Saturday, April 28, 2012

Cedar Mesa, UT - part I, plein air in Arch Canyon

A trip that defined why I love painting the landscape of southern Utah...

Arch Canyon Spires - plein air, 12x9 inches,  pastel on cardstock
© 2012, S.Johnson
Done on day three of our trip, when our group of four took a hike/trail ride up Arch Canyon, the mouth of which we camped during our stay in the area.  

I never know whether I'll be in the mood to paint, or find a decent location to sit and paint (must be in the shade) when I bring my plein air gear along on hikes.  But, even for the times I've hauled it along and never brought it out, I've never regretted bringing it...just in case.

This particular painting also pushed the envelope of how far I've hiked to paint:  4.8 miles.  I honestly thought I might be too tired to paint; the temps were in the 80's and hiking through soft sand along a Jeep road can wear one out.   Our friends, riding ahead on their horses, found the perfect location for lunch - a sandstone overhang with abundant shade right next to the creek.  And this view.  I could have easily done 3-4 paintings from the exact location.  

For whatever reason(s), this painting came together in a way I couldn't have anticipated, almost surrealistic in how effortless it was.  It is moments like this that cause me to not worry when I have a painting slump, because they often result in a breakthrough of some type - I feel there was one here, but I'm not sure what, why or how it happened.   There's also something about the effort required to obtain these "immersion" plein air pieces that makes them special to me, and this painting is one of the few I'd have a hard time parting with.  


Some photos from the first day and the Arch Canyon hike:

Our campsite, with Jypsi (Paso Fino) and Indy (pinto Tennessee Walking Horse)
in their portable corral 

Cliffside ruins (Anasazi) a short walk up Arch Canyon

This handsome chap - a Collared lizard - posing for a photo during our hike

Ancient granery along Arch Canyon - telephoto shot...

...another photo to show just how inaccessible and high this granery was

Sarah and Jypsi at our lunch location; I sat in the shaded alcove to the left to paint
A wide-angle view of the spires from the creek bed near the alcove

On the way back:  Jypsi demonstrates her rock-climbing prowess while Todd and Indy look on

A look back up the trail on the afternoon hike back


  1. one of my favorite areas to camp and ride, every direction is wonderful, almost all of it public land.

  2. I always feel alittle envious when I read of your hikes, because it looks like so much fun and I would love to just paint next to you too. :)) I really, really love this piece Sonya. Especially the bits of surface peeking through in the sky.

    ANd yes about the breakthroughs!! I need to remind myself of that mid-slump. :D

  3. Sarah - you know it! Thanks again for suggesting we all stay here. It was an amazing trip.

    Crystal - thank you so much. Your thoughtful and sweet comments always make me smile :). One of these days we shall have to paint together, because I'd love to do that as well. Yes, yes - DO have faith that the painting slumps are just a breather before stepping up to the next level!


Your thoughtful comments add value to this blog - thank you so much for taking the time to leave them!

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