Enraptured at Zion National Park

Plein Air Watercolor Sketching as Evening Approaches

The greatest delight which the fields and woods minister, is the suggestion of an occult relation between man and the vegetable. I am not alone and unacknowledged. They nod to me, and I to them. The waving of the boughs in the storm, is new to me and old. It takes me by surprise, and yet is not unknown. Its effect is like that of a higher thought or a better emotion coming over me, when I deemed I was thinking justly or doing right.

Yet it is certain that the power to produce this delight, does not reside in nature, but in man, or in a harmony of both.

Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

Sandi and I rolled into Utah yesterday evening, checked into our hotel in Kanab, and after a restful night’s sleep made two trips to Zion National Park, one in the morning, and again in the later afternoon.

As afternoon stretched into evening, we parked in the eastern part of the canyon and I got out to paint. As I was setting up my easel and staring in wonder at the rocky hillside in front of me, I detected movement. Unable to make out the shape, I used my smartphone camera to go full zoom, and saw what it was: a desert bighorn sheep. Solitary. Stopping to look back at me. I took about a dozen photos as he contined to ascend the rocky slope, pausing frequently to look back at me. I then felt Emerson’s sentiment–I was perceived, accepted, embraced. It was OK that I was in the park. My heart melted as I watched the sheep till he disappeared into the shadows of one of the crags of the rocky landscape. I only wish I had a better camera than my phone to capture his image.

Desert Bighorn Sheep

I was so moved at the sight of the bighorn that I found it difficult to shift gears and paint. I also found it difficult selecting a small piece of the enormous canyon landscape that enveloped me. But I finally began, tentatively, trying to figure out color, texture, contrast, and the accents of the undulating lines flowing across the face of the canyon walls.

First Attempt as the Evening Light began to Fade

As I waited for the first to dry, I took out another sketchbook and did a pencil sketch of the same subject. After the painting dried, I flipped to the next page of my diary and began afresh, this time with a little more confidence.

Second Attempt, before the Light Evaporated

After all these years of plein air sketching, I still find myself grasping for the right words to describe the sublimity of the act of painting on location. The evening was delicious as I stared at the rocky facade, made selections of color, brush, pencil and technique and forged ahead with the task, all the while savoring the sounds of laughing and chattering children in the distance, hiking with their parents and asking a myriad of questions. It was a perfect world. Once I finished the second sketch, Sandi rejoined me after her walk and together we strolled about the terrain where we were positioned, and enjoyed the cool air as the evening began to darken.

Leaving Zion on our return trip, we approached for the third time a pasture where a herd of buffalo gathered. The preceding three times, a dozen cars were pulled over and tourists lined the fence, taking pictures. This time no one had stopped and I decided I needed a closer look.

The cloud of lingering dust was what attracted my attention and made me want to pull over and watch awhile. But when I saw the cow and calf come toward me, enter the pond and drink, I felt my heart melt again, just as I felt when gazing at the bighorn so far away. I took dozens of photos of the pair, then directed my attention back to the herd. I have done very little painting of animals in my past, but I am going to have to give buffalo a try, especially after this heartwarming moment of watching them in the cool of the evening.

Today was totally enchanting. I have never before visited Utah and am so happy to be here for awhile, and grateful for this chance to share with you some of today’s best moments.

Thanks for reading.

I make art in order to discover.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself I am not alone.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: