Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Autumn Along the Kayenta Trail, Zion NP

Virgin River and Lower Canyon from the Kayenta Trail, 
12"x9", Gamblin oils on Gessobord 

Autumn in Zion NP: pick just about any point along the Virgin River -- from the Watchman to the mouth of the Narrows -- and you're bound to be treated to a landscape dotted with delightful splashes of fall color. But to experience the season's palette at its most spectacular you'll want to go up! You could opt to see it all from Angel's Landing, or just part way up the Wiggles. If you've got the stamina you could hike up to Observation Point for a view that is truly breathtaking (both figuratively and literally.)

comp study, graphite on Rhodia grid paper

But for the elevated view with the quickest access you can't go wrong with the hike up the Kayenta Trail from the Grotto shuttle stop -- in mid to late morning if you want the east side canyon walls bathed in blues and purples, or late afternoon if you want to see the same walls awash with warm pastels, oranges and reds. (In both cases, of course, the foliage along the canyon floor will be a sublime pat work of warm greens, yellows, and burnt oranges.)

I hope these posts are inspiring you to "find your National Park" during this year's centennial celebration of the NPS. And, as always, thanks for letting me share. Cheers!

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Temple of Sinawava, Zion NP

this point just downstream from the Temple shuttle stop 
was one of the first I discovered by bike

By far the easiest, most stress-free, way for visitors to explore the Zion Canyon floor during the main season is on the free shuttle. If you're staying in Springdale you can even leave your car at your hotel or B&B, take the town shuttle to the front gate, enter the park on foot, and catch the shuttle at the Visitor Center.

Take the shuttle to the top of Scenic Drive and you get off at the Temple of Sinewava stop (from which many visitors opt to take a hike along the relatively flat and very scenic Riverside Walk.) And, of course, visitors can choose to get on and off the shuttle at any of the seven other stops along the shuttle's route. But, to maximize the exploring experience, visitors can combine the shuttle with a bike. (Bring your own or rent one of the Green Bikes available at the Zion Lodge.)

headed to the Grotto shuttle stop for another trip up canyon (some evenings 
my face muscles would ache from grinning all day)

As mentioned in my Week 2 A-i-R blog post, the National Park Service arranged a Green Bike for my use and I frequently loaded the bike on the shuttle's rack for the ride to the top of the Canyon. From there I could return down canyon (frequently letting gravity do most of the work as I coasted downhill) and stop as often as a new subject came into view.

The Green Bikes are even equipped with wire baskets that were the perfect size for my plein air sketch kits, water bottles, and tripod. And, while the Park Service had very generously provided me with a "white pass" that allowed me vehicular access to the entire length of Scenic Drive (during the high season, visitors staying at the Zion Lodge receive "red passes" that allow them to drive approximately half way up the canyon; day visitors, campers, and those staying in town may only drive their vehicles as far as Canyon Junction) I found that, on a bike, I could stop anywhere a scene offered itself (rather than just at designated parking spots and turn-outs) and the bike even made an excellent platform from which to shoot video as I coasted down canyon.

as I coasted downhill from the Big Bend shuttle stop I literally discovered 
exciting new subjects to sketch every 10-20 feet!

The experience was so rewarding artistically that, this spring, I'm putting together a "studio on two wheels" for further testing (maybe even adding a bike trailer for the occasional two-wheeled, man-powered adventure.)

Stay tune for updates and further developments.  

Friday, March 11, 2016

Big Bend, Zion NP

Big Bend II, color sketch, 
8"x6", Gamblin oils on Gessobord

Big Bend was where I painted my first sketch after arriving in Zion National Park (all be it facing outward when everyone about me was facing inward.) It's also a place I returned to frequently as it offers dramatically different subjects and views when studied from different vantage points, different times of day, and different elevations (i.e., along the valley floor, or perched high on a canyon rim.)

Of course, the canyon is the main subject visitors come to see. But, for the artist, the fact that the oasis-like environment created by the Virgin River means that we are gifted with beautiful red-green contrasts that aren't always to be found in most other Navajo sandstone formations throughout the Southwest. So I spent some of my time in the park sketching the fauna of the canyon floor.

Canyon Crest & Lone Pine, color sketch, 
8"x6", Gamblin oils on Gessobord

But one of the things that really amazed me was that -- in this dry desert environment -- so many Ponderosa Pines and Douglas Firs were growing, not along the course of the Virgin River but high up on narrow precarious ledges and even on seemingly vertical canyon walls. I was both baffled and astounded that these beautiful giants survived (little alone thrived) apparently without soil, nutrients, or a regular source of water. (And, in the end, I did several studies of these "hanging gardens.")

Thus far my art posts have focused on the park and my time there (primarily because I have a pending deadline for the piece I'll be donating to the ZNP permanent collection and I want the selection committee to have as many pieces to choose from as possible.) But it would be wrong to imply that I didn't encounter visually exciting subjects before arriving in the park -- as these comp studies will attest. (Expect to see the finished color sketches from the Navajo Nation posted here after I've fulfilled my obligation to the Park Service.)

I was awe-struck by my first encounter with the arid sandstone giants as we left Flagstaff and entered the Navajo Nation

while I thought that it would be so cool to spend time drawing, painting and staring up at the brilliant night sky here (at least until the food, water, or paints ran out), it also struck me that it would take a special kind of person to handle the immense solitude of the place 

climbing highway 89 between Bitter Springs and Page -- sandstone giants to our right and the beginnings of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River far below us on the left   

Friday, January 22, 2016

Court of the Patriarchs, Zion NP

South Wall, Court of the Patriarchs, color sketch, 
8"x6", Gamblin oils on Gessobord

Zion National Park is blessed with a plethora of scenic marvels. Some are easily accessible ( the Watchman, for example, can* be viewed without leaving your car) while others (like the view from atop Angels Landing) require strenuous, but exhilarating, hikes. With its own shuttle stop (just two stops up-canyon from the Human History Museum or one stop down from the Lodge) the Court of the Patriarchs is decidedly closer to the Watchman in ease of access.

Isaac, Court of the Patriarchs, color sketch, 
8"x6", Gamblin oils on Gessobord

For the least obstructed view of the Patriarchs and the Sentinel visitors can opt to hike the very short, only slightly strenuous, east trail up to the observation point (which places the visitor above the tops of the surrounding trees), walk to the river's edge from the shuttle stop, or hike to the CotP via the Sand Bench Horse Trail (for dramatic vertical views from the foot of the cliff walls.)

The Sentinel, Court of the Patriarchs, color sketch, 
6"x8", Gamblin oils on Gessobord

Mornings (just after the sun rises above the canyon's east wall) offer the most colorful and dramatic lighting. Late afternoon will find most, if not all, of the Court in shadow. And there are sometimes some very interesting effects to be seen after rain showers and thunderstorms (when whisky clouds often dance about the peaks.)

* I say "can" be viewed from your car (during those times when Scenic Drive is open to private vehicles.) However, exploring the park on foot, by bike, or via the free shutter are far more relaxing and rewarding.

Much more to come!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

73 Works (And Counting)

oil sketch of the "other bend" at the Big Bend shuttle stop (in Zion NP 
you can look at one breathtaking view -- then turn to each of the other 
compass quadrants to discover 3 more), 12"x9", Gamblin oils on Gessobord 

Since returning home from my Zion-SoCal adventure there have been any number of important priority items vying for my attention -- friends and family to catch up with (after missing Thanksgiving with my family, being home for Christmas was doubly special this year), a veggie garden in serious need of attention (the carrots, kale, and chives are thriving), my studio to put in order, and the last of the local fall color to capture. (Fall color comes late to north Texas.)

day or night (well, at least on the nights with a full moon) there was 
always something to catch the eye, comp sketches, graphite on paper

But, as the trees shed their leaves and the local landscape finally takes on its drab winter mantle, I'm also slipping into my "winter studio production mode" -- catching up on the backlog of works that need to be digitized, and producing new works from the sketches and color studies brought back from my month-long sojourn in Mukuntuweap. (I have until mid-May to deliver my finished and framed donation artwork for the Zion NP permanent collection and I want the selection committee to have a large group of works to choose from.) 

Angels Landing & the Organ in Morning Shadow, 
color sketch, 6"x8", Gamblin oils on Gessobord

Thus far I've posted 73 works to the new Zion NP gallery on my website -- 68 works on paper and 5 oil panels. I have a few more sketches and watercolors (and maybe a video or two) to add to the works on paper group over the next week or so. But, generally speaking, my focus can turn to the oil panels. (Of course, should we get snow this year, my day bag is always packed and ready -- but that would only be a brief day-break from the studio -- and snow in north Texas is always a big "if.") 

So, I hope you'll stay tuned. (And, please, drop me a line from time to time and let me know what you think of the new work.)

New Tools --

You may recall that part way through my residency my pocket-sized Rhodia sketchbooks (the ones with the gridded paper) became a little unwieldy. (Specifically, the binding works best if pages are removed as they are completed. But, since I prefer to leave them bound, the sketchbooks became very thick as the pages were folded back -- necessitating the use of a thick rubber band to keep things in order.) 

the No. 18 Rhodia (A4/8.3"c11.7") pad offers ample room for comp sketches of all sizes and shapes, and the 
slip cover (with tits stitched edge and embossed logo) provide both elegance and added protection in the field 

Fortunately, partway in to my residency the folks at Rhodia offered a near-perfect solution -- a day bag-sized pad with its own embossed cover (which adds both style and excellent protection while working in the field.)

in addition to being non-toxic Gamblin Solvent-Free Gel is amazingly light weight 
(very important if you're "packing it in/packing it out") and has a very mild scent

When I had to change my travel plans (flying from Utah to SoCal) I had to abandon my mineral spirits and stainless steel brush washer (both of which were added to the Grotto House's art cache for next year's residents.) Now I've added a backpack-sized brush washer to my kit, replaced the mineral spirits, and (for those times when traveling with flammable and/or hazardous materials is not an option) added Gamblin's Solvent-Free Gel to my paints box.

the adjustable Smart Lamp is daylight balanced with 3 brightness settings and is powered 
by a rechargeable battery, USB cable, or AC power plug (all included) -- it's also very 
lightweight and, when folded, is shorter than a standard size paint brush

And, for those times when Mother Nature provides less than ideal lighting (and for all future residencies) I've added a portable Smart Lamp R10 from Naturalight. It's compact, daylight balanced, operates off either rechargeable battery or AC, LEDs mean hours of continuous use between recharges, and (best of all) it's modestly priced. While the Smart Lamp is designed as a tabletop lamp, its compact size and light weight make it quite functional (when paired with a camper's LED headlamp) as a handheld supplemental light source (say, for those times when you want to do a plein air nocturnal under a full moon.)     

Monday, December 14, 2015

Home Again, Home Again Jiggety-Jig (or "Pauline's Misadventures in Limbo-land")

local mechanics, Twinkletoes and Twinklethumbs (yours truly, cirlced) just 
before replacing Pauline's fuel tank

Well, the quick turnaround (arrive one day, leave the next) in SoCal was not to be. We worked diligently on the car and Pauline was starting to look really neat with all her new parts. But, as week three neared an end, I decided that it was high time I got back to my family and my studio obligations. So, I bid farewell to my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, caught the red-eye home from LAX, and arrived (sans Jeep) in time for breakfast with the wife and kids (followed by sleep, lots and lots of sleep.) It felt great to be home!

Riverside Walk, color sketch, 8"x6", 
Gamblin oils on Ampersand Gessobord

After napping away the better part of the first day home, I got down to work -- first unloading all of my gear from the Utah adventure, and then beginning the compilation of drawings and paintings for a Zion NP gallery page on my website.

Grotto House and Red Arch Mountain, 10"x7", 
w/c over pen & ink

Over the next few months I will be adding dozens of new works to the collection. And, as soon as the National Park Service has selected the piece for their permanent collection, many of the oil paintings will be offered for sale. So, please take a look at my new page (Zion NP Gallery Page) and, if you like what you see, check back often to see the latest additions. (There's much more to come!)

Golden Hour, comp study, graphite on paper (one of the 35 
works on paper I've posted to the new gallery thus far)

Looking for a unique, one-of-a-kind gift for the Holidays? Something for that special art lover or nature enthusiast in your life? Check out the selection in my 4-Sale gallery. Most are available with or without framing, and enquiries are always welcome.

artworks in the 4-Sale gallery range from $250 to $700 plus S&H


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Turning Corners (Week 5 in Zion NP -- and New Adventures)

the morning view along the Grotto Trail

Before coming to Zion I was expecting to be thrilled by a deluge of visual wonders that would greet me upon my arrival, but to see a gradual diminishing of new wonders and thrills as the month progressed. The former was most certainly the case beginning the very moment my family and I exited the "visual deprivation" of the east entrance tunnel. However -- as the park has gone from late summer-like weather to autumn and now to early winter-like conditions -- I find that I continue to be thrilled and amazed by the park's ever changing dynamics. There is always something new to see and experience -- in every direction! And I am left thinking that even a year-long stay in this wondrous place would still only scratch the surface of all that it has to offer visitors and residents alike.

the mysterious Building 129 (no one could tell me its history) 

one of my last comp sketches and color studies (look for a post or two about the works 
in these seriesand the follow-on studio pieces, once I get home) 

Week 5, of course, was not a complete week in the park -- just the last two days of my month-long adventure. But, oh!, what lovely days they were! Mornings began with brisk exploratory walks (which continued to result in new discoveries -- be they geological wonders for sketching and painting or architectural finds from the CCC-era) with frequent stops along the way to wonder at the ice patterns on the puddles and snow on the higher peaks.

just up-canyon from the Watchman (seen from Highway 9 just in front of the Human History Museum)

Even on my very last day, as I was waiting for the ride that would take my out of Zion, I was presented with one final, farewell view -- of the Watchman during the "golden hour" just before sunset (a view that was every bit as sublime as the one that greeted me on my very first day.)

Now, those who have followed my little adventure from its beginning will know that the original plan was for my family to come back through Zion midway through my residency and drop off a Jeep (a surprise gift to my son from his uncle.) Well, as plans frequently have a way of doing, that didn't quite work out the way we'd expected.

my son helping rebuild his "new" Jeep -- all hoses, tires, filters, battery, fluids, starter, 
carb, distributor, radiator, wiring, plugs, bushings (and the rat's nest in the glove box) had to go

The Jeep in question (a 1980 CJ5 with the 4.2 Liter "Line 6" engine and 4-speed manual tranny) had been in storage in southern California for 17 years and, as it turned out, was a bit more of a "fixer upper" than my brother-in-law had first thought. After extending their stay in SoCal for an extra week (during which my son helped replace the tires, hoses, starter, battery, drain the fuel tank, and rebuild both the carb and distributor) the Jeep was still not quite roadworthy and my family had to return home. (A special thanks to my wife's boss for being so patient and understanding.)

the first two legs of the new adventure

the short flight and the long drive (notice all the exclamation marks along the roadway)

Plan A (driving home solo from Zion) was shelved and I turned to Plan B (get a lift to St. George, catch the shuttle to Las Vegas/a flight to LAX/another shuttle to the in-laws, and enjoy a new 1300-mile adventure driving home solo via the southern route.)

the view that greeted me when I arrived (could have been worse; as a joke, my brother-in-law 
told me he'd just blown the transmission), and what 17 years of SoCal heat will 
do to a brand new top (windows turned to opaque crispy bacon) 

Unfortunately, my first familiarization drive made it clear that my son's "new" Jeep still wasn't ready for a cross-country adventure. (Jurrasic Park 3 made it look so easy!) A second cleaning of the carb was required and we discovered that the original fuel tank was corroded beyond repair. Fortunately, my brother-in-law had a spare tank and sending unit (in great shape) for a CJ5 and, along the way we even scored a near-new replacement soft-top (with split doors!) for a song.

"Pauline" with her brand new tires and top (with clear windows!), 
but her hood is still saying, "Feed me!"

So, as Week 5 ends I'm not on the road yet (and am missing my family terribly) but the Jeep is beginning to look quite nice (parked in the driveway) and I'm certainly having an adventure -- even if it's not the one I planned on. (Be sure and tune in next week for another exciting episode of "The Perils of Pauline.")

sunrise from my in-laws' terrace (yep, some clouds even have a gold lining)