Some of you have noticed, no doubt, that craggy mountains and coastlines have been a recurring theme in my practice pieces during the run-up Zion. These two subjects are among my favorites -- both in landscape art, and as attractions in nature. And the link between red/orange mountains and the canyons of Zion NP isn't too hard to see. The snow, on the other hand, may simply be the wishful dreams of someone still in the firm grip of Texas summer heat -- although there is a slight possibility of snow in the high country before I leave Utah, and I want to be prepared to avail myself of the opportunity to play (um, that should probably read "paint" or "sketch") in the stuff, right?
For anyone who has only visited Zion through images the link with water may not be so evident -- most photos, videos and paintings focus on the cliffs and desert trails, and Zion certainly doesn't offer the kind of float trips that the Grands Canyon and Big Bend NP are famed for. But it should be remembered that the tallest canyons in the US were sculpted by water, and in Zion that water is the Virgin River, and in some spots in the park the reflected blues and greens of the water team up with the reds and oranges and golds of the sandstone cliffs to present the visitor with breathtakingly sublime views. And, with a little luck and a lot of hard work, I'm going to do my best to capture them on paper, panel, still photos and video. (Wish me luck.)
Wilderness adventures are a blast (and, yes, the canyon floor can get crowded at Zion National Park, but 90% of the park is wilderness with nary a crowd in sight.) But venturing far from home is best done with a bit of planning and preparation; after all, I don't want to get get all set up to do a light study of Angel's Landing and then discover I've left my brushes in Texas. If possible, I also want to avoid waste time during my adventure in Zion -- scouting out picturesque venues, determining compass coordinates, identifying nearby geological formations that might cast shadows (good or bad), and determining the best time(s) of day to get the most dramatic light effects.
In the past, before visiting a new location, I would have read books and blog posts, looked at magazine articles and, if possible, contacted other artists who had already visited the location -- and I've done that again this year. But this year, thanks to Google, I've got a really neat new tool: Google Street Views!
Sure, you say, street views have been available for years on Google maps. But now there's so much more. (In fact, I don't doubt that a name change will soon be in order.) Now Google offers off-road views of trails in major parks and other sights of cultural or historical significance around the globe -- including some of the most popular trails in Zion National Park. And, thanks to the 360º feature, I can even scout for landscape subjects (try out composition options, and determine their compass heading from a particular point on the trail) before I even leave home (which, of course, means that I can start sketching and painting that much quicker once I arrive.) That's cool!