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   

1 comment:

  1. I'm really loving the colours of this amazing place, what a wonderful experience you had there.