Boulder/Lyons June 6-11
What a week it was! This past week was the Boulder Plein Air Festival and I thought I’d share with you what it is like to be involved with such an event and a little bit about how each painting was created. If you want to skip the details, be sure to jump to the end of this post for some exciting news!
Before I go into the details of the event, I thought I would share with you my plein air setup since so many people ask me about this. When I am painting in acrylics I have a large pack that weighs about 20 pounds. Inside the pack is a tripod, my easel, a palette holder, an umbrella, a stay wet palette, paint brushes, a sketch book and palette knives, about 10 tubes of paint, my painting apron, a hat, paper towel to wipe my brushes, water to drink and washes my brushes, a spray bottle, and a Panel Pak that allows my to carry to painting panels (wet or dry). I also have sunscreen, bug spray, a trash bag, a bungee cord and a snack bar for those longer days. My watercolor setup is much smaller and lighter because I usually sit and paint in my lap, so I don’t need the whole easel setup. In my watercolor pack I carry a small folding stool, a travel watercolor kit with a few extra tubes of paint (unique colors that I might need for just that day), a water bottle for my to drink and use for painting, paint brushes, paper towel, hat, bug spray, sunscreen and watercolor paper. You can see from the photos that this medium of painting is much more manageable. You can see the difference below:
If you want more details about each of these products please feel free to ask me and I can write another blog describing each of these items functions.
The first morning started off with all the entrants stopping by a central location with their blank canvases that they anticipate using for the week. The host stamps the back of these canvases so that they know everyone starts off with a blank canvas. Everyone is provided a list of recommended locations to paint, but we can paint anywhere within Boulder County lines. I had been searching out locations that I thought would be good the few weeks leading up to the event. Boulder has received a lot of rain recently so everything is green and lush but I wanted to paint more than just green. The wildflowers had started blooming so I knew where I could find some color.
I started off doing my first painting at a location where I often hike with Buddy. I had noticed that the glorious poppies had started to bloom, and there was an amazing vista of the Flatirons in the distance. I hiked up the steep hill with my pack on, set up my easel around 6 am to catch the morning light as well as beat the heat. (Unfortunately, we experienced a heat wave the entire week, so I was often painting in 90-degree heat.) It was a bit of a challenge to paint in this location because I was standing on a sloped surface. When I am painting, I often will step back about 6 ft every 10 minutes so that I can get a better perspective of my progress and see what needs adjusting. Going back and forth all morning dodging rocks and being on a slope was a challenge. In this painting I was using the poppies and morning light on the grasses to guide the viewers eye back in the painting to the distant Flatirons. I was able to capture the effect I wanted and was happy with my painting.
That afternoon I decided to head over to Chautauqua Park to start a sketch of one of the charming cottages. I found a fairly shady spot and sat down to get a base sketch done. I intended this painting to be a watercolor because I have found that I am able to get better detail with my watercolors. Perhaps it is because I have a lot more experience in watercolors than I do in acrylics. Unfortunately a thunderstorm pulled in and it started to rain so I decided that I would paint this one at a later date. It is now a half done painting waiting to be finished another day.
The next morning, I got up early again and decided to paint along the St. Vrain river in nearby Lyons. We camp here often and love the rocks, the river and the amazing purple wildflowers. I have been studying a lot about composition, movement in a painting and selecting focal points. With this painting I really tried to work on the composition. The river is meant to draw your eye into the painting, the tree on the right is intended to hold your eye and not let it flow off the page, the edge of the main rock structure draws your eye to the center and the brighter yellow color adjacent to the dark green is meant to also give you a focal point. It has been an interesting exercise to think more about these elements and try to incorporate them into my work.
That afternoon I was in search of a good shady spot again and remembered a church that I used to bike past. This is a quaint historic church perched on the top of a rolling hill with great big trees and a beautiful cemetery. I walked around the grounds to see which viewpoint I preferred. I stopped to take a few photos of some beautiful peonies and was startled when an enormous snake slithered past my feet. Fortunately it was not a rattlesnake…..but it sure gave me a scare. I ultimately found a great spot to sit and paint for the afternoon (and made sure there were no snakes nearby). I decided this subject matter would be better suited to watercolors. I am trying out a new painting surface (probably not the best idea to do in a competition) which is a hardboard covered in a linen the accepts watercolor. I liked this idea because with this surface I would be able to varnish and frame the painting without needing protective glass (as is needed with traditional watercolor paper). The downside to this new surface is that the watercolor paints do not run and bleed like they do on traditional paper. However, the paint does lift off the paper which means you can correct mistakes but have to be very careful not to paint over areas that are already completed.
On Day 3 I got up early again and went back to make a few touch ups to the painting I had done the previous day at the St. Vrain river. Often I will take a painting and hang it somewhere in the house where I can stare at it for awhile to see what changes it needs. I saw a few tweaks that I thought would make the painting better so I went back for a few hours to make the painting stronger.
That afternoon I headed back to Chautauqua Park but decided not to work on my half done painting of the cottage, but instead to start on a painting of the Ranger Station with the Flatirons in the background. On this painting I was trying to focus on capturing the architecture. With my architecture background and drawing skills I have been thinking about going back and using them more. Early in my painting career I focused on doors and windows of Europe and have somehow let that go. It has resurfaced in my desire to paint, and I decided to follow that feeling. I placed myself in a great shady spot that is full of tourist. It was a bit intimidating because I had a lot of people stop to look and ask questions. I enjoy the interaction and ultimately it was rewarding. This painting took a lot more preparation because I had to make the drawing more accurate. I did take some liberties and made a few changes to simplify the building. This painting was also done in two different sessions because it was labor intensive and as I looked at it back at home, I realized that I needed to make some changes. It was hot and grey afternoon so the shadows were not strong, but I would like to go back another day when the lighting is better.
The final morning I was able to paint at a private residence out in the country with gorgeous flower beds. The owner was gracious enough to let a few of us paint on their property. I walked around and couldn’t decide if I should paint some flowers close up or do a larger subject matter. Ultimately, I decided to go for a larger view. I loved how the walls of this garden provided a sense of drawing the eye back and yet enclosing the flower bed to keep the eye focused in with the strong color. This ended up being one of my favorites that I painted over the 4 days of painting.
The next big challenge of painting in a Plein Air Festival is that the artist has to have all their work submitted by a certain time and it must be framed and ready for a sale. So, I made a mad dash home that afternoon to varnish my paintings, let them dry and then frame them. This generally means that most artists paint in a standard size panel/canvas and has already pre-purchased frames to fit these paintings.
At last, the exhibition is hung, and the show and jurying begin. Each Festival has its own rules on how many paintings can be entered for the jury, what awards will be given out etc. And the jury process is always interesting to see what the judge picks. It is subjective and sometimes I don’t always agree with the paintings they choose. I will say, that there were about 200 paintings submitted by 50 artists and most of them were of very high standards. I was extremely pleased to find out at the end of the evening that I had won a 2nd Place in Acrylics award for my painting “It’s Poppy Season”. I was so excited to say the least! If you are a Boulder local and you would like to see all the great art produced during the week stop by the temporary gallery at 1881 9th Street between Canyon and Walnut, Suite 110.
My next Plein Air Festival on the calendar is in Steamboat Springs, CO in September and I am already looking forward to it and all the fall colors!
We are now back in Colorado and we are loving being back in the trees and mountains. As much as we loved all the rock formations of Utah, we do love the mountains of Colorado.
We decided to stay in Dolores, CO based on an RV park with great wifi and cell phone coverage because I was going to attend the Plein Air Painting Convention online. After getting set up and giving Buddy a good walk around that campground which is on acreage, we went across the road to the McPhee Recreation Area and Reservoir. The area has beautiful 360-degree views of the mountain ranges, but seeing how low the water level was in the reservoir was shocking. Colorado needs rain/snow in a bad way.
We then stopped by the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument. This area is full of archaeological sites from Native American Tribes. The museum was closed, but we did the short hike up to the preserved Escalante Pueblo built in the 1100’s.
On the 15th I got up early to hike with Buddy and get ready for the Plein Air Live Convention. The next three days were action packed and full of lots of learning. It was fascinating to watch various professional artists paint a variety of subject matters and all of them had a different approach. Fortunately, I am able to replay the event, because it was too much information to absorb in such a short time.
On the first afternoon of the convention I had to get out since it was a beautiful day and I couldn’t sit inside anymore, so I did a quick watercolor painting from our campground. One of the other campers (who we became friends with) ended up buying the painting. I was so flattered and happy that they loved it.
On the 2nd day I watched an amazing demo of an artist painting rock formations. I was inspired to paint a scene from Capital Reef, and the weather in Dolores wasn’t great that day, so I painted inside and was fairly happy with the outcome.
My head was spinning on the last night with thoughts about color mixing, warm and cool colors and the different shade and shadow techniques we learned. I have so much to work on!
After the final day of the convention, I needed a lot of exercise so we headed over to the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument trail in the Sand Creek Area. We were able to take Buddy on the hike to see remnants of Puebloan homes from the 1200’s. The trail was fantastic, and we saw our first spring wildflowers. I am always thrilled when bright colors come back to the landscape.
It was also great to see some of these ruins from the trail.
After we finished the hike, we decided to go across the street to a winery. The Sutcliffe Vineyard sign said that it was one of the most beautiful vineyards in Colorado, so we had to go! We were so happy that we did, because the setting was fantastic. We sat with a glass of wine, enjoying the view, while I painted their doors. I felt like I was back in Italy and the wine was good. What a perfect way to end the day.
The following morning, we got up and headed over to Mesa Verde National Park. We had been there a few years ago and loved it. In the past we did the Cliff Palace tour where we went with a guide and were able to climb down into the cliff dwellings. Due to Covid there were no tours but we still enjoyed the views from the overlooks.
We decided to do a hike called the Petroglyph hike. There were petroglyphs, but both of us felt that the hike was much more than that. The hike begins with lots of switch backs dropping you down quickly in elevation, and then along a ledge/rim trail between rocks, through caves, around trees with fantastic vistas. I could feel the Puebloan energy, and felt like I was transported back in time and was walking with them. It was easy to imagine how they must have lived in these cave dwellings and moved between cliff dwellings. Another fantastic hike that we would highly recommend.
That afternoon I decided to repaint the doors from the Vineyard. After looking at it (and having learned so much recently) I felt that the first version was flat. I decided it would be better to pull the viewer into the painting by adding the side wall in perspective, open one of the doors to make the viewer want to go inside, and to also add some warm light glowing from the inside. I also decided to improvise and add some leaves to the vines, add some shadows based on what I assumed would be morning light (we were there with afternoon light behind the building). I think all these changes enhanced the second painting and was happy to explore it further.
We left Dolores and headed North to start our slow trek back to Boulder. We drove Highway 145 which is one of the San Juan Scenic Byways. The road follows the Dolores River and was full of painting inspiration. We started off in a glorious valley with green pastures and beautiful homes. It felt so peaceful and quiet that I wanted to stay longer. Eventually the road wound up out of the valley towards the snow capped Mountains. There were a hundred spots that I could have pulled over to paint. Eventually we came to a pullout that turned out to be a place that we could have camped. If we had not had campground reservations in Ridgway we would have stayed the night. However, we made the best of it and parked for a few hours while I painted, Ross played guitar and Buddy played in the river. Fun was had by all!
While painting this painting I was able to incorporate more of what I learned over the past few days. I started with a quick sketch to try and make sure that my composition worked for me. I then laid down a warm base coat of paint on the panel (which adds an undertone of warmth). I also was very conscious of mixing warmer paint colors for the area in sunlight (even though it was a grey day) and cooler coolers for the areas in shade. I also studied the color of the water and used more greens and browns than I would have in the past. I was pretty happy with the outcome and made just a few minor adjustments to finish it off when we got to our next location.
We packed up and headed further North through a cute town of Rico, through groves of aspen trees, over a pass with striking views of the mountains and down through more rocky canyons. We have decided that this area is going to have to be further explored in the fall when the Aspens are turning colors and I could paint for days!! Ultimately, we pulled into the town of Ridgway which is charming and into Ridgway State Park.
We were able to get our 2nd Covid shot in Montrose, so we laid low on the first day and enjoyed walking around the park. Fortunately, we had very minimal reactions to the shot, so we were able to do a short hike in the morning and then proceed to Telluride for the day. We had spent a few days skiing in Telluride years ago and loved it. It is a beautiful town tucked into the end of a valley with mountains surrounding it on three sides. The historical buildings are well maintained and restored, and there is a great feeling walking around town. We stopped and had a nice lunch outdoors just in the nick of time. The temperature plummeted as we finished up, and within 20 minutes it was snowing.
The following day we spent the morning refining the arts! Ross played guitar while I made some adjustments to a few of the paintings done along the way. We then headed over to the other charming historical town of Ouray. We had passed through Ouray years ago when we were in a small pop-up camper. We strolled the streets and loved looking at the historical buildings with the backdrops of amazing mountains. Ouray unfortunately has a bit to touristy feeling for us, so a few hours was good.
We headed back to walk around Ridgway which again is filled with historical buildings from the mining days. With this being an even smaller town it was a quick walk and then back to the campground.
Ross headed off to work on his golf, and I walked down to the beautiful river on the campground to paint.
Due to the winds (and it has been windy all week) I decided to work in watercolor so that I wouldn’t need to set up my easel and risk having it blow over. It was late afternoon light on the river and the background was in shade, so it made for a darker composition, but I loved the glimmer of light and movement in the river. There are a few things that I am really happy with in this painting. I added some yellow ochre to the green/brown river color to show the light and the reflection of the bottom of the river. I was able to leave some whites from the paper to show through and I also used a bit of white gouache (which is an opaque watercolor) to add some additional whites at the end to capture the movement of the water.
On our last full day in the area we woke up to a glorious warm still day. I decided to head out on the Enchanted Mesa Trail which climbs up the hillside out of the campground, over the dam wall and along the reservoir. The colors were magical, and had we had one more non-windy day I would definitely painted from that trail.
Ross picked me up at the end of the trail and we drove up the Million Dollar Highway to Silverton, which was an old mining town halfway between Ouray and Durango. It is another road that we had driven in the fall season and loved. The road begins as a narrow windy road with steep drop off’s, and then winds past old historic mines and shacks, over snowy mountain passes, past red colored mountains into Silverton.
It was time to pack up and start heading home. The rest of the trip will basically be a few stops along the way to break up the drive. I think Buddy is getting ready to be at home in his own backyard as are we. Stay well until we meet again!
We have heard from a few of you that on previous posts the formatting of photos are being squished and stretched. So on this post we are trying a new format. Please let us know if you are having issues. If you are, you can always go directly to website (TheStreamingArtist.com) and that issue will be resolved since it appears to only be happening in the email version.
Having felt like we got a good overview of Kodachrome Basin State Park we moved on and started our journey to Capital Reef National Park. We drove Highway 12 which is called The All American Road. We had driven it a few years ago after having hiked the Grand Canyon and had forgotten how spectacular a road it is. Utah is really a stunning state with so much variety in mountains and rock colors and shapes. There are sections with beautiful rock structures that look like old Greek temples, then sections of red rocks that feel like castles, rounded slick rock formations to make you feel like you are on the moon, and then we ultimately wound our way through amazing forests of Aspen Trees.
At one of the scenic overlooks, it named that section of the highway as the million dollar highway of Utah because it took them 5 years to build it. It allowed them to connect several towns that at one time were difficult to access. Looking at all the vast arid rock you can see why. We did stop and enjoy a cup of tea while taking in the view,
We have decided that we will make a trip back here one fall to see the colors in this spectacular setting.
We were having difficulty finding a camp spot, so for the first night we stayed in the town of Loa. It was a depressed little town, but allowed us to catch up on emails etc. since we had been out of range for 4 days. Somehow, we were lucky because we called into one of the campgrounds and someone had cancelled, and we got their spot. We ended up with a double wide spot that backed to open space with views! The Thousand Lakes Campground is one that I would recommend. It was well kept, they also had a chuck wagon bbq restaurant there that was really good. They also offered homemade muffins delivered daily, had a nice lawn area and a mini store and laundry mat. It was about 20 minutes to Capital Reef but was well worth it.
We spent the first afternoon driving the scenic road in Capital Reef NP. It is a much smaller National Park than the others and only has one main road with 2 dirt road off shoots. We drove all the roads, and the dirt roads are best if you have a sturdy car since there are some ruts etc. The dirt roads wind through amazing canyons of immense rocks but are narrow. The end of these roads have small parking lots for the trailheads but not enough spaces for everyone, so people are parked randomly along the sides of the roads which makes it even more challenging. Once again there were a few too many people for our liking.
After having been to Zion and Bryce, Capital Reef didn’t feel that spectacular. As I said to Ross, if this had been our first park location we would have been blown away. It is beautiful and has some amazing Red Rocks the lead to massive rock formations as you get farther into the park.
We decided that we would get up early to beat the crowds and hike the Golden Throne Trail. We have found that if you get out early and do the more difficult hikes, you can get away from the crowds. It was a beautiful trail that climbed up through the canyons and switched backed up to the base of the Golden Throne. The trail gave us great vistas of the canyon and the massive rocks. On the way up we only passed 4 people and had the top to ourselves. But as we descended the masses were starting to come up the hill.
We did have the pleasure of running into some young big horn Sheep. It is amazing to watch them scramble up rocks like it is nothing.
One thing to note about Torrey (where we were staying) is that the winds were pretty strong and consistent. I was a bit disappointed since I would have loved to paint our view. However, with the winds that we had, my easel would have blown over, so instead we relaxed in the afternoon.
We left Torrey and started our journey back to Colorado. We drove East from Torrey along Hwy 24 and then Hwy 95. Both these roads are designated Scenic byways and are absolutely well worth that designation. The vistas are incredible and we felt like we went through such a variety of terrains. This is a highly recommended road from us. We stopped for lunch at an overlook of Hite which is located off of Lake Powell. The views were spectacular and made for a perfect lunch spot. Unfortunately due to the drought the Colorado River/Lake Powell were extremely low.
We had no official plans of where to stop for the evening but decided to pop into the Natural Bridges National Monument. What a pleasant, unexpected surprise that was! It turns out that this park had 3 amazing rock bridges. Some interesting trivia for any fellow nerds is that Bridges are formed by erosive action of water, and arches are formed by other forces such as freeze/thaw. The first bridge one sees is Sipapu bridge which is the second largest natural bridge in the world. It is 220 feet high and spans 268 feet wide and 53 feet thick. You have to look carefully to see it since it blends with the other rocks in this lighting.
The second bridge is the Kachina Bridge (considered to be the youngest bridge of the park) which is thicker and more massive (210 feet high, 204 feet span and 93 feet thick) because it has not eroded as much as the others.
The last significant bridge (they say there are others throughout the park) is Owachomo which means rock mound, and is named that way because of the mound on the top left of the bridge. Owachomo is 106 feet high, spans 180 feet wide and 9 feet thick. If you look closely on the photo below, you can see people under the bridge to help you with the immense scale.
We were so excited to see these that we decided the spend the night nearby at a boondocking area (free camping off the grid) so that we could go back early the next morning to hike down into the canyon to see Sipapu up close and personal. We had a mellow evening with a stunning sunset and then rose early.
The trail down to Sipapu Bridge was fantastic. We climbed down over rocks that had stairs carved into them, down three wooden ladders made of old tree branches, a couple of flights of metal stairs (that must have been airlifted in), across rock ledges and under sheer walls of rock.
Since we were the first ones on the trail we were able to have the trail to ourselves and stopped to enjoy some breakfast on a rock out cropping over looking the bridge.
The size of the bridge is impressive. Another fantastic and memorable hike in the books.
On the hike back to the top we must have been getting hungry because we saw these two rocks and named then Cupcake Rock and BLT Rock.
Onward to Southeastern Colorado!
The next stop on our journey was Kodachrome Basin State Park which is very close to Bryce and was recommended by another Airstreamer. We arrived and settled in and at first were underwhelmed by the park, but loved that it was quiet and not crowded. The afternoon got quite hot and surprisingly we had to turn on the AC which seemed crazy after having been skiing and running the heat for a month. As the afternoon cooled off, we had a great BBQ dinner outside under the Juniper trees and we took an evening walk through part of the park.
We soon started to discover why this is such a beautiful place. The rock formations here look like they are sculpted out of red clay (whereas in Bryce the hoodoos look like sand drippings). They also have 70 monolithic spires called pipes/chimneys that stick up. The park got it’s name from the contrast of colors and Kodak Film gave them permission to name the park after their film. The sun was setting behind some of the rocks formations just as we got back to our camp spot to finish off another beautiful day.
Because the days are warm and we don’t like to leave Buddy in the Airstream when it is hot, we got up early to do the signature hike of this park. The morning was very cool as we started the Panorama Trail but we were soon shedding layers. This hike led us through some of the signature rock formations such as the Hat Shop, The Ballerina and few others that we named along the way. We then got to a section called the Secret Passage which led us too a beautiful cove area with slick rock formations and narrow walkways through the rocks. I also fell in love with what I dubbed sand art.
The last stop and turn around point, was a location called Cool Cave. The end of the trail led us through a dry riverbed into an enormous cave that had an opening where if it was raining I think it would have been a waterfall (you can get the sense of the scale with Ross standing in the cave).
I think both Bryce and Kodachrome Basin would be interesting locations to see when it is raining or soon after a rainfall. I think one could actually watch the erosion taking place or at least get to visualize it even better.
At one of the locations which was called Indian Cave, you could see handprints scraped out of the rock. We were intrigued by them and went up to touch them and were surprised how easily the sandstone wiped away. Sadly I’m sure most of these handprints were from people like us which isn’t going to help the preservation of these sights. We were also amazed that the path was mostly red sand. Ross felt very much at home like he was in Australia. I’m always surprised when I find sand in locations that are inland.
In the afternoon we took a drive to the town of Escalante so that we could find out more about the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument and also get some cell phone reception and resupply our refrigerator. The drive to Escalante was beautiful, and if we hadn’t just been in Zion and Bryce, we would have been even more blown away. We were able to stop by the visitor center to get some maps for future hikes. Amazingly, even with all the tourists driving the same route as we are doing, there is very little access to healthy food. Fortunately, we did a stock up back in St. George, but I keep thinking how do the locals get any fresh fruit or veggies? We stopped at the one grocery store in town but the selection was extremely limited. It made me realize how fortunate we are to normally have access to healthy food and how many others probably live off of canned or frozen vegetables. The nearest supermarket I was told was 85 miles away.
We were woken up at 4:30 am to some huge gusts of wind. This area is definitely prone to some wind. Unfortunately, because it is so dry here that when the wind kicks up so the does the dust and sand. It ended up being a much cooler day so we took Buddy on a hike with us up the Angel’s Palace trail. Buddy blended in the rocks. It was a slightly elevated trail above the valley and gave us a great perspective of the area. The wind made it a little bit cool, but we were glad we were out there.
The afternoon we spent dealing with some trip planning for the next few weeks as well as laundry. Normally I would not mention the laundry, but this campground had the cutest building for the laundry, designed to replicate an old western style store with brand new machines. I also loved the name because we had red dirt on everything! When you are on the road for a long trip, laundry is an important feature, and when you find a good clean laundry it is a highlight.
I also worked prepping a few canvases for upcoming paintings. Unfortunately, I haven’t been moved by the scenery here to paint it. There are striking views but compositionally I don’t find them worth putting down on canvas.
In the evening Buddy and I took a long walk on the Grand Parade Trail and watched the sun glow on the mountains. It was a peaceful way to end the day.
We woke up on the last day at Kodachrome to a still day. Buddy and I did a morning walk and the silence was blissful. This campground is amazingly quiet and feels empty even though it is full. The trails are almost empty of people and everyone seems to keep to themselves. Ross and I felt like we had this state park to ourselves.
On the 7th of April, Ross and I decided to explore a bit of the Grand Staircase Escalante area in particular the Willis Creek Slot Canyon trail. We headed down a dirt road that we were told we would need high clearance and 4 wheel drive. It was a rough road, but even the Subaru could have done it. About 10 miles down the dirt road just when we were thinking we were in the wrong spot, voila there were quite a few cars parked at a pull out. We started the trail and were impressed with the rock formations that the tiny creek meandering through a canyon was following.
We turned a corner and low and behold was a gorgeous slot canyon with high walls, and undulating curves. You could feel how the water in the past flowed through these walls carving the amazing patterns.
The trail continued on and opened up to a wider canyon, and just when we thought that was all to see, we ran into a few other people coming the other way who informed us there were 5 more of these canyons to go through. Each one had a slightly different feel. Some had sheets of of ice that had formed mini bridges, others had small holes in the walls almost like little spiritual niches, and the striations on the rocks were like fantastic modern art.
We were fortunate to start our hike early enough to have these canyons to ourselves. As we turned around to head back there were quite a few larger groups which took away some of the magic. But if you are in this area we definitely recommend doing this trail. The views heading back to camp were beautiful as well.
The afternoon was spent back at camp where I started an abstract painting of the slot canyons. I will finesse it a bit more when I have some time.
After a lovely BBQ dinner we took our nightly walk onto a few trails to enjoy the sun setting again on these rocks for the last night. Tomorrow, we move on towards Capital Reef National Park.
March 30-April 4
We moved on to Bryce Canyon National Park and spent the afternoon driving the scenic drive to stop at various overlooks. I had been to Bryce about 20 years ago and had fond memories of it and have always said that it is one of my favorite National Parks. It did not disappoint! Bryce is fairytale like with its hoodoos that look like minarets. I have always said that it is what God created while on drugs. The rock formations are absolutely magical.
On our first full day at Bryce we woke up to cold temps since we are at 8000 feet, but the day soon warmed up. We decided to hike the main loop which is the Queens trail to the Navajo loop. It was spectacular (but crowded) with the path winding through the hoodoos, down to the valley and then back up.
Each hoodoo has a different feel and some have personalities. It was fun to name some of them as we passed by….there was the fist for freedom, the eagle, salt and pepper, the camel etc. The hiking path is extremely well made with archways carved out so that you could walk through a few of the hoodoos, and switchbacks to get back up the trail to the top.
The following day we decided to explore Red Rock Canyon State Park which is about 10 miles away and allows dogs on their trails. We had heard that it was equally beautiful and a lot less crowded. All of that led to a beautiful hike through more amazing hoodoos and red rocks. It was so nice to be able to take Buddy and not be surrounded by the mobs.
After a leisurely afternoon and barbeque back at the airstream (where I finished another commission dog portrait) we walked up to the rim trail for the sunset. The lighting on the rocks was breathtaking and we felt fortunate to experience it and be in walking distance to our campsite.
Our last full day in Bryce was spent doing the long 8 mile hike called Fairyland Loop. We got up early to beat the heat and to watch the sunrise on the hoodoos. It was a magical way to start the day. Both Ross and I were so blown away by the beauty, that we ranked it up there with one of the best hikes in the world. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of photos we stopped to take.
The trail winds steeply down through the hoodoos and then winds along the valley floor through moon like rolling hills, trees that felt like sculptures.
At the bottom of the trail was a rock formation called Tower Bridge that was fantastic.
The last two miles were a climb back out of the valley through arid areas and then ultimately back up through the trees to the rim trail. If you are able to do this trail we would highly recommend it!
Our last morning in Bryce I decided to get up early and head out to the Fairyland trailhead for the sunrise so that I could paint it. It was a bit chilly and windy but so worth being out there. I watched the sunrise on the hoodoos and tried to capture it in the painting below.
This painting was a bit of a challenge because the light was changing rapidly and I really had a hard time getting the hoodoos to capture the light effects. The background mountain I originally painted as too strong so I went back in and softened the edges so that the front hoodoos could be the focal point. I tried to re-work the hoodoos by switching from using my paint brushes to a palette knife so that I could get a more textural affect to the hoodoos. I’m not entirely satisfied with the painting but there is always something to learn. First of all, people always ask me if every painting I do is good. And the answer is NO! I have heard the statistic from a professional artist that she is happy if 1 out of every 6 plein air painting is good. So this painting mostly likely will get covered over with gesso and made into another painting. Reflecting on how I would do it again, I would work a bit on the composition so that there is more movement in the piece. Right now the line of the back cliff top and the line of the hoodoos is too parallel. Additionally, there needs to be more depth in the painting so that the focus is on the hoodoos and the cliff fades more into the background. I also think I would alter the hoodoos to have a bit more variety of shapes and sizes. Perhaps I will take it home and start fresh and paint it in the studio with a bit more time and see what comes of it.
Here is the painting that needs some work.
Next stop is Kodachrome Basin State Park.
This post is a little delayed because we have been out camping with very limited wifi and cell phone reception. But the second leg of the journey begins with a lot of gratitude. This post follows a difficult week emotionally after having heard about the mass shooting in Boulder. Both Ross and I were devastated to hear about it, and it certainly affected my mood. As we entered Zion National Park I felt so grateful to be alive and well. We are so fortunate to be able to travel they way we are, and to see the sites that we are seeing. My heart broke thinking that some of those who lost their lives will not be able to live this life or see these sights.
We drove into Springdale (the small touristy town) on the edge of Zion in a small rainstorm. The rock formations were partially covered in clouds. It provided a sense of drama.
After setting up the camper and having some lunch, the clouds lifted and the sun came out. Our campsite location is in a fantastic spot 1 mile for the park entry and surrounded by the magical rock formations. The downside is that it is packed with RV’s.
We walked over to the park and hiked the one trail in which they allow dogs, so Buddy got to join us. The walk follows the Virgin River for 1.5 miles up the canyon. The views were spectacular and the color of the river extremely unusual. However we were both a bit discouraged because it is packed here. I looked online and Zion National Park is the 3rd most visited National Park, and you can tell.
The following day we decided to bike up the canyon (they do not allow cars and have shuttle buses that you need to make a reservation). It is the perfect way to see the main valley and we loved the views we had. Part way up the canyon I noticed the my left bike pedal crank had a crack in it and my bike was wobbling as I pedaled. We pulled over at the next pull out which was the Court of the Patriarchs and locked up our bikes and went for a hike. It was one of those blessing in disguise. After being in the crowds, we ended up on a gorgeous trail with almost no one on it. The trail ended up taking us to Zion Lodge where we had a coffee while staring at the view. Fortunately we returned to the bikes and it was almost all downhill so I could pedal with just my right leg and get back to town where I found a bike shop to repair my bike.
During the afternoon we decided to take a drive off the beaten path up the Kolob Terrace Road. We wound our way up to some beautiful views and no crowds. The sun was setting on the rock formations which provided some great lighting and strong shadows. I was hoping to paint, but there wasn’t enough time.
Our words of wisdom for anyone coming to Zion is to bike up the canyon for the scenic views. You can rent bikes and e-bikes in town. The crowds of people here are unreal, and because of that, we weren’t able to get tickets for the shuttles and the lines to get on the shuttles were immense. Now that I had a functioning bike, we rode the 8 mile ride up the canyon. It was a great bicycle ride, not too difficult, and the views were breathtaking. We were able to stop and take advantage of all the viewing spots and really enjoy the scenery. We were very fortunate to have fantastic weather.
The canyon narrows as you get farther into it until the road ends and all that is left is “the narrows” where the river has carved out space between the shear cliffs.
After hiking into the narrows and then biking home we watched the sunset on the mountains outside our door and I painted the scene. It was nice to have a cool beer while painting and show a few of the kids from the next door RV a bit of live painting.
The rock formations in view from the Airstream glowed as the sunset and I tried to achieve that feel in this painting. I wasn’t 100% satisfied with the outcome and lay in bed that night thinking of ways that I could have made it better. So I painted it again the following evening with a few changes. First, I decided that a more horizontal canvas might work better for this scene. I also painted a warm color (burnt sienna) over the canvas and let it dry so that the warmth would come through instead of starting with a white background. Additionally, I mixed the colors in the palette for most of the larger masses prior to starting the painting so that I could evaluate their relationships before going to far in the painting process. Which painting do you prefer?
For the last day our original intention was to hike to Angel’s Landing which is a strenuous hike I had done years ago and is one of the pinnacle hikes for Zion. Unfortunately we were not able to get a ticket for the shuttle so that ended that plan. For plan B we decided to drive over to the Kolob area of the National Park which is about 45 minutes from the main park. This section is known for it’s red canyons but both of us felt that this side trip is probably not worth it unless you happen to passing by this entrance. The overlook at the end of the 5 mile road was beautiful, but after having been in the main park it did not add a lot to the experience.
In the afternoon I decided to ride my bike back up the canyon to the Lodge so that I could hike to the Upper Emerald Pools. It was a glorious warm afternoon for the ride. This hike is a fairly popular hike so that trail was fairly packed but it was interesting to see the pools of water that shed out of the sheer rock formations and then form waterfalls to various levels.
We left Zion early in the morning and drove through the east exit up through the Carmel Valley Tunnel. The tunnel is 1 mile long and was built in 1930 and is one of the darkest tunnels I have driven through with small light openings periodically with fantastic views (but you can’t stop to really enjoy them). The drive up to the tunnel was great as well as exiting out the east side of the park with extremely different topography. The rock formations on this side were smoother, more like the side of seashell.
Next stop is Bryce!
February 28 to March 25, 2021
We have been on the road for almost a month now, and this trip is being divided into 2 sections, with the first month for skiing, and the second month for going to the National and State Parks of Utah.
We spent the first two nights in nearby Lyons so that we could meet the renters of our house and get them situated. After that we headed up to Summit County, Colorado and stayed in the only RV winter camping spot at Tiger Run in Breckenridge. The campground was very nice and had some cute tiny homes with good access to the Colorado Trail to hike with Buddy, and close enough to the ski resorts. We spent 3 days skiing at Copper Mountain (our old stomping grounds and the location where Ross and I originally met). It was great to be back there and ski with a few friends. We then continued West and stopped for an afternoon of skiing at Aspen. We were fortunate to have some great snow and warm temps. Continuing farther West, we spent the night in Silt, CO so that I could drop of some art products of at Sopris Alpaca Farms.
While driving on some of our longer sections we were listening to some podcasts and started discussing how to make The Streaming Artist Blog a better website for art followers. So I am going to try and give more art tips and insights to painting. If you have any suggestions or thoughts that you would like me to address, please let me know.
Since the first few weeks of our trip involved a lot of skiing and snow, I thought it might be a good time to discuss painting winter scenes. There are obvious challenges to painting in the winter like being cold. Standing still for a few hours definitely means cold hands and feet. So I generally wear my heavy snow boots and warm socks as well as have some mittens with cut off fingers so that I can wipe paint etc. The cold temperatures also means that the paint tends to dry slower so depending on the affect that I am trying to achieve, it could influence my painting.
One of the important things that I am always trying to work on and instill in my students is to really look at the lighting of the scenes while out in nature. Lighting in reality is very different than in a photo. Try taking a photo outside, and then look at it side by side with the actual scene. You will see that the colors are almost always off, and the shadows show up as completely black. So when I am looking at a snowy scene, I like to look at the snow and see what colors I see. Our brain is trained to think snow is white and shadows are grey/black, but if you look closely you will see blues, violets and colors from surrounding objects reflecting in the snow.
I was hoping to paint a few snow scenes so that I could show you some examples but that never happened so you will just need to trust me on that and try some of my suggestions.
On our way to Salt Lake City we stopped at Huntington State Park and had it all to ourselves. We awoke to a beautiful morning, and the reflections in the thawing lake at Huntington enticed me to paint. I set up my easel and the weather started off so warm that I was painting in short sleeves. Within 30 minutes the winds kicked up, and the reflections in the lake were gone! My whole reason for painting vanished. Within the hour the winds were so strong that I was freezing, holding my easel with one hand while painting with the other hand. Just another reminder of why plein air painting is so difficult. I ultimately decided to pack everything up and head inside to get warm. I’ll have to finish that painting inside at a later date……
The next week or so we spent basing ourselves in Salt Lake City so that we could ski Alta, Brighton and Solitude Mountains. We were fortunate to have a few fresh snow days which made the drive up the canyons so beautiful.
We then moved up to Park City to ski at Deer Valley. We enjoyed the skiing but to be honest with you we don’t love the layout of the mountain since the ski lifts seem to congregate in a few locations and it makes for a scary mess to get into the right line. Buddy and I did have a few great hikes one of which was on the mountain behind our RV spot. The views were great overlooking the valley until Buddy came running up to me with a deer leg in his mouth. I suppose we were in the Deer Valley Area…..but then I realized it also probably meant there was a mountain lion nearby so we hoofed it out of there (no pun intended).
Our final ski destination was Powder Mountain so we based ourselves out of Ogden UT. It is fun to see all these different locations while skiing various mountains. We were fortunate to get in some great skiing while also having warmer weather in the valley below. On a few of our ski days off, we also did some hiking, and played some golf. The backdrop of the mountains made for some breath taking views.
Unfortunately, after a few great hours of skiing some fresh powder at Powder Mountain I had a stupid fall and landed on my right shoulder. Fortunately, it appears it is only a sprain and hopefully I will be able to paint soon.
Very little painting was done on this portion of the trip with the exception of the start of a new dog portrait. It is amazing how quickly days fly by when you walk a dog, ski and then come back to cook, clean up and do a few work items.
Hopefully, our next month in spring weather surrounded by beauty will lead to some more artistic pieces.
As we start our journey back home we were watching the weather closely to figure out what days would be best to drive into Colorado without snow. Based on what we could see, there were some warmer days coming, so we decided to spend a few days at Dead Horse Ranch State Park outside of Sedona. It is ironic because about a year ago we were in Dead Horse State Park in Utah. What is it with this name? It was a great stop over with a nice campground. Our first afternoon after we got set up, had a very cold rain blow in. It made for a perfect afternoon of blogging and catching up on emails.
The following morning, we awoke to a beautiful sunrise and a dusting of snow on the hills around us. We decided since it was cold out that it would be good to drive up to the town of Jerome. We had no expectations except that we knew it was historical. What a fascinating place it was. It was an Italian hillside town, meets Ward, CO (a small town near Boulder with old buildings and abandoned cars) with a touch of charm, history and funk.
For me, as an architect and an artist, I was fascinated with the buildings that had charm but looked like they were barely standing. There were building facades left standing with no building attached, there were foundations and remnants of buildings from the past now on empty lots, as well as some newly restored buildings. Fortunately for us, we were there early before the crowds of tourists arrived, and were able to walk the narrow hilly streets before it turned into tacky tourist land.
Jerome originally was a mining town for copper and gold and there was lots of mining memorabilia around town as well as historical markers on buildings. I had a field day taking photos and am thinking that I might need to do a watercolor painting series of the rusted out and run-down buildings and cars. For me, watercolors are the perfect medium for that type of subject matter. We were fortunate that the sun was shining while we were there, and had fantastic views of the Verde Valley below with the light shining on the red rock formations of Sedona.
We descended from Jerome and stopped at another surprise National Monument. Tuzigoot National Monument is an old restored Pueblo. It was a quick stop and interesting but after seeing places like Mesa Verde National Park this felt a little bit unimpressive.
Our drive back to the campground took us through the old section of Cottonwood which was very charming. We stopped and walked the main street and enjoyed a few of the shops. It appears that this is also a substantial wine region with several tasting rooms. Both of us are perplexed by that since we haven’t seen a grapevine growing anywhere nearby. Unfortunately the tasting rooms are mostly closed due to Covid, so we will have to find out more about that later.
We moved into Sedona and stayed on our new friends property on the edge of Sedona. It was a peaceful setting and a great place to spend a few days.
The afternoon that we arrived, I headed out to paint with Susan and Jeff (my new plein air friends) to paint Cathedral Rock. It was a fantastic afternoon with great sunlight and the scenery in Sedona does not disappoint.
Our second day in Sedona was very cool and cloudy so we decided not to paint. We started our morning with a hike behind our friends property with some nice views, and even Buddy thought it was fantastic when he found a rubber chicken!
Ross and I then headed out in pursuit of the wine region. We finally came across some vineyards and decided to stop at an open winery for a tasting. It was a lovely spot, and we were fortunate that the sun came out for awhile. We enjoyed the wine and some snacks for lunch and were pleasantly surprised, but not excited enough to buy any wine.
From there we headed into Sedona where we were overwhelmed with the amount of tourists in town. We couldn’t get parking anywhere and the town was packed. So we headed back to our temporary home where I touched up my painting from the day before and Ross played guitar. We then spent the evening having a lovely quiet dinner with our new friends.
New Years Day was a glorious sunny day so we headed out to Crescent Moon Park for a big day of painting where we worked on two paintings. I’ve been finding it overwhelming and difficult to paint these rock formations. They are extremely intricate and I find my self getting lost in the details. I am beginning to realize that it would be better for me to get the massed shapes in and then work my way into the detail by adding shades and shadows. By the end of the day I was exhausted but love the learning and painting growth.
The next morning, we got up early since we had a long day of driving ahead of us. We were greeted with a beautiful sunrise in our window and then as we were driving out of Sedona the hot air balloons were rising. A beautiful way to end our trip.
The next two days were long drives that ultimately landed us back in Boulder. It gave us a lot of time to reflect on the trip and talk about our favorite moments, locations etc. We ended up being gone for 83 nights, driving 7250 miles and creating lots of new paintings. Our biggest trip yet, and a fantastic way to travel during Covid and see parts of the United States.
Until our next adventure here is the last sunset of that trip and a photo of Buddy wondering when we are going to be home.
Happy New Year to you all! Live your life to the fullest and enjoy each day as it comes.
Our first morning in Arizona we spent playing golf at Sundance Golf course (another fabulous Harvest Host location) in Buckeye (near Phoenix). It was another difficult golf course and it happened to be a cold morning so it was a little bit tough.
We then drove to Tucson and to set up camp at Catalina State Park which is absolutely gorgeous. We arrived as the sun was setting and the light on the mountains was spectacular.
We planned to be there for 5 nights so I was already anticipating getting some painting in, when a woman approached (after seeing the Streaming Artist decal) and told me that she also did plein air painting. We made plans to paint the following morning. I awoke to a beautiful sunrise which unfortunately turned into a cloud cover grey sky with flat light. We went out to paint anyway and started off blocking in the painting and then finally the sun came out. The timing was perfect for painting for finishing the painting.
After a few hours of early morning painting I picked up Ross and Buddy and we went for a hike into the hills to some beautiful vista points.
The following morning was chilly so I decided not to paint, and instead we decided to drive to Mt Lemmon Ski Resort. The drive (once we got through all the suburbs of Tucson) was spectacular. We climbed from 3000 ft to 8000 ft in about 20 miles. What was amazing is that we passed through 6 different vegetation zones. We started off in the Sonoran dessert with lots of cactus, next was the semi-desert grasslands, then into the Oak Woodland and Chaparral up to the Pine Oak Woodlands to the Ponderosa Pine and ultimately up into the Mixed Conifer Forest. The geology also changed significantly from flatlands, to rolling hills, up through rock formations that are known as hoodoos, and eventually up to the peak to a small ski resort. The short drive took a few hours due to all the twist and turns but it was worth it to see the fantastic views and experience the differences in vegetations and geological zones.
We made it back in time for the Magic hour of light for painting. Ross headed off to a golf course and I spent the next few hours painting the spectacular Pusch Ridge rock formations with great lighting.
We spent our few days at the park hiking in the morning, riding bikes on the Loop trail which follows the wash areas (the area designated for water flow), painting and golfing.
We headed a little farther south for a few days because the campground was already full. We spent one day in the Green Valley area at another golf Harvest Host location. We played 9 holes at San Ignacio Golf club and really enjoyed the course. We were graced with the presence of some Javelinas on the course. I’m sure for the locals it is like us seeing deer or geese, but we enjoyed it.
Our next stop was a town called Tubac which was a pleasant surprise. As we drove in, we literally were stopped by the Christmas Dog Walk Parade with the local dogs dressed in Christmas outfits and a golf cart playing Christmas tunes. We pulled over quickly and joined the parade.
After the “big” parade we walked around town, which is filled with art galleries, boutiques and plenty of tourist shops. The architecture of the buildings was primarily the historic old buildings that had been renovated and/or some newer architecture that was tastefully done to fit in. I loved the town although it was a bit touristy.
Tubac is the first town in Arizona that was established by the Europeans in 1752. We did walk part of the Juan Baptista de Anza trail which was part of the historical trail that led the explorers and missionaries from here to San Francisco. 4 miles South of Tubac is the Tumacacori National Historical Park with the original Church that was built in the 1700’s and has been slightly restored and maintained so that it does not fall into further disrepair. It was an interesting spot but I wouldn’t recommend going out of your way to see it.
After the mission we drove further south almost to the border of Mexico to drive a scenic route through Arizona’s wine country. The scenery was beautiful and certainly less filled with cactus, but not exactly wine country in my eyes. Arizona is an a severe drought and it shows. We ultimately pulled into our next Harvest Host location, Sonoita Winery, and we were surprised to feel like we were in a Savannah. We had wide open vistas of golden grasses which led into rolling hills and then into the surrounding mountains. I was able to paint a quick sunrise on the valley.
Unfortunately, the winery was closed because of a death in the family so we were not able to taste the wine. We were also really curious to hear how this family decided that this location was a good location for a winery and what the wine would taste like. I’m not sure where they even get the water for their vines. The sunset was glorious though which made for a great way to end the day.
We got up to watch the sunrise which was beautiful and I did a quick watercolor of the mountains with their shadows and golden grasses.
We made our way to Saguro National Park (the Eastern section since there are 2 sections) which was fantastic. As we were driving in we noticed a lot of cyclists and then quickly realized why. The park has a one way driving loop of 8 miles that goes through beautiful scenery. So we drove in and found a place to park. I unloaded my bike and did the ride which ended up being quite hilly but worth it. I loved every pedal of it. I was humored by a few of the road signs…..
Ross and Buddy stayed at the airstream where Ross played guitar and serenaded the cactus. Once I returned, I pulled out my easel and painted the scene outside the Airstream. There is something about the Saguro Cactus that is very appealing. They all seem to have a personality.
Because I was painting along the side of the road with the Airstream and The Streaming Artist logo we had a few people who stopped to say hi. One of them happened to be a couple that was already following my blog so I was extremely happy to meet them and exchange information.
I packed up the easel just as the sun was setting and finished the driving loop in glorious lighting.
The following day we ended up meeting up with a friend who was in town from Boulder and we hiked Ventana Canyon. It was a hot day, full of sunshine and glorious views of the rocks and cactus. It was fun to hike with a friend from Boulder and catch up on some of our “normal” life. Then we had wonderful early dinner sitting on a patio basking in the sun and looking at the mountains. It is easy to see why people winter in Arizona.
We moved back to Catalina State Park to spend a few more days there. It is nice to have a little familiarity with an area. We hiked, biked and painted and met some other fun campers. Catalina State Park seems to be a very special place that lots of the campers come back to. It was fun to see how many people decorated their campers and their spaces with lights etc. Next year we will need to come more prepared over the holidays.
We moved from Catalina State Park to Kartchner Caverns State Park for a few days. The Caverns are rated as some of the best in the US, unfortunately we could not get in, so we may need to return. We did enjoy the campground, did a little painting and a great hike.
One day while I was painting at Catalina State Park I had a few people stop by. Two of the people were fellow artists so we chatted for awhile, and they invited Ross and I to come to Sedona to paint with them. We decided to change our route home and next stop is the Sedona area.
We hope you all had a great Holiday and are wishing you all a Happy New Year!