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