Wrapping Zion

No, not like Christo – more like closing the books on the 2013 Zion Plein Air Invitational. It was so rewarding to be back in that extraordinary environment. I can well believe that visitors to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis thought Frederick Dellenbaugh’s paintings were fantastical, made-up, unreal. I’m delighted to have parted with most of the pieces I painted there and raised a goodly sum for the Park’s youth outreach and art programs. Many of my pictures were bought by local residents: I take it as a sign they feel I’ve captured something of the beauty they walk in every day.

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I also did a number of outline pencil drawings for paintings that I’ve worked on since I got home. You can see that at least part of my heart is still there.

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The world is my studio

I’m completely thrilled to be the recipient of an Artist Trust Grant for Artist Project award. This wonderful Seattle organization funds individual projects, professional development education, and acts as a clearing house for information of all kinds relevant to artists. As one of this year’s recipients, they asked if they could send a photographer to my studio as one of twelve artists for a poster. But I am out in Utah, in Zion National Park’s amazing canyons and slick rock. While I do quite a bit work indoors (it rains a lot at home!), nothing lifts my spirits as much as hard walking in beautiful country. Combining this with painting is as happy as I can be….

Photo of Suze Woolf at Zion National Park's Observation Point

The studio a few days ago: Zion National Park’s Observation Point. I’ve hiked up with my board and paper on the outside of my backpack.

"Fall View from Observation Point" watercolor on paper, 11" x 15"

“Fall View from Observation Point” watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″

 

…And grateful. I met one of this year’s Zion Artists-in-Residence, Rebecca Fogg; she’s here  in Zion, despite two strokes that have her wheelchair-bound, unable to speak. She is learning to use her non-dominant hand to work. Her devoted partner gave her talk for her. I am moved by her determination to practice her art, inspired by how much it can mean to a life to have that practice. To have the capacity to pursue both physical and professional expression is grace indeed.

Shapes have feelings, too

I’m aware as I begin a composition of emotions that the shapes in my landscape evoke. Even apart from the subject matter (I’ve loved peaks all my life), the mere shape and its placement on a page have a personality and excite a response in the viewer. I’m struggling to articulate this: for example, when I see the peaks of Zion jutting into the sky, I feel an implacable and indomitable force, an all-seeing impassive presence, a kind of aloof authority. “We were here before you were born and we will be here after” — no matter my best geologic imagination fast-forwarding through  eons of change. I’m sure my abstract painting friends are amused by this new light-bulb understanding of mine. I’m learning to look for shapes that have an inherent emotional impact quite apart from whatever they depict.

Suze Woolf watercolor painting from Zion National Par

Dihedral above Many Pools, watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11″ — all those opposing triangles!

Falling in love all over again

After six days of hiking, drawing, photographing, and painting, I’ll confess that once again I’ve fallen hard for that Zion place. The light, the shapes, the colors, the textures… and as a first-time-in-late-fall visitor, the yellow cottonwoods are luminous. It was bittersweet to leave 13 months ago; it won’t be any easier this time.

"From the Kayenta Trail" watercolor on hotpress paper, 11" x 15" - during a recent cold and rainy spell

“From the Kayenta Trail” watercolor on hotpress paper, 11″ x 15″ – during a recent cold and rainy spell

"Late Afternoon, Late Fall' watercolor on paper, 15" x 11" from near the bottom of the Echo Canyon Trail in Zion National Park

“Late Afternoon, Late Fall’ watercolor on paper, 15″ x 11” from near the bottom of the Echo Canyon Trail in Zion National Park