Monday, September 13, 2010

Everett Ruess Days Plein Air Competition

This is a bit last minute, but I will be taking part in this years Escalante Canyons Working Art Festival Everett Ruess Days Plein Air Competition all next week September 19-25 in and around Escalante, Utah.

This event was created to celebrate the life and work of the artist Everett Ruess who disappeared from the rugged canyon country near Escalante, Utah, in 1934 and was never seen again. He was just 20 years old. Although his burros were found near his camp, his fate remains a mystery. Everett Ruess was an artistic, adventurous young man who set out alone several times to experience the beauty, as well as the fury of nature in the American West. During the 1930s, he met and discussed art with painter Maynard Dixon, and with well-known photographers Ansel Adams, Edward Weston and Dorothea Lange. He was lured first by the splendors of Yosemite and the California coast and later by portions of the lonely Red Rock Country of Utah and Arizona. He is best known for a series of linoleum block prints.

"I have not tired of the wilderness; rather I enjoy its beauty and the vagrant life I lead, more keenly all the time. I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities." - from the last letter Ruess sent to his brother, dated November 11, 1934.

Like his thinking! I can't wait to be painting there!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

A Grand weekend

Last weekend I painted along the south rim of the Grand Canyon with several artists participating in the Plein Air Southwest event. This was the first of several paint outs arranged by the members of the Outdoor Painters Society. The paint outs will culminate in a show at the Southwest Gallery in Dallas in April, 2011.

I was happy to meet and paint with Steve Atkinson, Rusty Jones, Chase Almond, Chuck Rawle, Aaron Schuerr, Linda Dellandre and Rosie Sandifer. We had great weather with beautiful clouds and clear canyon views. This hard working group of painters relished in the canyons many challenges - multicolored towers, ridges and plateaus, complex shadows, dramatic reflected light, impossible distances, weathered trees and, of course, a steady stream of curious tourists. Most of this group had never painted here before, but managed to come away with some impressive paintings. One of the highlights was having Shoshone Point all to ourselves with arrangements made with the park rangers. The above 11x14 was painted at Desert View along the East Rim Drive and the other piece is a 9x12 of Powell Point from Hopi Point on the West Rim Drive.

As you can see, I have a bad habit of climbing to the rocky points that jut out from the Canyon's rim. Most are fairly easy to reach and present no real dangers (like here at Shoshone Point. Thanks, Steve!), however a few are very exposed and downright sketchy. I enjoy the challenge and bit of exercise, plus it helps break up the painting time. As a bonus I get to see the canyon from viewpoints few others have seen. On this trip I covered a lot of ground including a traverse under Powell Point where I found an old canvas JHat half buried in limestone silt - it even came with a Grand Canyon pin. It turned out to be in great shape and now it's my favorite painting hat!

You never know what might happen on one of these little side trips. On a previous trip, I was traversing beneath an overhanging stretch of rim rock that began to turn out towards the canyon. Out at the point was a wonderful jumble of precariously tilted boulders. I played around on these for several minutes, noting the angles, the big drop offs and the canyon views. Finally, I stood atop one large boulder and turned to look back on the rim to see over fifty tourists staring at me from behind the railing at Mather Point. Without knowing it, I had wandered out beyond the most popular point on the south rim! A ranger emerged from the crowd and barked at me not to move. She got on the radio and began calling for back-up to help with a tourist over the rail. I quickly jumped back down under the overhang, ran a discrete distance and emerged onto the rim near my car and got out of there. I wonder how many photo albums I'm in...