Capitol Reef Residency

During October I had the privilege of living and working inside the smallest – at least in terms of visitation – of Utah’s five national parks, Capitol Reef. This was my third visit to the Park. I stopped in a snowstorm on my way home from a similar residency in Zion National Park in 2012 and in May of 2017 served as the outside juror for the Utah Watercolor Society’s annual plein air week there.

Fall was a wonderful time to be in residence – golden cottonwoods along the Fremont River, temperate days and cool nights, low insect populations and possibly a bit quieter – though every time I was in the Visitor Center it was bustling. Fortunately for the flora and fauna, the preceding drought was easing, but unfortunately for the outdoor painter, there were a lot of wet days. 

Doubleoverthe Reef Lo Res

A gorgeous double-rainbow over historic Fruita, from my studio window — but of course this means it was raining….

Rain comes to the Henrys (1024x7610

Rain Comes to the Henrys Watercolor on paper 11″ x 15″

I spent a lot more time getting to know the east side of the Reef, enjoying extensive views of the country’s longest monocline, the colors of the uplifted layers, the slots that drain the angled spine, all presided over by enough snow in the Henry Mountains east of the Park to be skiable (at least by backcountry skiers’ measures).

My stay wasn’t long enough, so I was a bit frenetic about trying to get everywhere, see everything and produce as much work as I could, at the expense of getting to know staff or the nearby town of Torrey. I have six months to continue the work I began there before presenting a portfolio of choices for the Park’s collection. Here are some of my favorites (all watercolor on paper, 11″ x 15″).




Attitude is everything

After two days of rain I was stir-crazy, so I took this morning’s single patch of blue sky as a good omen and set off for the Lakeshore Trail. Since it doesn’t have a huge elevation gain, I figured it would be a good candidate because it was below the now-3000-foot snow level. And I thought it would not take me that long to get back if it did begin to rain hard.

I made it to the Flick Creek Shelter as it began raining in earnest. I set up inside it and passed a pleasant hour bundled in all my clothing, painting the view out its open southern exposure. The painting looked a good bit like south eastern Alaska instead of the dry side of the North Cascades!  I had to be willing to paint the view to the south even though the better shapes and values were to the north.

Set up inside the Flick Creek Shelter

Set up inside the Flick Creek Shelter

The sun even came out as I was finishing, so I continued on. I heard loons and watched two grebes fishing. But alas the clouds descended again; I hiked the four-some miles back to Stehekin in total downpour. I didn’t see any other painters today – come to think of it, I didn’t see any other people!

Suze Woolf soaked but happy

Soaked but still happy to be out. My Artist Easel Company easel attaches to a standard camera tripod. Paints, paper, board etc. are packed inside the pack in their own heavyweight plastic bag.

I’m so happy I have someplace dry and warm to sleep tonight!