Seeing Zion in a Different Light

I only planned to stop in Zion for a few days, just long enough to say a quick “hello” to my friends and revisit a few of my favorite places.  I came with my usual “list:” Ride my bike to the end of the road, stopping for soft serve ice cream at Zion Lodge.  See a couple of movies.  Spend time with my favorite cottonwoods along the Virgin River as they turn from green to gold.  And hike at least one trail I’ve never hiked before.    But once I arrived, so did Indian Summer.  The November weather was nothing short of perfect, with warm sunny days and highs in the 70’s, and brisk clear star-filled nights with a “super moon” on the way.   How could I possibly leave?

The Supermoon is on the way!

The Supermoon is on the way!

Towering Temple of Sinawava makes hikers look like ants.

Towering Temple of Sinawava makes hikers look like ants.

Another treat awaited me.  The Plein Air Invitational was underway, this one the “Centennial Edition” in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the National Park Service.  For those followers who might not be aware, “plein air” is a French expression that means “in the open air,” whereby the artist paints outdoors, capturing the natural light of the environment.   Every year during the first full week of November, Zion National Park hosts this event, inviting 24 landscape artists to participate.

Who couldn't find inspiration in Zion with places named "Pulpit Rock?"

Who couldn’t find inspiration in Zion with places named “Pulpit Rock?”

...and "The Great White Throne?"

…and “The Great White Throne?”

For me, inspiration always comes from the golden cottonwoods along the Virgin River in the shadow of Watchman.

For me, inspiration always comes from the golden cottonwoods along the Virgin River in the shadow of Watchman.

During the week, there are daily demonstrations to watch the artists paint as they give a narrative of their process.  There are evening lectures about “Art in the Parks.”  And the event concludes with a “paint-out” during which time all the artists paint on the giant lawn in front of Zion Lodge.   The fruits of their labor are then sold in a silent auction.  To quote the Zion NP website, “Event proceeds go to the Zion National Park Foundation to support important projects in the park including the successful Zion Youth Education Initiative which creates opportunities to bring school children into the park and have a potentially life-changing educational experience.”  One such program is “Concrete to Canyons,” whereby intercity kids from Las Vegas are brought to the park for a three day wilderness experience, often times their first experience in a National Park.

Plein Air Invitational demos, where featured artists paint and lecture in one hour sessions. This work by Linda Dellandre,

Plein Air Invitational demos, where featured artists paint and lecture in one hour sessions. This work by Linda Dellandre, pastel artist.

It's an added treat to attend the events with artists Bobbie and Mark, to hear their insight on techniques, lighting, etc.

It’s an added treat to attend the events with artists Bobbie and Box Canyon Mark, to hear their insight on techniques, lighting, etc.

Mark and Bobbie are familiar with many of the artists at the Invitational.

Mark and Bobbie are familiar with many of the artists at the Invitational.

These 24 artists paint over 300 paintings to be sold to benefit the parks educational programs.  This means not only will they be painting during the organized demos, but if your timing is good, you will also encounter them out “in the wild,” painting whatever scene inspires them.  And what’s not to inspire?   I once said about Hawaii, “If you can’t fall in love while visiting Hawaii, you must be dead.”   I will make a similar claim about Zion.  “If you can’t be inspired while visiting Zion, you must be dead.”

This is Bruce Gomez, also a pastel artist. As you can tell, he is quite an animated painter!

This is Bruce Gomez, also a pastel artist. As you can tell, he is quite an animated painter!

Burce has painted this in only one hour....it will be framed and displayed for the silent auction.

Bruce has painted this in only one hour. Artists will add “finishing touches” later, and work will be framed and displayed for the silent auction.

Here is the finished product. (Excuse light reflections on the glass, but work is now hanging on display.)

Here is the finished product. (Excuse light reflections on the glass, but work is now hanging on display.)

I had the good fortune to make one of these encounters one late afternoon while riding my bike up the canyon road.   At the end of the road at the Temple of Sinawava, I met pastel artist Arlene Braithwaite, standing there all alone looking quite “dwarfed” by the imposing walls on all sides of her.  Everyone is dwarfed in this canyon of red rock skyscrapers, but Arlene even more so. She is not much bigger than the easel on which she paints.  I didn’t realize at the time that she was one of “THE” 24 artists, so I struck up a conversation.

I meet Arlene Braithwaite, pastel artist, while riding my bike to the Temple of Sinawava.

I meet Arlene Braithwaite, pastel artist, while riding my bike to the Temple of Sinawava.

This is Arlene's very impressive "Crayola box." I am in awe...

This is Arlene’s very impressive “Crayola box.” I am in awe…

This is Arlene's work for the final "Paint Out" on the lawn of the Zion Lodge.

This is Arlene’s work for the final “Paint Out” on the lawn of the Zion Lodge.

I remarked how impressive her box of pastels was, spread out on the ground before her. We laughed about our childhood memories of the thrill of getting a new box of Crayolas, all lined up in perfect gradient order. I can still remember the smell of the paraffin, and how in my OCD fashion, I vowed to keep them all aligned in the right order. We talked about the inspiring scenes on all sides of us, when Arlene said something that stuck with me. “The thing I love about being an artist is that it teaches you to SEE!”

This painting was done during Roland Lee's demo on watercolor.

This painting was done during Roland Lee’s demo on watercolor.

I marvel at how much artists are able to complete in only one hour, while lecturing at the same time.

I marvel at how much artists are able to complete in only one hour, while lecturing at the same time.

This is the "finished product" now on display for sale in the silent auction. (Excuse light reflections on the glass, but work is now hanging on display.)

This is the “finished product” now on display for sale in the silent auction. (Excuse light reflections on the glass, but work is now hanging on display.)

This was a bit of an epiphany for me.  From that point on as the week progressed and I attended more and more demos, I began to see edges and angles of light rather than ledges and cracks of stone.  Instead of brown, I saw deep purples.  Red rocks were now “florescent orange” and “quinacridone coral.” I have long been a fan and collector of watercolors, but “pastels” were new to me. I found it fascinating how up close, the painting can look like nothing more than “abstract chalk marks” but from a distance, it’s a compelling landscape.

I began to develop a passion for pigment…

Finished and framed pastel, by Bruce Gomez.

Finished and framed pastel, by Bruce Gomez.

On the final weekend, all artists assemble on the lawn of the Zion Lodge for the "Paint Out." This, by Linda Dellandre.

On the final weekend, all artists assemble on the lawn of the Zion Lodge for the “Paint Out.” This pastel painting by Linda Dellandre.

This artist paints with a palette knife.

This artist paints with a palette knife.

Most impressive was James McGrew. So young with so much talent! His cottonwood trees in this photo were so life-like, you could see each tiny leaf.

Most impressive was James McGrew. So young with so much talent! His cottonwood trees in this photo were so life-like, you could see each tiny leaf.

I’ll never be an artist.  I can’t even draw a decent stick figure.  Believe me, I’ve tried.   But at least for a week, I was able to see a little of what they see…

“Art is not what you see, but what you make others see.” ~Edgar Degas

More inspiration from Zion...would make anyone want to paint!

More inspiration from Zion…would make anyone want to paint!

Supermoon on the rise...

Supermoon on the rise…

Moonrise from Monkey Mesa.

Moonrise from Monkey Mesa.

Red Rocks Revisited

Even though I set my intentions to see “all new things” on my southerly migration this year, there are a few favorite stops that I just can’t bypass, one of which is my favorite state park in the little Snow Canyon just outside of St. George, Utah.

I first visited Snow Canyon while staying at the Red Mountain Resort back in 2006 for Thanksgiving weekend as a “spa getaway.”   I took several of the guided hikes from the resort which sits at the gateway to the state park.  It was my first experience ever hiking slick rock, and my first time to ever hear “trust your shoes.”   I can still remember Continue reading

Cold Feet in Kanarraville

I mentioned in my last post that there were two places I wanted to visit in Kanaraville. The Red Ledge RV Park would provide the best possible position to explore them both. I knew the park was within easy driving distance for the Tracker to make it to Cedar Breaks National Monument. What I didn’t realize is that it would be within walking distance of my second destination, Kanarraville Falls. Continue reading

Livin’ on the Red Ledge

As I start my southerly migration down through Utah this fall, my intentions are to visit some new places I have not been before…places I read about and wanted to see, but the timing or logistics has just never lined up.   Two such places are in close proximity to Kanarraville.   I check the Passport America website to find there is an RV Park right in the heart of Kanarraville…little else…no restaurants, no grocery stores, but right there in the center of the tiny town is the Red Ledge RV Park. Continue reading

Geezers in Great Basin National Park

I recently hit that major milestone all RVers look forward to, the National Parks Senior Pass.  Or as I hoped it was really called, “The Golden Age Passport.”   I’d much rather view life from the “golden age” than that of a “Senior.”   I came to hike over 6 miles at 10,000 ft elevation, which doesn’t make me feel much like a senior, but if that’s what they want to call free admission for life and 50% off of all campsites, Continue reading

Twin Separation at Twin Falls

Don and I part ways temporarily after Craters of the Moon.  I am headed to Boise to see good friends known on this blog as “Tom the Awning Fixer” and his lovely bride Corinne, who graciously hosted me for a bit of Boise driveway surfing and a fabulous dinner.  (No photos, as I all but changed the names to protect the innocent.)  Don went on to wander in the forest, trying to prove J. R. R. Tolkien’s theory that “Not all who wander are lost.”  Or are they? Continue reading

Stranger in a Strange Land

As we leave the beautiful snow-capped mountains of Sun Valley, I tell Don, “Take one last look at that beautiful snow, as we won’t be seeing that again for a long while!  We are headed for the bowels of the earth.”   In just a short, two hour drive along the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway, I am in scenic shock. Continue reading

The Sun Also Rises

So yes, the sun did indeed rise again.  So why don’t I feel better?  I will not allow hate, racism, xenophobia or bigotry into my life. Whomever resides in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not First Cause to my experience. (Insert safety pin here.) Enough.

I have written often about the beauty of Idaho’s Scenic Byways, and the Sawtooth Scenic Byway has to be the most beautiful of all!   As we head out of the Sockeye Campground and turn south through the Sawtooth Valley Continue reading

Solitude in the Sawtooths

As suspected, the Stanley Visitor Center in “downtown Stanley” is closed for the season. I ask one of Stanley’s 63 residents, a handsome man next door doing some carpentry, if he knows of any campgrounds in the area that are still open. He directs me down about a mile out of town to the lovely Stanley Ranger Station for the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Much to my relief, the Ranger explains that are several campgrounds still open. Continue reading

Stanley or Bust!

After reading friend’s blog posts all summer from the Sawtooth Mountains, I have my heart set on seeing that mountain range.  I’ve been planning this route across the Banner Summit and down into Stanley for months.  But the strange weather patterns that pummeled the Northwest coast are now moving across the mountain range, Continue reading