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)


Monday, November 23, 2015

Is That Snow?!? (Week 4 in Zion NP)

the water droplets in the clouds acted as miniature prisms, 
causing the colors of the peak to change moment by moment

Each day in Zion Canyon is filled with wondrous delights, and the first day of my final full week in the park was no exception. I awoke, as usual, before dawn and, at first light, was treated to wispy white clouds dancing about the sun-drenched canyon tops. It was amazing and continued for much of the morning!

with ever-changing views like this I'm amazed that anyone opts to drive a car in Zion

For most of my stay (in fact, until the PAAI painters arrived) I seemed to be the only painter in the park. (There's lats of space to choose from and it's easy to avoid tripping over one another.) But the same can't be said for photographers. In fact, as fall color has finally begun to appear, a daily late afternoon "feeding frenzy" has become the norm at the Canyon Junction bridge, with dozens of photographers vying for position to capture the "perfect" picture of two very iconic subjects: the Watchman and Virgin River. (Ironically, I think a much better view of the pair is to be had from one of the bridges on the Pa'rus Trail, and it's crowd-free. But that's just my personal opinion.)

my "mystery flower" and one of the Arizona Sisters I encounter along the Grotto Trail

The flora of Zion Canyon has turned out to be something of an enchanting paradox; at the very same time that fall color is beginning to appear, and mornings are often marked by frost, wildflowers are popping up along the riverbanks and butterflies are seen on the canyon floor flitting about in the midday sun. The butterflies all seem to be Arizona Sisters, but there are several species of flowers, including this mystery. (If anyone has any insight as to its identity I would be most grateful if you could leave a comment or drop me an email.)

comp sketch have proven a wonderful tool in zion, as has my 
Zion NP Green Bike "studio on wheels", and the "phase 1" results

And then there's the plein air painting. Normally I would expect to have an hour to an hour and a half to work on a panel before the light changes too much (and with some subjects in the park that has proven the case.) But -- with a canyon that runs more or less north and south, and the canyon walls so close -- the lighting on some subjects changes in mere minutes! Fortunately, as a month-long resident, I've had the luxury of being able to return to a subject on following day(s) and pick up where I left off. 

and, when exploring afoot, my lightweight 6x8 ThumBox has been perfect

And, yes, toward the end of the week we experienced yet another dip in the temperature... and snow in the higher elevations. That required that I bundle up and venture out to the (ice covered) foot bridge to photograph the west wall peaks (and a Dipper that was fishing for her breakfast) at first light. And the whole experience was so delightfully sublime. (But was it really in the mid 80s when I got here? How things do change!) 

as the sun came up those areas of snow in direct light gradually melted, 
but those areas in shadow remained all week (and resulted in a few nice oil sketches)

Then, last but certainly not least, I had a visit -- from none other than the original Guerrilla Painter himself: Carl Judson! With the Grotto House bathed in warm afternoon sunlight we chatted for several hours (about plein air painting, my residency, and how much the park has changed since Carl's last visit some tow decades ago) before he had to hit the road again. (Carl had just returned from a business trip to China and was on his way home.) 

two typical guerrilla painters (who seem to enjoy what they do)

Next week I hope you'll join me for my last few days in Zion -- and for a little surprise. Hope to see you then.



Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Autumn's Here! (Week 3 in Zion NP)

the first splashes of autumn color

Zion National Park was experiencing an Indian Summer when I first arrived, with daytime temperatures still reaching into the mid-80s and everyone enjoying shorts and t-shirts weather. Unfortunately for some, that also meant that the brilliant fall colors that sometimes paint the canyon floor as early as September hadn't even begun to make an appearance for most of October. Not so this week!

the cool weather jacket is a most welcomed addition to my AiR uniform

Nighttime temperatures have now dipped down into the nippy range (and stay that way in the canyon shadows well into mid day.) And the leaves on the cottonwood trees are finally beginning to turn golds and yellows that luminesce in the bold afternoon sun.

my workshop crew (with the afternoon sun now quickly retreating up the east wall) 

On Friday, October 30, I held my free place-based journaling workshop in the Grotto picnic area and was thrilled at the over-booked (only slightly) turnout. Everyone received a complimentary Strathmore Softcover Toned journal and Sakura Gelly Roll and Micron Pigma pens (and two lucky participants received Sakura pen sets and pen cases as "door prizes.") The introductory workshop was originally scheduled to last only one hour but everyone was having so much fun (and both the scenery and the sun's warmth were so beckoning) that everyone stayed on for an extra hour and a half (leaving then only because the shadows, and the accompanying chill, had returned.)

I have established a very enjoyable and productive work schedule (if you can call this "work"): up at 5:30; draw, paint, write and edit in the studio until the sun comes up; and then (after breakfast and two cups of tea) out! Sometimes I return home for lunch, sometimes I just eat one of the MREs my wife purchased for me. (The high dessert air may have something to do with it. The scenery and the invigorating physical activity certainly do. But the food never fails to taste stupendous.) Home in time for afternoon tea; dinner; and then abed by 8:30 (although stargazing occasionally gives me a late-night energy boost.)

the abundance and diversity of this high desert oasis' fauna is amazing

Now that I've settled in, I'm also being visited by some of my Grotto neighbors: the little Bluebird (above) popped by to say "Hi!" while I was waiting for the down-canyon shuttle this week; and on Saturday, as I walked into the kitchen for another cuppa tea, I thought to myself "That spot of dirt on my bike tire looks just like a lizard." Well.... (This is the second lizard now that has paid me a visit. I don't know what the kitchen's attraction is, but they're well behaved house guests so I don't mind.)

ten paces in hang a left and the trail comes out on the other side!

On Monday I spent some time exploring the Kayenta Trail to Lower Emerald Pool before taking the Emerald Pool Trail back to the Lodge and Grotto Trail back to the house (a leisurely 2-hour loop) -- and, of course, found some awesome subjects as the trail gradually took me above the river and tree line. Along the way I had a chat with a group of visitors from Spain, and spoke for awhile with one of the trail crews about the park's growing popularity and its impact its fragile desert eco-systems.

 one of the PAAI painters at work with an audience of visiting school kids

This week marks the annual Zion Plein Air Art Invitational and, for the first time since my arrival, I don't feel like the only painter in the park. (There have, of course, been other painters. But, in a park of this size, it has been easy to give one another plenty of working room.) The PAAI is an annual fundraising event for the Zion Natural History Association and is immensely popular with the public.

watching these clouds as they drifted along the canyon walls was mesmerizing

For a change of pace we were treated to a gentle rain and swirling clouds that obscured the peaks (very reminiscent of Chinese landscapes) on Wednesday -- perfect weather for getting lots done in the studio, and drinking more tea. But, despite the inclement weather I was very pleased to speak to a near-full house during my PAAI lecture, where I spoke about being an art adventurer and what I was achieving during my residency in Zion NP.

I was particularly pleased by the number and variety of questions following my PAAI presentation

One more week down, but I think the best one yet is still to come. So, I hope you'll join me again next time as my adventure in southern Utah continues. And, as always, thanks for letting me share it with you.