Sunday, August 30, 2009

Maynard Dixon Country Plein Air 2009

Nellie and Roland Lee at the Maynard Dixon Country 2009 event sponsored by the Thunderbird Foundation in Mt. Carmel Utah
One of southern Utah's top gathering of artists is the annual "Maynard Dixon Country" event at Mt. Carmel, Utah. Organizers Paul and Susan Bingham were kind enough to send Nellie and I complimentary tickets to the activities held this past week and we really enjoyed seeing old artist friends and meeting new ones.

The historic studio on the grounds of the Maynard Dixon Home and property in UtahThe event is a fund-raiser for the Thunderbird Foundation which operates the Maynard Dixon property as a gallery, art education center, and facility for art workshops, artists gatherings, symposiums, and outreach programs for youth and special needs students. The Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit in existence for 10 years and has involved numerous top-level artists from all over the country.

Daniel Pinkham, Charles Muench, and T. Allen Lawson conduct a symposium at Maynard Dixon CountryArtists Dan Pinkham, Tim Lawson, and Charles Muench conducted a wonderful art symposium in the garden area on Friday afternoon. A standing-room only crowd of eager artists and collectors listened with rapt attention as the artists shared personal experiences and philosophies on "Finding their Painter's Voice."

Wet paint sale at the Maynard Dixon Country show After painting en plein air for several days, the artists' work is displayed in the historic log studio, where eager collectors flooded the display area snapping up their favorite pieces. There were red dots a-plenty by the time the dust settled. Each artist also displayed studio pieces which were for sale in the Bingham gallery during the event.

Artists Carol Johansen and Jennifer Johansen at Maynard Dixon Country gala in 2009Carol Johansen (right) and her daughter-in-law Jennifer Johansen are artists from Mt. Pleasant, Utah. We had become acquainted during the "Footsteps of Thomas Moran" plein air show in Zion National Park.

Maynard Dixon Country 2009 galaDuring Saturday evening's outdoor gala adjacent to the Dixon Studio, attention turned to the Carmel cliffs at "magic hour" when the sun lights them up like neon. It was breathtaking, and provides clear evidence of why Maynard Dixon chose this spot for his home and studio.

Plein Air Painting Workshop with David Koch

Oil painter David Koch conducted a plein air painting workshop this past week in the East Zion, Mt. Carmel area. My good friend Julie Rogers and I were invited to join the group of terrific artists for a paint out on Saturday morning in the hills above Orderville. We enjoyed the comraderie of old friends and met new ones as we watched the sun light up the colorful cliffs above us.

Artist David KochDavid Koch at work on a small study, painting quickly to beat the changing light of morning. David exhibits in the Mission Gallery in St. George along with Julie Rogers and I.

Artist Julie RogersJulie Rogers is adept in many mediums. Although best-known for her pastels, she is a great oil painter as well. She and I have painted together for many years.

plein air painting near OrdervilleI was really impressed with some of the small paintings done in such a short time. Afterwards we all went down to the Maynard Dixon Country show and saw the "Wet Paint" exhibit and sale.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A Once-in-a-lifetime Walk in the Zion Tunnel

Est Temple from the Zion Tunnel by Roland Lee
I was one of 300 lucky ticket holders who were allowed to walk through the mile-long tunnel at Zion National Park last night. As part of the Centennial, they blocked vehicle traffic making it "legal" for the eager participants to walk the length from top to bottom.

Walkers begin to enter the Zion Tunnel during the Centennial Tunnel Walk event
Re-enactment of the way it used to be done hiding from the cars and the rangers in the Zion Tunnel Everyone had different reasons for being there. Some had relatives who built the tunnel. Many remembered being able to stop at the open windows or "galleries" when they were kids and it was okay to do so. Many others just wanted to do something that will probably never be "legal" again in our lifetime. Of course some people (not mentioning any names) participated in the exhilarating and dangerous event of illegal "tunnel-running" in their youth, but they didn't get to see much at midnight.

Pine Creek from the window of the Zion Tunnel, taken legally during the Centennial Tunnel Walk
For me, this was a chance to grab my sketchbook and camera, to capture the unique views of Pine Creek Canyon, and East Temple that are only seen from those windows, and I was amply rewarded. I have sketches, I have photos, and most importantly I have indelible memories. Yep, I feel a painting coming on!

Barbara Aikens and Sandra Sandberg join others looking out the gallery window from the Zion Tunnel
For Zion-lovers the evening was all we hoped it would be. The comraderie was wonderful, the combined enthusiasm was rivaled only be Christmas mornings past, and park service employees and volunteers went above and beyond to make this once-in-a-lifetime event possible. Kudos to everyone.
Walkers approach the west end of the Zion Tunnel

Howard Berkes from NPR interviews Lyman Hafen during the Zion Tunnel WalkNPR's Howard Berkes interviewed participants for the public radio show "All Things Considered." If you listen to public radio you may have heard a quote or two from Lyman Hafen and me.
Link to NPR's Radio program "All Things Considered" with quotes from walkers

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

An Afternoon Stroll in the Watery Zion Narrows

Jock Whitworth hiking in Zion NarrowsWhen I get a chance to hike in Zion National Park I go almost giddy! I had that opportunity again on Saturday after our quarterly board meeting of the Zion Natural History Association, when three of us decided to make a quick jaunt up the Virgin River into the Zion Narrows.

Jock Whitworth, Roland Lee, and David CloveOur intrepid hiking trio consisted of: Jock Whitworth, Superintendent of Zion National Park; Dave Clove, Chairman of the Zion National Park Foundation; and me, famous outdoor enthusiast and sometimes artist.

The day was overcast and slightly threatening, but cool and wonderful as we stepped off the paved river trail and joined a caravan of other hikers ready to slosh their way up-river into the world-famous Zion Narrows.

Hikers in the Zion Narrows at Zion National Park
Hundreds of eager explorers of every age, nationality and physical ability can be seen as the walk begins, donning every type of clothing or non-clothing imaginable. Some are decked in special water boots with wick-dry clothing and UV hats, while others wear just tennis shoes, shorts, and a ball-cap. But this is one hike where everyone gets wet, and hikers need to plan accordingly.

Walking in the water in the Zion Narrows
The water this time of year is mild, but chest-deep in many places, which brings a short gasp the first time hikers drop in. Sometimes the water is quite swift as well which makes negotiating the slippery rocks and boulders a real challenge.

Hikers in Zion Narrows with hiking sticksFor many, a hiking stick provides a "third leg" offering more stability. But regardless, a fall or two is always part of the adventure and scratched knees are a common site.

Roland Lee and Jock Whitworth stand by golden wall at Mystery Falls in the Zion NarrowsA short way into the river, hikers encounter the "Golden Wall" where water continually seeps from the sandstone into the canyon. A sparkling waterfall (Mystery Falls) flows down from Mystery Canyon in the center making a perfect Kodak photo spot. Brilliant green ferns and water plants grow in abundance in the lushest areas along the river.

Huge Boulders line the Virgin River in Zion National ParkIt is hard to imagine the huge amounts of rock and sand moved daily by this river which seems so mild and pleasant as we enjoy its coolness. But as all Zion hikers know, flash floods come frequently and without notice, carving the canyon walls and leaving boulders of massive size in their wake. The evidence is ever-present along the river.

Overnight hikers in the Zion NarrowsFewer hikers are seen the further up-river we get, but here we encounter the more adventurous souls who left early that morning rapelling through Imlay Canyon, or hiking from Chamberlain Ranch to complete the 14-hour one-day trip through the entire narrows. Some spend the night in the canyon halfway making the trip more fun and manageable, but others dislike carrying the gear -- sleeping bags etc. with the mandate of "packing it in and packing it out" that comes with obtaining a permit for that journey. But most people can get the "Zion Narrows Experience" and have tons of fun without the necessity of a back-country trail permit just be doing as we are, walking up-river from the bottom.

Jock Whitworth in Orderville CanyonAs the afternoon winds down we decide to make a short side-trip up narrow Orderville Canyon. Some hikers and canyoneers enter the narrows by rapelling into this canyon which is a nice shorter trip. Of course special canyoneering gear and skills are necessary for that.

On this day Orderville Canyon seems slightly gray. Evidence of the many recent lightning fires can be seen on the sand and walls as ashes and soot are washed downriver.

HIking in Zion Narrows Zion National ParkAfter a short exploration we turn around and reluctantly begin the trek back down the river. The river is the same, but the views change, along with the light, creating a different look and new vistas as we weave through the canyon walls.

Back at the trailhead we say goodbye to the river and share experiences with satisfied fellow hikers who we've come to know along the trail.

family in zion narrows
This family from San Diego comes to Zion every year and photographs their growing children at the same place each trip to record their growth. When the children are bigger and more physically able they plan to do the "Angels Landing Trail" a very dangerous and physically demanding hike, definitely not for kids and those afraid of heights.

Flash flood warning signBut the Virgin River Walk and trail into the Narrows at this time of year is well-suited to most ages and abilities. Remember though, nature is beautiful and inviting but can be cruel for the unprepared and those who do not respect it. Take plenty of water, dress right, and use common sense.

Now we head down the trail to the Temple of Sinawava shuttle bus stop, and a nice ride back to the cars. Another unbelievable day in Zion National Park--aaaaaah, life is good.

The paved Trail from Temple of Sinawava shuttle stop to the Virgin River Narrows
For a great description of this and other Zion hikes with fantastic photographs see Joe's Guide to Zion National Park

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Grant and Joyce Lee Enjoy Their Painting of the Nauvoo Temple

Joyce and Grant Lee with their new painting of the Nauvoo Temple by Roland Lee

Grant and Joyce Lee pose in front of their new original commission painting of the Nauvoo Temple painted by Roland Lee. Joyce used her artistic skills working with the framing shop to come up with a great presentation. They even had a nice metal name plate made for the front.

Click to see a step by step demonstration on this painting

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Four New Watercolor Painting Demonstrations Added to My Website

Kolob Cliff Face Painting of Zion National Park by Roland Lee

I added four new step by step watercolor painting demonstrations to the Art Instruction section of my website. You can follow along as I explain the process of planning and carrying out the paintings from sketches to finished art. Click the links below:

"Kolob Cliff Face" painting of Zion National Park

"The Nauvoo Temple" winter 1845-46 in old Nauvoo

"The Ellis Mendenhall Sanders House in Nauvoo"

"Death Cannot Conquer" painting of the Carthage Jail

I hope you enjoy seeing how I work.