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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Escalante Roundup

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"Along the Burr Trail" 9x12 Oil
This and other paintings in this post are for sale!  Contact me if interested.

I just finished up a fantastic week of painting and hiking in Escalante, Utah. My premise for coming was the Escalante Canyons Art Festival, which has a plein air competition component. But really, I just wanted to come and explore canyon country. I wasn’t disappointed, as the town sits on the edge of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument which, along with the Bryce Canyon and Capital Reef parks, provides nearly 3,000 square miles of painting and hiking opportunities.

It’s hard to cover all that in just a week. On my way up from New Mexico, we stopped first at Red Canyon in the Dixie National Forest near Panguitch. We’d heard that Bryce Canyon wasn’t very dog-friendly as it allows dogs only on paved areas. But the Bryce website very helpfully suggested Red Canyon as an option for hikers with dogs. Arriving just shortly after dawn, we were pleased at how nice the trails were. (They made Raku happy, too.) After doing a hike there, we headed on up to Bryce to explore a bit and, where possible, to give Raku a break.

Bryce, for a painter, can be overwhelming. All those complicated towers! Although I didn’t paint at either location, I felt that Red Canyon offered more paintable scenes. Even so, Bryce was a fantasy land of red and yellow marzipan spires and spun sugar, cunningly shaped into confusing and surprising shapes–a delight for the eye, if not for the paint brush. We got to Bryce about mid-morning when there was little traffic; our immediate goal was a picnic lunch at the end of the road, at Rainbow Point. We took our time on working our way back out, and I was surprised at how the traffic had increased in just a couple of hours. Our last stop, at Sunset Point, reminded me so much of Grand Canyon with the crowds at Mather Point during high season. (Our parks are just getting busier and busier–perhaps we plein air painters are doing too good a job of promoting them.)

Then it was on to Escalante. We’d rented a historic home for our time there right at the edge of town but just a few blocks from the town park, where most of the festival events would be happening. Once again, Trina had proved herself by selecting a location that gave us the best of everything: not just in-town walks, but walks into the rural ranch land, too. One of our favorite evening walks took us on a quiet road with views of hayfields and white cliffs.

Other than for the Quick Draw, I painted in town only once, making a portrait of our lodging. Mostly, though, I painted out in the GSENM area, looking for interesting washes, cliffs, hills–well, my readers will know the kind of landscapes I like. Mornings were a combination of hiking and painting, and then afternoons were a bit different, with painting and hiking. We had rain, some of it quite heavy, for a day and half, but we did have periods when we could get out. I liked the clouds and drizzle, as it provided a new filter for me to see this landscape through.

Unlike most of plein air events I’ve attended, this one didn’t seem to have many opportunities for artists–or artists and collectors–to get together. I did arrive a day late and missed a meet-and-greet of artists, volunteers and other interested parties, but there wasn’t much else. Everyone was still, however, a little nervous about COVID, so perhaps this was just an unusual year. I saw some pretty good paintings once the competition pieces were hung. I think I saw the most people during the Quick Draw on Friday.

Besides the painting component, the festival hosted arts and craft vendors and musicians for the final two days. I thought the craft fair had a high level of vendors–not something I expected in a small town like Escalante.

Now we are on our way to the east side of the GSENM to hike a bit and spend the night before heading home. (And in a week, we’ll be on our way to Taos for a painting retreat!)

Here are a few photos–mostly of me, painting. (You can do a Google search for photos of the landscape.) Also, images of the paintings, all of which are for sale! Contact me if you’re interested.

Just finished a quick block-in before the thunder began 
and I had to pack up

Painting in a wash along the Burr Trail

"Morning Hike" 12x24 Oil

Painting our lodging, a historic home

Still smiling

A couple of rainy days forced me onto the 
sheltered porch to tweak paintings

"Pioneer Home" 9x12 Oil

"Storms at Dawn" 12x24 Oil

"Get Lost" 9x12 Oil


nean12350 said...

Looks like you had a fantastic week. The work looks wonderful too. I was only there briefly would like to visit again now that I see this post!

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

Thank you, Jeanean!