Rain in the desert

Last Tuesday it rained steadily most of the day. The pour-offs were amazing. Places I’d seen completely dry were – nothing mini-about them—Niagaras. The river was dark brown, cocoa-colored and full of debris. Over the next few days it gradually turned from americano to latte and now back to viridian and raw sienna. Even more amazing to me was a puddle that went from clear to phthalo green with algae in a matter of hours, before drying up completely.

New work, two kinds

Here are some examples of the work I have been doing. I’ve got two kinds – plein air sketches, where I carry a minimal set up and somewhere in the course of hiking, I stop for an hour or two to paint. These are blissful moments, surrounded by so much beauty it’s hard to choose which direction to face. The farther I’ve hiked the more often I’m likely to be completely alone. But even for this morning’s piece, done at a viewpoint less than 50 yards from the road, people were curious and polite.  It’s taken 5-7 of these to feel competent at the new terrain.

The other kind is studio work in the little house. The light isn’t perfect, but I have my easel, my full palette, all my brushes, and my photos. I’ve decided to do a series of 11 x 11 squares of different rock textures I see as I explore; “Six (or however many) Meditations on the Nature of Time” since geology is in some ways the star of the scene. When they are all lined up together it will be quite large.

It is an amazing privilege to be here, doing this!

Great hiking, performance anxiety

Observation Point beats Angel’s Landing hands-down. Longer, less steep, greater elevation gain but still exciting drop-offs keep your attention. This trail takes you to the east rim, more expansive views, a different eco-niche, and today at least, nice breezes. Part of the trail goes through a slot canyon that felt very much like the Deer Creek Patios off the Colorado in the Grand Canyon. I painted at the top for about 90 minutes, and stopped many times to photograph lightning-struck burned trees and the many patterns in the rock.

I am definitely having trouble getting into a canyon-painting groove. I can’t seem to find the right colors, I mistake the values as too light in the shade, and there’s so much to see it’s hard to simplify. The heat and ever-present ants don’t help. Knowing that I promised to host open studio time makes me feel under some pressure to perform. There’s a beautiful book of Zion paintings in the house commemorating the park’s centennial —  I feel honor-bound to live up to that standard; but lifestyle, environment and working conditions will take some getting used to!

Next time I’m ready to hike to Zion Lodge or the Springdale Library for their wi-fi, I will post some photos of work in progress.

I haul myself up Angel’s Landing

Sept 7

I awoke hearing a crunch on the gravel outside my window at 4:40am, and continued sleep was not going to happen. I hiked up famous Angel’s Landing once it was light out – rapidly up the trail section, slowly up the very exposed class two final section. I wondered if my via ferrata gear would work on the chains they have here. If this was Europe, it would be cabled – and while the scrambling is easy (there are steps cut in the sandstone), they have had fatalities. Then I continued up the West Rim trail where I was completely alone within a quarter-mile of the Angel’s Landing turnoff. Two drawings done on the scene became painting sketches back at the house, once I ran town errands and recovered from the mid-day heat (~94 degrees F).

Sunrise on Angel's Landing

Sunrise on Angel’s Landing

Traveling to Zion Artist-in-Residence Residence

Sept 6

To my surprise I arrived in Zion National Park at 5pm, with enough time to pick up a few groceries. I met my supervising ranger, who’s been on the job exactly one week. We’re both newbies. The house is small and comfortable. I understand most artists have used the living room as a studio – there are a number of lights and a drafting table, as well as couch, coffee table and bookshelf. I am having some trouble behaving as if it is a studio – I find the presence of carpet and living room furniture inhibiting. More so is learning to ignore the people walking by on the very nearby Grotto trail. I haven’t figured out yet when my open studio times are going to be.

Alas there is no easy Internet or cell network access. Closest is one-half mile walk away; going into town to visit the library’s free Wi-Fi takes several hours. Gloria Miller Allen told me she resented every task that took her out of the Park – laundry, groceries, post office – and now I understand. They’re precious, minutes here, and everywhere I look there are spectacular pictures to make.

Missing, an exterior view of the little house – it was the Visitor Center in the 20’s, then a museum for a long time. Even though the shuttle audio recording and the sign in the picnic area say it is a residence for artists or researchers in residence, I still get people unhappy it’s not a museum.