Monday, September 17, 2018

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art: Wrap-Up

River Trip 9x12 Oil
One of my favorites from the event

This marks the tenth anniversary of the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art plein air painting event and my fifth time as an invited artist. I always enjoy painting at the canyon, and this was no exception. This year, we had a week of rather warm weather -- it was in the 80s each day -- and an abundance of sunshine and a scarcity of clouds. Without the clouds, most of my paintings have horizons that I placed high in the composition to minimize or even eliminate the empty sky. You will see, though, that one of my paintings features a few; that was the one day with enough to cast interesting shadows over the canyon.

Me at the Quick Draw
I normally don't sit to paint, but the week
had been rough on my back!

As much as I love the views from Yaki Point, this year I seemed to be drawn more toward the section of rim west of that, between Mather Point and the Yavapai Geology Museum. This part of the trail seems to be little-traveled by walkers, and I found a great deal of peace and quiet there. I think I spent as much time just gazing down into the canyon, enjoying the infinity of features and details, as I did actually painting it. Often my eyes would get stuck on some feature, and I’d wonder if any human -- Anglo, Spanish, Havasupai or other -- had ever set foot there.

Quick Draw auction about to begin

Artistically, I found the event rewarding. I believe I pushed my painting in a new direction with color and contrast, avoiding the tendency to mimic the rather dull colors one finds in nature. This is something I hope to work more with in the future. I also enjoyed meeting the new painters and renewing my acquaintance with old ones. But I’m a bit of a loner, so I also enjoyed my solo hikes. Very early one morning, when most of the hikers were still prepping for their journey to the river, I hiked down the Bright Angel trail a ways. It was so quiet I could hear birdsong echoing off the canyon walls. On my way back up, though, I encountered dozens of hikers making their descent. I grew a little tired of saying “good morning.”

Sunrise over Battleship (photo, not a painting!)

You can see all the paintings at this link:
Some are sold, but some are still available.  In a few days, the paintings will be up on the Grand Canyon Association's website and available for sale there, as well as at the Kolb Studio on the canyon's South Rim.  The exhibit and sale continue now until the end of January. For details, visit

The Grand Canyon Association staff and volunteers did a fantastic job of organizing the event and supporting the artists, and the National Park Service welcomed us as fellow stewards of the land, giving us special access to the park. Finally, I thank my lodging hosts, who made sure I got enough sleep and food and didn’t mind me waking up at 4 each morning to make coffee.

Now I am on my way home to Campobello Island, where next week Trina and I will pack up the car and head west. My next big event will be to judge the annual show for the Ohio Plein Air Society and to teach a workshop for the group. By the way, I still have room in that workshop, which runs October 1-3. If you’d like to join us, please see the registration flyer here

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