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.
Thors Hammer and Temple of Osiris. Watercolor studio painting by Roland Lee

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