Thursday, April 27, 2017

Zion National Park 2017 Painting Retreat - Another Midterm Report

The Watchman 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Two things you can't get from a photograph are depth and color.  To get a real sense of the depth of the landscape, you need to be looking at it with two eyes.  Stepping back and forth in front of your subject enhances the effect, allowing you see clearly what's in front of what, and how shapes are modelled.  As for color, cameras have improved greatly since George Eastman's day, but nothing yet beats the sensitivity of the eye.  Working from life, en plein air, in the field, outdoors, is the only way to truly capture the moment.

Here in Zion National Park, there's plenty of opportunity to experience depth and color.  When you're in the canyon, along the river, you are right up against the rocks.  When you're higher up, like at Kolob Canyons, you have more of a vista.  In both cases, depth and color play key parts in the experience.

I find color especially fascinating here.  From the blood-red stains on the West Temple to the ivory white of the Great White Throne to the subtle blues and purples in the canyon shadows, the Park offers a wealth of color.  When I go out to paint, the first question I ask myself is:  Should I paint the color literally?  Or should I "push" the color to enhance the sense of the moment?

I don't have an answer for this.  Sometimes I'm accurate with the color, and the paintings fill with the beautiful muted tones of the realistic landscape.  At other times, it seems right to saturate the color a little more.

Since Kolob Canyons on Tuesday, we've painted at Court of the Patriarchs, Canyon Junction along the Virgin River and the Nature Center, as well as at a little pull-off I found up near the tunnel that has a view of West Temple.  It's been a surprisingly tempestuous week with the weather.  I'm used to the usual breeze that comes down the canyon without fail each dawn, but afternoons have suffered clouds and high winds.  Still, we've found spots hidden from the wind, making for a very successful week thus far.  It's hard to believe we have only a couple of days left!

Shadow of a Patriarch 12x9 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

The Sentinel 9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Penstemons!  It pays to look at more than just the vistas in the landscape.

View of West Temple

Kayakers passing by our painting spot at Canyon Junction

A quiet respite along the river

Location shot for my painting of The Sentinel

Home-cooked gourmet meals!  Courtesy of our participants.

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