Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Pastel Session

When Judy's cousin Bonnie and husband John were here recently, Bonnie and I tried to get out painting one day. Bonnie is an accomplished watercolorist and wanted to try her hand at some plein air red rocks. But, alas, we were having too much fun touring to squeeze that in.
So, instead, Bonnie and I sat down for an indoor pastel session. She had never tried them before and was anxious to do so. We picked a photo of a subject that wasn't too complicated to draw and both did "studies" of the same location on 5x5 pastel paper. As she had never used pastels and I had already done 3, I was the master. Actually, I just took her through the process that Kim took me through to create a quick piece and frame it (thanks, Kim). It was very rewarding to complete something and see the results in a frame. Of course, we could have worked them to death and then not been happy at all with the results.
Here they are. Quite a difference in styles. It is always fun to have several people work on the same scene and see the results. Guess who did which one.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

New Photos

Here are some new photos you might find interesting. No real blog, just photos.

Is this where designs for Navajo rugs come from?

Mike Noble had to get in some exercise in Monument Valley

Pam and Judy help me get over a major hump on the Broken Arrow trail.

This view of the Little Colorado River Gorge was impressive.
Here is the first view of the Grand Canyon from Desert View.

Bonnie needs some help getting the close-up shot in the Canyon.

Close up view of the Grand Canyon (sorry about the wind noise in the video)

Road to "Nowhere". The back road to Jerome from Williams, AZ.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Turkey Butt(e)

Friday, we went out with Bill and Sarah on a search for the fire lookout at a place called Turkey Butte. According to our topo maps, this location would give a good overlook of one of the many canyons in the area. To get there, one had to go north to Flagstaff and then come south on backroads. So, we headed to Flag, took route 66 west for a few miles and then went down Woody Mountain road in search of the lookout towers. The first part of the way was on a maintained dirt road. The secondary roads were described as "unmaintained, upaved roads". None of the roads posed a problem for the Jeep or even any SUV. The only problem was when the road turned into a washboard and the Jeep would bounce sideways.

We found the access road to the fire lookout tower at Turkey Butte. It was gated, so we had a quarter mile hike up a steep grade to the tower. At 7500 feet, the air was a bit rare and we were sucking wind. On the way up, we came across an intersting discovery. More on that below. Once at the tower, we were treated to a great view across Sycamore Canyon as well as a view of the Sedona area all the way to Jerome. It was very clear and we could see for miles.
As the travelling was easier than expected, we set out in search of more vistas. Along the trail, we spotted an opening to the right and pulled over and walked to a cliff. What a great surprise. A panaramic view over a rocky ledge toward Sedona. See the photo on the left. We then continued to East Buzzard Point for another terrific view across the canyon to (for those who know the area) Hardings Point and Oak Creek Canyon in the distance. See photo on the right.

We did see a lot of wild life while on this trip. Here are some of the more dangerous critters you could come across.

Speaking of critters, we saw a lot of mule deer, elk and wild turkeys. Some of the mule deer were quite large and one male only had one antler. It really was a place where the "deer and the antelope play". Except for one deer. Above, I mentioned something interesting on the climb to the Turkey Butte lookout tower. On the path up, I noticed in the distance what looked like very white branches sticking up. As we got closer they looked more and more like ribs. Seeing the fur spread all over and the skull and verterbra, we quickly deduced that, sure enough, it was bones. Probably a deer, but it was hard to tell. Most of the body parts were missing. A CSI agent would probably say they were carried away by coyotes. Not sure what attacked the deer, but it was pretty good size as the deer seemed pretty large. The bones were picked clean but the fur looked relatively fresh, so we don't know how long ago the attack took place. Double click on the photo to see the skull and the ribs at the top right.

We kept our eye out for more animals on the drive back. We saw lots of tracks on the road we were on, so we were searching the forest for that one-antlered deer. Judy had spotted most of the animals, so when she told me to stop the Jeep and back up, I figured she saw some more deer. When I didn't see any, I thought she was looking for rocks. But, look below to see what she found along the trail. Not sure what we will do with it, but it makes an interesting souvenir.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Plein Air Painting Postponed

Today, I was supposed to meet local artist Dawn Sutherland to paint at one of the area's many spectacular locations. Dawn is a founding member of the Arizona Plein Air Painters Association. I had met her at the Sedona Art Center and she invited me to go along with her on some painting excursions. She has a gallery in the old high school in Jerome and recently won top awards at the Sedona Art Center and at APAP shows and plein air painting competitions. This is the second time we were supposed to meet, but the weather has been a problem. Today it was overcast and cool, so we bagged it. (The rocks are much better with sunlight and shadows. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.) The artists I've met have been very friendly and welcoming. I was looking forward to painting with Dawn. Oh well, next year.

So, I decided to finish off a painting of one of our friends that we met a few weeks ago on one of our Jeep trips through a local ranch. I also finally broke out the pastels that I bought before coming to Sedona and took a crack at one of the iconic rock formations of the area, Cathedral Rock. Just to prove that I am actually doing something besides abusing my Jeep, here are my latest works.

The pastel is mounted in an Ikea frame (thanks for the idea, Kim) and is about 4 3/4 inches square. Pretty small. I'll try to tackle another one today while I feel inspired. As for my friend, I'll let that one percolate a bit to see if it needs anything before I claim victory.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Southern Utah

On Saturday, we planned to go to Monument Valley in southern Utah with Mike and Pam. The day began auspiciously when we heard that snow was forecast for Flagstaff. We left Sedona in a drizzle but by the time we got half way through Oak Creek Canyon, the rain turned to snow and almost white out conditions at the high point in the canyon. We were driving in the clouds. Once we got past Flag, though conditions improved.
We drove through the Sunset Crater loop again and the Nobles were equally impressed with the mile long field of lava that looked as fresh and craggy today as it must have looked 1100 years ago when the volcano erupted. That is a fascinating place.

But the goal was to get to Monument Valley in the early afternoon so we could take their 17 mile self-guided tour. So we carried on.
We got to the new Navajo hotel called The View . It was aptly named as the view was stupendous. However, it is a new hotel and not quite ready for prime time. The food wasn't great, the service was slow, but the staff was very nice and friendly. All that can be accepted when you take a look at the view from our room in the photo on the right

We drove the Jeep on the loop. The previous time we were here with the Bronchuks, we took a guided tour with a Navajo. This time we did our own tour. The weather changed a lot while we were there. From the restaurant you have a view of the valley from horizon to horizon and can see all different types of weather. A band of snow move in and dropped a white cover on one formation while others nearby were in the sun. Really amazing. Here are just a couple of photos to show what I mean.

I just about filled my camera with shots from Monument Valley, but I won't bore you with all of them (now!).
We had my Utah Off-Road book with us and found a couple of trails nearby that looked interesting. So, after a quick trip back through Monument Valley in the morning we set off to find the John's Canyon trail about 25 miles north. We found the trail easily enough. There is not much out in this part of the country. The dirt road led over a flat mesa where the only other occupants were the cattle grazing. I have a ton more cattle photos now. The book said we would enter the Glen Canyon recreaction park but all we could see was the mesa we were on and cliffs leading up to higher mesas. Until we went around the corner of one of the cliffs and we all let out a collective, simultaneous "WOW!". To our left appeared Glen Canyon, below us. What a sight. The road led right along the cliff at many points that made the ride interesting. Here are just a couple of shots of the canyon. Notice the rear view mirror in the one on the left...

The book also said there were petroglyphs to be found along the route, so we made it our goal to find them. We succeeded and found the etchings on boulders that could be more than 1000 years old. Just laying out in the wilderness.

On the way to actually enter into John's Canyon, we rounded a blind corner and found a herd of a dozen or so cattle in front of us on the road. We crept up on them to kind of egg them on to move out of the way. As there was no place for them to go, up or down, they just walked along the road stopping to look back at us and then continuing until they found a place where they could get off the road. I wasn't sure if one of them might turn and charge us, but we made it safely by.
John's Canyon was also spectacular, as we came in on the canyon floor and looked up at the walls. It went on for miles. We headed back for our next adventure.

We needed gas, so we stopped at a station to fill up and we ate our Easter Dinner at the Shell Food Mart in Mexican Hat, Utah. We enjoyed rice cakes, crackers, peanut butter and some banana bread.

Our last tour, and the last entry in this post, was The Valley of the Gods. This area is north or Monument Valley and just about its equal in beauty. The loop through the valley is an upaved road that is pretty suitable for passenger cars. There are lots of named formations. At different times we had the impression that we were looking at ancient Roman ruins or parts of a cathedral. Parts of Planet of the Apes were filmed there. It was really stunning.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Chihuly at the Desert Botanical Garden

On Thursday, we picked up Mike and Pam Noble at Sky Harbor airport. We decided to take advantage of the trip to Phoenix to take in the Chihuly exhibit at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. This was a fascinating exhibit. Chihuly, a native of Washington state who studied and taught at RISD, has exhibited all over the world. He recently had an exhibit at RISD.

His work is interspersed with the native tree, wild flowers and cacti. The place is very interesting on its own, but was really spectacular with the blown glass. We went late in the afternoon, so there was a lot of good lights and shadows on the glass. They are lit up at night which must really be something. Here are a few photos.

Today we start a forced march of tourism with Mike and Pam. They are only here for a few days so we will cram in as much as humanly possible.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Sycamore Pass Road

Looking for some more back road adventure, Judy and I decided to try some of the "difficult" trails leading toward a place called Sycamore Canyon. The main access to the canyon is from the north. But that would mean going west from Flagstaff, then south. We thought we would take the short cut.

We took the first dirt road we found once we got off the highway and it lead us through a cattle ranch where we were getting up close and personal with a lot of hefty beasts. They seemed to be pretty used to humans. They just turned their heads toward us, stared at us and continued munching away at the sparse grass. We took lots of pictures and I've started a portrait of one of my favorites. Maybe she'll buy it. I think it is a she. It had udders, but also horns. So I guess females have horns on this breed.

We kept going further and further off the beaten path. There were spectacular long range vistas as well as some flowering cactus we came upon.

The trail took us part way up Sugarloaf Mountain. We circled around the back of the mountain and could see a trail winding steeply up the hill, when we ran into a metal gate that blocked the trail. I think we had gone far enough anyway. I needed an excuse to turn back. See Judy scoping out the trail.

The next day, we decided to go again and take Ian McEwan, a friend of Woody and Margaret Flowers, with us. He is here with his wife, Connie, who is on a plein air painting trip. Ian seemed to really enjoy the ride. He is retired from the GM truck division so he was used to rough riding. We drove to a great spot just below the gate. Then we tried to cut across the landscape going through ranches until we could get to a trail that runs along the red rocks, giving Ian a closer look at the formations. At one point we were a bit lost/confused on one of the connecting dirt roads when we saw a UPS truck and asked directions. Yes, a UPS truck was out there deliverying to the ranches. We finally found one of the smaller trails and dove back into the outback and made it through Outlaw Trail and back in time for Margaritas and a great dinner with the painters. It was a very enjoyable afternoon.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Demo at Sedona Art Center

Today, we attended a demo at the SAC given by Jerome artist, Cody Delong I had seen him doing his "plein air" thing during the Plein Air Festival in October and met him the other night at the Sedona Art Center opening for the Arizona Plein Air Artists show. He won best in show, by the way.

Anyway, Cody was doing a 16x20 recreation of a study he had done recently. It was of a winding creek with a small waterfall. The scene had a lot in it. Underwater red rocks, bushes and small trees, bigger rocks on the shore and a background bank with a wooded area beyond that. For this type of work, Cody's approach is to tackle the focal point first. But, to begin with, he uses a charcoal to sketch in the drawing. He took an old paint brush and drilled out the ferrule (?) and inserted a piece of charcoal. That way he could draw as if he was painting. On location, he might use a pencil while in the studio he uses the charcoal.

After roughly sketching in the drawing, he started by laying in the color and value of what he was seeing beneath the water. He did not want to paint the top surface until he had the correct feeling for what was beneath the surface. This started with a warm green in the background, then a cooler green and then a warmer red-ish color for the foreground where one could see the rocks under water. He laid in a dark area which would be at the base of the little falls. He wiped out some of the red area with a paper towel to make the underwater rocks. He'd go back later to add more detail. He feels that by laying blues over the green water gives more interest to the creek instead of starting with blue and adding highlights. It definitely worked.

As he added the blue to the water, he used directional strokes in the foreground to indicate movement in the water. Some of these would be his final stokes. Economy of brushstokes?

He then went to the background and put in a mid-tone gray on top of which he added darks for tree trunks and lights for some of the foliage. He added the river bank in front of the trees and was able to drag wet into wet. He works top to bottom so that he can drag the new layer into what is already there. He is meticulous and takes his time with his painting. He wasn't going to finish the whole canvas, but we got the point. See the photo for how he was approaching his work.

Cody uses a pochade box from . Actually, it is the panel and pallette holder. This attaches to a normal camera tripod. For a panel, he uses a Pintura panel that he primes with liquin and light ochre. He also uses a light coat of liquin to varnish his work when it is dry.

He can fit everything he needs into his backpack as he hikes into the back woods of Arizona in search of something that stikes him that he can put to canvas.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Sedona Wildlife

After going on a bird watch recently and seeing some hummingbirds and seeing some at Taliesin West in Phoenix, we decided to pick up a hummingbird feeder at the local hardware store. I made up a mixture and hung it on a nail on the deck. When a few weeks went by and I hadn't seen any activity, I was about to return it as a faulty feeder. When lo and behold a couple of Anna hummingbirds (at least that is what I think they are) started to show up. There are a pair of them now and they dart in an out during the day. They hit the feeder then buzz off to hide in an apple tree then come back for more. Today, I stood by the feeder and waited for a few minutes til I heard the hum, then looked up and snapped this picture. Pretty Cool, huh! Double click on the photo to blow it up.