Friday, November 2, 2012

Escalante Part II, and a New Exhibit

6" x 8" Oil on Panel

Tonight (Nov. 2, 2012) a new show opens at the Terra Nova Gallery, "Great Things, Small Packages", and runs through the 28th of December. All works are for sale. Two small paintings of mine are in the show; plein air oil paintings I made in the Wasatch Mountains. You're welcome to come see my paintings and check out the rest of the show! Terra Nova is located at 41 West, 300 North in Provo, Utah. They can be reached at 801-374-0016.

But now it's about time I finished writing about this year's Escalante Canyons Art Festival. You can read part 1 here.

After dropping off my entry for the plein air painting competition and spending some time at the artist' reception, I headed off into the desert to find a place to camp for the night. It seems my usual way to find a place to camp in unknown territory is to drive down some dirt road after dark, then find another dirt road and follow that until I come to a likely spot. This night, I found a nice sandy spot amongst the pinion and juniper trees.

Having made camp, I decided on a night hike. The full moon was brilliant, and there was no need for a flashlight, though I kept one handy in my day pack. The dirt track led to a sandy wash which I followed as it meandered through the expansive desert night. Stars near the horizon seemed to bob and weave as the rising desert air distorted their images. The sand gave gently beneath my steps. As I wandered along the desert wash, my mind wandered many other trails; different kinds of trails which frequently intersected and intertwined with the sandy wash somehow. What else is there that can sharpen the senses and open pathways for the mind like a desert night hike?

Before breakfast the next morning I walked back down the dirt track to the wash. There I saw the footprints I had left in the sand the night before. Superimposed over my footprints were small paw prints - tracks of a small coyote or kit fox that had followed my trail.

Later that day I went back into the town of Escalante. There I signed the painting I'd entered into the show, visited with other painters and enjoyed the exhibit. That evening I went to an entirely different part of the Escalante Desert to camp. After driving several miles down another dirt road, I camped on some slickrock. In all the low spots in the slickrock and in the surrounding sand were thousands of moqui marbles. They were also found embedded in the slick rock and nearby cliffs of Navajo Sandstone. I had never seen these iron oxide concretions in the wild before - and they were in such abundance. I honestly - and maybe irreverently - wished I had brought along a slingshot. Those little round iron and sandstone balls would have made perfect ammo! Instead of doing that, I made the painting shown at the top of this post.

That night, under the stars and full moon, I stood on the elephant-hide-textured slickrock and watched the flood of moonlight wash across the Escalante Desert. Some movement several yards away caught my eye. Something large was flitting around near the tops of some pinion pines. As I watched, a large bird with a wingspan of maybe two feet or more flew toward me. It made no sound as it circled me, slightly above and just a few feet away! I turned to face the silhouetted bird as it circled me one and a half times before it departed into the desert night. Just a curious owl?

Cooking Breakfast
Bath Time, Such as it is, in the Escalante Desert.
The next day was spent exploring mesas and trails, and making a couple more paintings, one of which is shown below. Weather began moving in as the day wore on, making painting challenging as the lighting changed from sunny to cloudy and back again, over and over before changing to scattered rain showers. That evening I returned to the Arts Festival and to the happy discovery that my painting had sold. Afterwards was the long drive home, getting there around 1 AM.

6" x 8" Oil on Panel


Diana Moses Botkin said...

What an adventure and a lovely painting! I think one might want a dog along as a predator deterrent, or in cases of allergy, a side arm.

James Gunter said...

Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Diana. There certainly are risks involved when traveling alone, especially in unfamiliar deserts at night! I do take precautions as best I can, and so far, so good. I see from your blog that you paint outdoors - and you paint many other things, too. I'll have to check out your article about shipping artwork.