Thursday, July 30, 2015

Zion Update 1.0

Zion Canyon, 4"x8", oil sketch on Ampersand panel

When I'm preparing for a new adventure -- one that involves going somewhere I've never been before -- I begin with some research. Oh, I'm not one of those who plans out every moment of every day. I'm too big a fan of serendipity, and enjoy the magic one discovered in the totally unexpected too much to give into regimentation. But it is nice to have a starting point, a framework to hang the unexpected discoveries on.

Zion Canyon (preliminary study for the oil sketch above), 
6"x8", w/c over Sakura pen & ink

Artistically speaking, I like to polish the technical skills and studio practices (even if my "studio" is going to be primarily the Great Outdoors) well in advance of my departure. Oh, I may adopt a new medium, technique, or subject while in the field. But (for me anyway) it would be a tragic mistake to think that I'll sketch or paint everyday while away from home if I haven't already established that habit before I leave.

Sunrise, Monument Valley, 4"x8", w/c over Sakura pen & ink

So, I've been out everyday sketch hunting -- looking for new subjects, drawing, painting, experimenting with different tools and color schemes, and acclimatizing to heat and intense light. Sometimes I work up a piece as a monochromatic drawing, sometimes in color. Sometimes I work a drawing up in color. Sometimes I paint plain air. And sometimes I produce a sketch onsite and create a painting from that sketch once I've returned to the studio. Sometimes the results are less than stellar, either because I'm feeling rusty or because I've attempted something new and missed the mark. But that's OK because it's all intended as an opportunity to learn and grow. And, with practice now, I'm confident that the poor works will be fewer and farther apart by the time I begin my next adventure (not to mention that the honed observation and rendering skills will likely result in a more memorable experience.)

in addition to my regular field journals and plain air panels I'm thinking 
it might be nice to produce a large adventure journal (with maps, 
illuminations & calligraphy entries) and pen & ink portraits of 
some of the folks I meet afield 

I've been putting together a map that identifies particular points of visual interest in the park -- scenes previously sketched or painted by some of the outstanding artists who have worked in the park previously (from Thomas Moran to Franz Bischoff), and venues that are of particular interest to current visitors (such as Angels' Landing, Big Bend, The Subway, and the Emerald Pools.) But I'll also dedicate a good bit of time to just wondering and looking (for picturesque landscapes, flora and fauna) and talking with park staff and visitors.

Zion events --

Dates and times for two events during my Zion A-i-R have now been finalized: I'll be doing a presentation for the Southern Utah University art department and interested public on Thursday, Oct. 29; and on Nov. 4 I'll be a guest speaker for the annual Zion Plein Air Art Invitational lecture series. Southern Utah University is located in Cedar City, UT, while the PAAI lecture series will be held at Zion Lodge.

the poster for this year's Invitational 
(original art by Michelle Condrat)

Kickstarter fundraising campaign --

My Kickstarter crowd-funding project was approved this week (on my birthday actually... a very nice present indeed) and, after reshooting the video and tweaking the pledge rewards, was launched yesterday. I invite you to take a look at my Kickstarter page ( and what I'm planning to accomplish during the residency, and I hope you will take a look at the rewards I'm offering for pledges. If you like what you see and hear I hope you'll pledge at a level that appeals to you AND, please, tell your friends.

Your financial support could be critical to the success of this art adventure and will be most appreciated.


Next week -- sketching & painting updates from the garden.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Cultivating a Better World

I enjoy raising my own fruits and veggies almost as much as I love making art; and when I can combine both activities the experience is truly sublime.  

a diagram makes it easier to inventory the plot's current layout and to 
visualize changes and/or additions

Shortly after we moved to Benbrook, TX, in June my kids and I decided to do a little exploring of our neighborhood. (Actually, we needed a break from the tedious chore of opening boxes.) We already knew our new house was just a short walk from Timber Creek Park but had no idea that the city had built a community garden in the park just last fall.

our plot and those of our neighbors (the fence is primarily to keep the deer out)

Well, a couple of quick emails and we were the proud resident-gardeners of our own plot. And, as luck would have it, we even "inherited" a thriving veggie patch (The previous tenants had to make a work-related move earlier in the summer.) with several healthy tomato plants, dwarf kale, 3 variety of sweet peppers, chives, a pea patch -- and a splash of color provided by marigolds around the raised border.

If I'd had a culpa tea before leaving home I might had got the 
measurements right too (3" & 1")

We put in a simple (but very effective) seep irrigation system, tied up a tomato plant that thought it was ground cover, pulled out some cucumber & squash vines that had succumbed to squash bugs, put in an egg plant and some strawberries (for my daughter), planted a couple rows of "Mammoth" sunflowers (for a painting or two this autumn and bird food this winter.) We've added Blue Daze to the border for my wife, a pair of bright red Pentas to attract the bees and butterflies, and two dozen marigold seedlings to fill out the cinder block "pots."

thanks to one of our resident master gardeners I've now learned 
just how easy it is to grow marigolds from seed

So, now I'm up at the garden every morning -- watering, removing the bad bugs (no chemicals means more work; but it also means a better knowledge of our garden... and organic veggies for the table.) and doing my best to attract the pollinators and other good bugs.

the Pentas have proven very attractive to pollinators 
(which then visit my tomatoes, peppers and peas) 

When the "work" is done -- I sit back, listen to the song birds, watch the carpenter bees, butterflies, cicada wasps, and hummingbirds make their rounds... and sketch. And, before heading home, I get to harvest whatever's ripe for dinner. (Ah, life is good!)

these "straw" mushrooms pop up in clusters 
and are gone within 24 hrs.


Next week I'll post an update my plans for the autumn residency in Zion National Park. And in upcoming weeks I'll be posting more news (and journal pages) from the gardens.