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Sunday, December 11, 2022

Retreat Report: Sedona, Arizona

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"Autumn Among the Rocks" 9x12 Pastel / Available
Painted on Multimedia Artboard

(I know I'm a bit late with this report, since the plein air painting retreat in Sedona was a few weeks ago in early November.)

Just prior to the retreat, I gave a well-received demonstration to Arizona Plein Air Painters in Phoenix.  Because we don't get to that city much, we rented a place for a couple of nights so we could refresh our memory of the area, in Scottsdale.  Scottsdale has a small-town feel with galleries and shops, and you would not know you were in a metropolitan area of five million people except for the blazing 300 Mbps internet speed at the house.  (I'm lucky if I can get 10 Mbps here in rural New Mexico—even so, I don't dream of moving to the city!)

Demonstrating for Arizona Plein Air Painters

After the demonstration, we wandered up the interstate to Sedona, where we stayed with our good friends, the Colemans. I've mentioned M.L. Coleman before, as we are "painter pals" and have taken several painting trips in his LazyDays RV. We spent the weekend hiking and locating some new, exciting painting spots for the retreat attendees. I even got in a quick bold-brush sketch at one of my favorite locations.

Getting in a quick one before the retreat

30-minute "bold brush" sketch

The retreat began Monday morning.  On the very first day, I always like to show painters who are new to the area the most spectacular spots.  These places tend to be very popular, so parking can be a problem.  But we were early, so we found plenty of spaces at Courthouse Vista.  This offers "in-your-face" views of Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock.  Later, we ended up down by Oak Creek to paint the evening sun on Cathedral Rock.  This location is popular with photographers who aim to shoot award-winning photos at the "golden hour"—and I will say that the evening light there takes my breath away, every time.  Overall, it was a spectacular day of sunshine and pleasant weather.

"Near Courthouse" 9x12 oil / SOLD

Painting down by Oak Creek

I knew later in the week we were to expect rain.  So, on Tuesday, I thought it would be good to show everyone how I gather reference material in preparation for studio painting.  We headed up to Schnebly Hill—another popular hiking area—where I demonstrated my way of collecting photos, pencil drawings and color sketches.  Later in the day, the wind got up with a lot of dust, a sure sign a storm was coming.  I like to do critiques in the field where the lighting is good, but we were able to get critiques out of the way before the wind came.

Wednesday, the rain arrived as predicted.  Fortunately, I was able to rent studio space at the last minute, thanks to my friends at the Sedona Arts Center.  Although they don't normally rent space on the fly, I have taught workshops there and have participated for many years in their annual plein air festival, so they made an exception.  Good thing, too, because the rain came down hard most of the day.  The studio had everything we needed, including a coffeemaker.  I demonstrated the next phase of my "outdoor-study-to-studio" method, using the materials I'd gathered the day before.

Painting in the Studio

9x12 Color Study for Studio Painting

"View of the Mittens" 8x16 oil / Available
Studio painting based on above reference plus photos and drawings

Our last day was Thursday.  We ended on a high note with a beautiful weather day, the rain being long gone. To get away from Sedona traffic, we headed east of town, toward Beaver Creek and the Bell trail.  Unlike the area right around Sedona, this is what I would call a "calmer" landscape, with rolling hills and fields; not an intimidating rock face was to be seen.  We had some good fall color, too, especially along the creek, which the Bell trail follows.  We didn't have to hike far to get a good view.  Later, after critiques and lunch, some of us went back to Oak Creek to paint more of the scenery.  With the water, cottonwoods, rock ledges and mountain views, I would call that location a "rich" location—countless paintings are possible.

If you've been following my blog, you'll know I schedule only a couple of painting retreats each year, always in a special place.  I don't have a spring one scheduled yet, but I do have one for fall:  Pagosa Springs, Colorado.  Check out my workshop page on my website for details.

"Season in the Canyon" 9x12 Pastel / Available
Painted along the Bell Trail on Multimedia Artboard

By the way!  Just a reminder about my book.  Beautiful Landscape Painting Outdoors: Mastering Plein Air is the perfect gift for your beginning painter friends -- and the advanced painter will enjoy it, too.  And hey, it would also make a nice gift for yourself! You can get it at Amazon.  (While you're waiting for your copy to arrive, you might like to watch the video interviews I made with several of the artists.)

And don't forget my May workshop at Bluebird Studios in Santa Fe.  Santa Fe is an awesome place to hold a plein air painting workshop -- great scenery, but also lots of extracurricular activities like galleries and museums!  Details here.

Last but not least, my 50% Studio Sale on Southwest paintings continues through December 24th.  Check out the artwork here.