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Sunday, November 14, 2021

Plein Air Painting Retreat Report: Sedona, Arizona

The Other Side of the Creek
9x12 pastel - Available

This past week, I conducted a plein air painting retreat in Sedona.  The weather couldn't have been better—cool mornings and pleasantly warm afternoons with plenty of sunshine.  We focused mostly on painting the red rocks that surround the area, but we also made the pilgrimage to the spiritual waters of Oak Creek to paint the lovely fall foliage.  I've included some of the sketches I made with this post.

For many years, I taught plein air painting workshops in Sedona.  Although my studio was located in West Sedona, I sometimes wandered far afield with my students, taking them on excursions to scenic painting spots in Uptown Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek and beyond.  But changes in lodging laws and the construction of massive hotels created a fertile environment for unrestrained traffic growth.  As the traffic grew worse, I started staying closer to the studio.  Finally, with my last couple of workshops, I often saw the traffic—even in West Sedona—bumper-to-bumper, gridlocked between traffic lights and roundabouts.

To someone from a big city, the traffic might not seem so awful, but for this country boy, it was something I no longer wanted to deal with.  Yet I had one more painting retreat scheduled.  I decided to hold it in the Village of Oak Creek (VOC) instead.  The traffic can get backed up there, too, but I had some places I knew that were usually less busy.  Plus, it would be a change, since I hadn't painted in that area for some time.

As luck would have it, approaching VOC from the east to check in to our lodging, we ended up sitting in a 40-minute delay.  I thought there was some major construction ahead, but when we finally got to the work zone, I saw the stoppage was caused by a single backhoe, digging weeds out of a median.  This did not bode well for the retreat.  As the week went by, we tried to get out early enough to avoid traffic and parking problems, but sometimes it was unavoidable, especially when we went to paint at some of the more popular trailheads.  On our last day, we were very lucky to find enough spots for our group.  By the time we left, a merry-go-round of cars seeking spots made it difficult—and dangerous—to back out of our parking spot. Trina acted as traffic cop so we could exit.  Cars were parked illegally everywhere, and not a single USFS enforcement officer was in sight.

Yet despite the hassles, the retreat was productive, and for our painting sessions, we found very peaceful locations.  In my experience, not many tourists leave the main trail, and so it was on the side trails that we attained true happiness.  Will I teach again in Sedona?  It's hard to give up the hiking trails and scenery, but I will have to think seriously about it.

A Fine View - 9x12 oil - Available

November Morning - 9x12 oil - Available

From the Backside - 9x12 oil - Available

Oak Creek View - 5x8 gouache - NFS

Courthouse Butte - 5x8 gouache - NFS


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