Monday, June 27, 2016

First Light (Grotto House and Red Arch Mountain)

First Light #1, 9"x12", oils on Gessobord

During my stay in Zion NP my very busy daytime schedule (combined with the dry high desert air) usually meant that I was in bed by 8:30 and up by 5:30 (enjoying a pre-dawn breakfast, filling my water bottles and backpack, and planning another day of trail hikes, sketching and painting.)

Except in the area immediately around the Zion Inn most nights in the canyon were pitch black.

But not always.

During the full moon I stayed up to capture the amazing chiaroscuro effects of the canyon walls and floor bathed in moonlight (see the "Complementary Colors, Moonbeams and Shadows" post below.) and then stayed on to watch in fascination as the eastern sky brightened, the last stars faded, and the canyon's colors slowly awoke.

This week's post is the first of two attempts I made to capture the scene in oils. (I hope you like it.)

Signed, Sealed and Delivered!

Down Canyon from the Temple, 12"x9", Gamblin oils on 
Gessobord, gilded plein air frame 

Zion National Park Artists-in-Residence get an extraordinary deal from the National Park Service.

AiRs get to spend one month in the park: living in the Grotto House; exploring the trails, canyons, mesas of this geological wonder; getting to know the region's flora and fauna; and interacting with both local residents and visitors from around the globe.

And, in exchange, all the Park Service asks of visual artist residence is: two public presentations during the residency; and (within six months of completing the residency) one work of art inspired by the Zion National Park experience and a digital portfolio of all works created during the residency and the six month period following.

A few weeks ago I was informed that the selection committee had chosen Down Canyon from the Temple. And, after mounting the work in a gilded plein air frame, I had the folks at the UPS Store pack and deliver it to its new home in Utah.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Complementary Colors, Moonbeams and Shadows

Virgin River, Zion Canyon III, 12"x9", oils on panel

The desert Southwest has a special appeal for many artists. As one put it, in the Rockies and Cascade Mountains (and the Smokies and Appalachia) landscape painting is dominated by greens and blues; but in northern Arizona and southern Utah landscape painters get to use their reds, oranges, yellows, and purples!

Morning Shadows, 12"x9", oils on panel

But, even amidst all the spectacle of the Southwest Zion Canyon is special. Thanks to the Virgin River, Zion Canyon is a desert oasis filled with delightful eye-catching complementary contrasts -- red/green, blue/orange, and even yellow/violet. And, because the narrow canyon runs more or less north/south its color/lighting effects are dynamic -- changing every few minutes throughout the day, and even through the nighttime hours on those nights when the moon is full.

Life on the Edge (Hanging Garden), 9"x12", oils on panel

Watchman at Sunset I, 9"x12", oils on panel

And the south Utah night sky comes as an amazing surprise for visitors who know only urban skies and the veil of light pollution that obscures all but the brightest stars and planets. Under a dark, new moon sky visitors can clearly see thousands (if not millions) of stars of all sizes and colors. But the real surprise for me came with the full moon! Before leaving home I had planned to try my hand at a nocturnal (my first the North Cascades) and had expected to produce a piece in silvers and grays. But, instead, I was amazed to find a moon so bright that I could distinguish individual leaves on the ground and colors in those areas under direct moonlight (while ink-black shadows completely hid the secret details within.) 

Shadows and Moonbeams (Under A Full Moon), 12"x9", oils on panel