Monday, June 23, 2014

Field Studies and Paintings on Utah's Grand Staircase Geology Trail - Part 1

Roland Lee painting Thor's Hammer along the trail below the rim at Bryce Canyon National Park. It's amazing how many people want to stop and look over your shoulder when you're painting on the Grand Staircase Escalante trail or in Bryce National Park. This photo was taken by an oriental tourist who insisted on having his picture taken with me. 
In the next few posts I thought I'd show a few of my sketchbook field notes, drawings and location paintings from last week's research trip along the Grand Staircase in Utah. I've been painting the Utah landscape for many years, but it was fun to make the trip with a couple of geology professors. It was like having my own living "on-site" Google reference. Any time I had a question I could just ask and they would tell me. And I had lots of questions. Of course their perspective is about the geologic details, and mine is all about the light and shadow on the landscape. Theirs is about accuracy and mine is all about artistic license. So it was a fun pairing. We had a blast together.
    These studies were done in Bryce Canyon. Of course Bryce is not in the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (since it is its own national park), but it showcases the Pink Cliffs of the Claron formation on the geologic Grand Staircase, and is probably the must stunning and well-known spot on the route. We spent one whole day here.

My on-location sketchbook study of Thor's Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park
My on-location plein air painting study of Thor's Hammer in Bryce Canyon National Park
My outdoor plein air painting box made by Sienna holds all my paints, brushes, and paper and sits atop a tripod. It can be set up in minutes anywhere I want to paint. Even on the trail in Bryce Canyon National Park. On the pochade box is my watercolor painting of Thor's Hammer. 140 lb. Arches watercolor paper and Daniel Smith watercolor paints.


Friday, June 20, 2014

Sketching and Painting the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

Artist Roland Lee making a sketch in his field book on a research trip of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Photo by Dr. Robert L. Eves
What a week! Nellie and I enjoyed four days traveling the backroads of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument taking in the sites, studying the geology of the region, and making sketchbook studies and plein air paintings. Now that's what I call a fun week all in the name of work. We were joined by Nellie's sister Tricia and husband Dr. Robert Eves, and his colleague Dr. Larry Davis--both geology professors. Our goal was to retrace the steps they took in producing a road guide to the Grand Staircase geology about 12 years ago, and update it with illustrations and original artwork. That's where I came in. They provided the geologic information and I provided the artwork. We hope to have laid the foundation for not only an update of their previous road guide, but possibly a new guidebook aimed at simplifying the geology of the Grand Staircase for artists and photographers.
Roland Lee, Professor Robert Eves and Professor Larry Davis at LeFevre Overlook on Highway 89A. From here you can see all the geologic layers of Utah's Grand Staircase which extend northward for 150 miles from Grand Canyon to Bryce Canyon.

From LeFevre Overlook we survey the landscape we will cover over the next few days.

Dr. Robert L. Eves and Dr. Larry Davis discuss the development of the sandstone narrows of Willis Creek on the Skutumpah Terrace section of the Grand Staircase in Utah. Photo by Roland Lee


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Painting the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument

We will be traveling the incredible scenic backroads of Utah for the next three days as I explore and paint the geologic wonders of the Grand Staircase. I will be traveling with two noted geology professors, Robert L. Eves from Southern Utah University and Larry Davis from the College of St. Benedict, St. Johns University as they work on a research project. My job is to tag along, try to learn something, and paint what I see. I kind of envision myself in the role of artist Frederick Dellenbaugh accompanying John Wesley Powell on his early explorations, but I think I might be over-glamorizing things a bit, since we will spend our nights in motels. Anyway, I am excited to get to go exploring in the land that I dearly love with like-minded individuals. Hopefully I can post some of my sketches soon. We will start near Kanab in Johnson Canyon, head north to Bryce Canyon area, and end at Escalante, covering over 275 million years of geologic history in a few days. Amazing!
This awesome illustration by Dick Beasley shows the grand staircase from the Grand Canyon to Bryce. 275 million years of geologic history are laid bare for the visitor to see.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Hitting the Road in my Rolling Studio

Primitive camping at Sand Hollow Reservoir with my 1992 Six Pac Super Mini Camper and classic 1988 Toyota 4 x 4 pickup
Some people may call it vacationing, but for an artist any trip into the country is a chance to sketch and gather painting reference material. That's just what I did last week and this week with research trips to Snow Canyon and Sand Hollow Reservoir. My little Six Pac Super mini camper makes it easy to be on location for those great morning sunrise and evening sunset images. I have the camper outfitted with my plein air painting supplies, and everything I need to stay on location a couple of days at a time. My classic 1988 four wheel drive Toyota pickup is the perfect offroad rig as well, with its high clearance, off-road tires, and small footprint.
Six Pac Super Mini Camper on a 1988 Toyota pickup. Just the right size for off-roading.

My painting rig on the Beach at Sand Hollow Reservoir near St. George UT


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Watercolor Workshop for the Dixie Watercolor Society

Michelle Manriquez opened her beautiful home and studio for a special fund-raising workshop for the Dixie Watercolor Society. Roland Lee agreed to teach the workshop and donate all fees back to the organization to sponsor their upcoming projects. I chose a potpourri of subjects and techniques for this "best of" workshop presentation. Fortunately all the participants were seasoned artists and brought lots of ideas and strengths to the table, making it a fun experience for all of us. This will be my last workshop until winter 2014-15.








Monday, May 12, 2014

Plein Air Painting Workshop Day Two - Zion National Park


The Court of the Patriarchs in Zion National Park provided ideal subject matter for a day of painting outdoors. Artist Alice Robinson enjoyed painting from her perch on a fallen log. 
Our second day of the plein air workshop featured some serious outdoor painting in one of nature's most spectacular locations - Zion National Park.
     We carpooled from St. George, arriving at Zion Park by 9:30am. The day was perfect with a light cool breeze and big fluffy clouds drifting across the landscape. We boarded the wonderful shuttle and started up Zion Canyon, getting off at the Court of the Patriarchs. A short walk took us to one of my favorite spots along the Virgin River, where a series of wide waterfalls interrupt the slow, steady flow of the meandering river. Above us, stood the massive peaks of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, named for the Bible prophets. The roar of the falls created perfect background music while we painted. I first did a demonstration painting of "Mount Moroni" with its sharp jagged peaks and pointed out how value, temperature, and detail are affected by the direction of the sun on the surfaces.
     By noon we had enough work completed for a friendly critique and art show as we lined our paintings up along side a fallen tree trunk. It was exciting to see the different interpretations. We boarded the shuttle back to our cars and drove in to Springdale for lunch. The afternoon was spent visiting the LaFave Gallery and painting from their park-like grounds. Our subject matter there ranged from large rocks and cactus clusters, to the big cliffs above, to an old panel truck which sits rusting on the premises. By the time our second day ended, we had a healthy body of work under our belts and a greater understanding of the challenges and rewards of plein air painting!
Dixie Stoddard and Margo Cook paint along the Virgin River

Mark Rose is a veteran outdoor painter who came all the way from Idaho to take the Roland Lee workshop

Connie Madsen hurries to bring her masterpiece to our outdoor critique as we lined paintings up along a fallen tree trunk

Painting from the park-like grounds of the LaFave Gallery in Springdale Utah at the mouth of Zion National Park



Plein Air Painting Workshop Day One - Red Cliffs of Kayenta Near Ivins

Outdoor painting workshop posing at the Ivins Reservoir. Back Row: Alice Robinson, Marsha Owen, Kelly McKelvey, Paulette Triplett, Mary Brown, Mark Rose. Front Row: Connie Madsen, Cindy McGregor, Dixie Stoddard, Sally Valiton, Margo Cook.
We were all tired by the end of two days, but we packed in a lot of plein air painting at the Roland Lee Plein Air watercolor workshop last week.
     After a short orientation session and Powerpoint presentation at Passion for Painting Studio, we carpooled out to the Kayenta area near Ivins, Utah to start our outdoor painting efforts. I began with a quick watercolor demonstration using the brilliant red cliffs and amazing views as my subject. My goal was to give the artists a few tips on capturing the fleeting and constantly changing shadows on the cliffs. They were eager to learn, and picked it up quickly, moving on to their own paintings.
     We took a noon break with lunch at Kayenta's Xetava Restaurant, viewed the artwork at the Datura Gallery then went to work again in the beautiful desert gardens adjacent to the art village. Some chose cactus flowers and others keyed in on the native flowers as we once again worked on capturing light and shadow. We finished the day with a visit to the spectacular Ivins Reservoir where we gathered for a group shot.
The Red Cliffs of Kayenta were spectacular against the vivid blue sky and billowing clouds

Cindy McGregor hard at work

Mark Rose, Margo Cook, and Dixie Stoddard each chose different vantage points

Marsha Owen traveled from Arizona to participate in the Roland Lee plein air workshop

Sally Valiton is a seasoned artist from Ridgecrest California

Alice Robinson works among the Desert Marigolds

Mark Rose happily works on his painting in the Kayenta Art Village desert garden

Cindy McGregor is ready to go

Paulette Triplett has a comfortable set-up

Roland Lee painted a cluster of yellow desert flowers

Dixie Stoddard looks relaxed as she works on a painting of cactus flowers

Dixie Stoddard's brilliant little study in watercolor

Connie Madsen found a shady spot in the Xetava Gardens at Kayenta Art Village
Mary Brown painting in the garden at Kayenta Art Village
Kelly McKelvey looking content and happy as she paints in Kayenta Art Village's garden

Monday, May 05, 2014

Utah Plein Air Painters Show and Paint-out Hosted by Fibonacci Gallery

The Plein Air Painters of Utah gathered in St. George May 4 for a special paintout and show at the elegant Fibonacci Gallery in St. George Uah. After a morning of plein air painting amid St. George's beautiful landscapes, a group of about 10 artists set up their easels outside the gallery. Collectors watched as each artist painted a piece between 3pm and 6pm, then had a chance to bid on the paintings during a silent auction. Each artist also displayed about five other originals inside the gallery, including both plein air and studio paintings. I was fortunate to have acclaimed artist Bev Doolittle stop by and purchase one of my original plein air watercolor paintings of "the Sentinel" at Zion. It was a surprise and certainly an honor.

Artist Roland Lee (left) with Fibonacci Fine Art Gallery owner Dr. Rob Benson at the Plein air Painters of Utah show
Among the artists participating were: Kimball Warren, Susette Gertsch, Steve McGinty, Steve Stauffer, Rob Colvin, Dianne Turner, Rebecca Hartvigsen, Josh Clare, Frank Huff, and Laurie Eskelson.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Art on Wheels, My New Travel Studio

Six Pac Super Mini Camper and Toyota 4 x 4
My new Six Pac Super Mini camper traveling art studio on location at Arches National Park
It's not really new--in fact I would call it pure vintage--but it is going to be my new studio on wheels. Nellie and I took a trip to Moab last week to pick up this sweet little ride. We purchased it from a great couple who have owned it since day one, and used it to explore the deserts and canyons around the southwest. They since upgraded to a beautiful new rig and reluctantly said goodbye to this little Toyota 4x4 and Six Pac Super Mini Camper. I'm hoping to infuse some new life in it as a travel studio. The camper has just enough room to handle my painting gear, and enough windows that I can actually paint from inside on cold winter days in the hills. Plus, a wonderful bed for an afternoon nap. I tested it out at Arches National Park and I think it is going to be just right. Two old duffers, still hard at work!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Roland Lee Presents Live Watercolor Painting Demonstration at Snow Canyon

I recently had the pleasure to meet and talk to a wonderful group of people from the Salt Lake city area. The group meets regularly to study various topics, and had asked me to talk about art and give them a live demonstration of plein air painting. I chose a comfortable spot for them in beautiful Snow Canyon, near St. George, Utah and painted while fielding questions about my work. It was an enjoyable experience for all of us. At the conclusion R. Thompson, purchased the finished watercolor demonstration painting and we had prints made of it for all the attendees.
A shady spot in Snow Canyon to watch the Roland Lee painting demonstration

The finished 8 x 12 painting in Snow Canyon was purchased by R. Thompson