Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Wilfongs Arrive

This week, Judy's cousin, Tom Wilfong and his wife, Peggy, are enjoying the sites of Sedona. Tom, Peg and their two daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth visit us every Thanksgiving and we spend a week together at the OBX, every other summer, so this is a nice change for them to experience the southwest. After a "welcome" margarita, we took them on a ride to a couple of our favorite spots. For example, Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing.

As JeepN and Hiking are big parts of our life out here, we took them on a ride and up some dusty trails. Tom and Peg really enjoyed the Jeep trek across, down and up the Diamondback Gulch. The scenery is just outstanding. Besides the fun of the gulch there are tremendous vistas and views of some of the local wild life.

We've been taking some hikes too. Today, Tom and I did the Upper Chimney Rock trail and encountered a number kids working on the trail as part of AmeriCore. They were doing a great job. While we hiked, Judy and Peg went shopping. The other day, we all took the Little Horse trail. Judy, Tom and I wanted to get to the top of the trail at Chicken Point. Peg decided to catch some rays and wait for us. The views were great from the top. Tom was anxious to tell Peg that there were horses at the top tied to some wooden thing that had branches attatched to it. I guess being from New Jersey, he'd have trouble recogonizing TREES.

Below is one final photo of the Wilfongs on the trail to the Twin Buttes. Remind you of SNL?

Monday, March 29, 2010

Stanton Arizona - Ghost Town

Last friday we took another road trip to check out the old ghost town of Stanton, Arizona. Because Stanton is my middle name, Sarah Sullivan thought it appropriate that we visit that town. The trip got off to an unauspicious beginning in the town of Clarkdale when I saw the flashing lights of an on-coming cop car at the same time I saw the sign for the 15 MPH speed limit. Needless to say, the cop made a quick U-turn and pulled me over. He said I was going more than 20 MPH above the speed limit which meant I could do jail time in Arizona. After he checked me out for priors and saw that my rap sheet was clean he let me go with a written warning. Then he proceeded to comment on the Jeep and he suggested a back road route to Sedona that I should try.

The road to Prescott and beyond was a beautiful trip over the Mingus Mountains and then across Pleasant Valley and over another mountain range. There were tons of switchbacks and great views over the valley. We finally made it to the road that leads to the ghost towns of Stanton, Octave and Weaver. It was a maintained dirt road that passed by herds of cattle and horses.

The town of Stanton has been converted into an RV camp whose owners have stabilized the three remaining buildings and allow visitors. They even left the bullet holes in the wall of the Opera House. Stanton was originally named Antelope Station until Charles P Stanton came along and devised his plan to take over the town and the mining activities. Stanton managed to cause dissension amongst some of the local business owners, got one to kill the other and then the killer was sent to jail (3:10 to Yuma?). So Stanton took over the town, became its post master and named it after himself. That lasted only a couple of years until he was shot for allegedly insulting the sister of a gang member named Cristero Lucero. The town's life span was about 20 years. There are still posted claims for mining in the area and there is a little mining activity among the people living in the area.

From Stanton we tried to find Octave, but it appears that the remnants of the town have been fenced off probably due to some new mining going on. Up the road from Octave is the old town of Weaver. All that remains there is a cemetary full of unmarked graves of miners and claim jumpers along with a delapidated house and some rusted out mining equipment.

It really was a fascinating look and reminder about a time in our country and about the people who settled the west.

Friday, March 19, 2010

3 Days of Plein Air (outdoor) painting

This past week I was able to join Michael Chesley Johnson's Plein Air workshop. As I mentioned last year, Michael runs Mentoring Workshops in Sedona where he provides lodging, lessons and an artistic environment for his students. I was able to join them as a day-student. He had two other students, Merrill from Shutebury,Ma. and Randy fron San Diego. Merrill worked in pastel and Randy and I worked in oils.
On the first morning we meet at Michael's house where he introduces the students to all aspects of painting outdoors, including dealing with the elements, equipment and approach. The most important thing, whether you are just looking for future references or going for a finished product, is to relax and have fun.

The first morning we went to the creek by Cathedral Rock, which you may have seen in previous posts. Michael did a quick demo looking down the creek away from the rock formations. After that we spread out around the area and worked for a few hours. I worked on a similar scene looking down the creek while Merrill and Randy tackled Cathedral Rock. They both did a good job capturing the colors and structure of the formation. I'll post my results when I finish it.

The next day, Michael did a critique of the previous day's work in his kitchen. Very cozy. Then we went to a spot high above Cathedral Rock called the landing area. Michael did a quick demo and then we all found a spot out of the wind to work on our own masterpieces.
On the third day, we met at the library and packed everything into the Jeep for a day of painting and a bit of off-roading. I took the group out to the Diamondback Gulch area as there are some good views of the many of the well known formations, but from the reverse side. After painting for a few hours near the old cattle ramp, we took off on a ride through the gulches. If you remember my post from the first time I took this trail, I'll just say that it comes much easier now. I know the trail and I know what my Jeep can do. I think everyone had a good time and I look forward to taking another group on a ride.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Seeking the Sun

For those of you who may be jealous of the great weather we normally have here in Sedona, I will say that it was so lousy the past number of days that we headed to Tucson to find the sun.
So, Judy, Jacques, Claire and I decided on the spur of the moment to head south. The road from Sedona towards Phoenix is normally very beautiful with great mountain views and plenty of cactus. On Tuesday, it was raining and snowing very hard and the huge semis threw tons of water on our windshield making it difficult to see anything. But once we made it through Phoenix we could see the sky brightening a bit towards Tucson.
From our hotel, we walked to a well known Mexican restaurant called El Charro. The portions were huge and we walked out thinking we would never have to eat again. That thought ended with our free full breakfast at the hotel.
From there we went to one of my favorite places, the San Xavier del Bac Mission on the nearby Indian reservation. This is an absolutely beautiful, white-washed mission that was once the northern most jewel of a string of Spanish missions in Mexico. It has undergone a major restauration by a number of local and international artisans and is in great shape now. It is only a few miles outside of Tucson and is always worth the trip to visit.

Next we found our way to the Sonoran Desert Museum. This is an outdoor combination botanical garden and zoo. It is loaded with all types of plant life and many animals that are indigineous to the area. It was very crowded with a combination of school kids and old timers (I guess we are in the latter group). This "museum" is in the middle of the Saguaro National Park which has millions of those giant cacti that we saw so often in the old cowboy movies. I loved it. Another highlight was a demonstration of the habits of Harris Hawks who are the only raptors that actually live and hunt as families or teams. It was fascinating as well as very informative.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Michael Chesley Johnson Pastel Workshop

On Saturday afternoon, we completed the 2nd half day of a 2 session Intro to Pastel at the Sedona Art Center. The workshop was lead by Michael Chesley Johnson, a well-known and highly regarded artist and frequent contributor to such magazines as Artists Magazine and the Pastel Journal.
This was an "intro" course and Michael did a very good job in explaining the basics without getting too basic. Bonnie and Alexandra were the other two students. All of us had experience with other mediums but we were relatively new to pastels. Bonnie used acrylics and like to paint animals and Alexandra painted on fabric.

Michael spent the first hour or so explaining the different types of paper, use of washes, types of pastels, mounting, framing, storing, etc and answered all of our questions. He also provided numerous resources for any other questions we would have.
For the rest of that session and through the following session, we would paint using Canson paper, Wallis paper with an alcohol wash and, finally, art spectrum paper. This was a very good exercise to give us an idea of the texture of the different papers, how to use the wash and the feel of the soft and hard pastels on the different surfaces.
For each painting we followed his basic process of: Analyze the Shapes, Outline the big shapes on the paper, Block in the Average color and value, Adjust big colors and values, Establish extremes, Break big shapes into smaller shapes, and Refine and adjust.
I found this to be a very helpful and concentrated workshop. Michael got a lot across in the time frame and we all picked up a lot of information and got started on 3 pastels.
Here are my feeble efforts.

Cabin at Slide Rock Park - I should probably start this one all over again.

Red Rocks - I can probably make some more progress on this. This is the one with the alcohol wash.

Still life - My severest critic, Judy, said, "That pitcher is awful!" Did she mean she was full of awe?