cliffs. Closer by, the Colorado River, dull green and shimmering with rapids, snaked through the canyon. I grabbed a coffee and thought about painting, but when thirty motorcycles arrived to add to the throngs of tourists, I decided to walk a little and then head back west.

I stopped at Moran Point to do a quick 8x10. Named after Hudson River School artist Thomas Moran, who visited and sketched in the area a very long time ago, this outcrop has the usual stupendous views. But I was more interested in the sky: beautiful, fast-moving clouds had built up. I found another protected spot that also had some shade.

On the way back home for a late lunch, I ran into a sleet storm! The road was covered with slippery ice pellets, and the thermometer in my car dropped from 71 to 58 degrees in seconds.

I’m not sure what the afternoon holds. I can hear thunder. Tonight, there’s a pizza party for the artists. Most of the artists paint on their own, so it’s nice to have a little social event to connect with everyone.

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