Never at a loss for something to paint, the dilemma/challenge/goal for me was how to capture what I see and what I feel in about an hour!
Pick a spot. Set up my gear. Do a sketch for composition. Add values to capture the light which is changing faster than usual. AND ACTUALLY PAINT! Phew.
For this trip, the gear I brought was intended to be: hardy, small, minimal. I was successful in some areas and not in others :) I recently purchased a small pochade (painting box) called Strada Micro. It is really small, very compact (folds up into itself, side panels stack inside main box) and RUGGED. This was an excellent choice for the river. I usually paint on my openboxM but worried about packing it for the trip because of water + people throwing bags into the boat + people sitting on all the bags on the boat. I also found that I didn't have time to do anything bigger than a 6x8 or 8x10 so the small Micro was just what I needed. I was pretty good too about bringing a limited palette of colors. I added some favorites as well but only brought: Titanium White, Lemon Yellow, Cad Yellow Medium, Raw Sienna, a peach I love, Cad Orange, an Indian Red, Naphthol Red, MH Kings Blue, Cobalt Blue, Ultramarine Blue and Diox Purple. Now that I write it out that isn't really too limited is it!?!!
Gear/items I brought in addition to the Strada Micro and paints:
Manfrotto tripod. LOVE IT... but it took a beating on this trip. It's heavy (aka sturdy!) and not particularly small. I pack it in my old Kelty backpack but even still, our art gear got packed into really large dry bags with other people's art gear and my tripod just seemed to be in the way. Not sure how I missed this information too, but there is sand in the Grand Canyon. SAND EVERYWHERE. You eat it. You have it in your hair. It is in your sleeping bag at night. It is in your paintings. It is now in my tripod. Many of the joints and levers became increasingly difficult to open and adjust because of sand. I brought a little sketchbook and some clips, palette knife and pliers. I brought my Holbein turp container and a bottle of Gamsol. Both leaked. The boats are constantly moving and bucking in rapids; people are tossing bags and sitting on bags... they leaked. Not badly but still annoyingly. (Speaking of leaks! first night at a camp... opened my toiletry bag and EVERYTHING IN IT WAS COVERED IN SOAP. Thanks Dr. Bronner's. I had to wash batteries in the river!)
I brought 6x8 and 8x10 Raymar wet panel boxes. I also had a 9x12 panelpak with 2 panels which I never used. Panels.... I brought Trekell canvas panels on foam (loved them, super lightweight), Gessobord panels and Jack Richeson pre-toned panels in beige. I pre-toned my other panels with red or sienna acrylic before I left.
Of course also: viva paper towels! I use Gear Tie clippable twist tie 12" to attach towels to my pochades. LOVE THESE ITEMS! 2 values of grey felt markers, pencils, 3 carbothello pencils for sketching on my panels. Latex-type gloves for my hands... I always get turp/paint on my hands! and painting hats. HATS. I brought a crushable straw hat, slightly cowboy or bonnet depending on how you fold it on your head, an SPF type beige hat (never wore) and my trusty baseball cap.
I am very glad too that I decided to pack a small watercolor (WN Cotman) travel set with a 6x6 block of watercolor paper. Many mornings I would work in watercolor instead of setting up the easel for an oil painting. What I would do NEXT TIME... pack the watercolor sketch set in my day bag so that when we stopped for lunch or a bio-break or hike... I could do a little sketch!
One night at camp I loved the quiet intimate moment of the guides on a rare rest, chatting on the boat. We'd all unloaded the boat, found our sleep spots for the night and the guides had started dinner. They have miniscule moments to themselves and I loved watching them chat, play with their hair, enjoy the view of the river... before they completed dinner and cleaned up dinner and put everything away again. We got into camp a bit late so the light was fleeting... but it was BEAUTIFUL. I remember there was this bright peach, cantaloup color hitting the water and making a gorgeous soft zigzag as the river bent around the apposing cliffs. That last sunlight was so gold, I actually had to modify it in my painting because it looked so unreal - but it WAS REAL!!!
Dinner was called so I put away my gear, carried on my back as I scrambled over rocks to camp. The next morning, I finished the painting. The light was now behind me but between photos I'd taken, the value sketch I created and the information I was able to lay down the night before I was able to create a painting I am really happy with. Horrah!
One of the other things I really enjoyed on this trip was meeting the other artists. We had both professional and beginner artists; painters from Arizona who were used to painting red canyon walls and others from Alaska who are more comfortable with Mountain peaks and snow. We had pastel painters and sketchers and oil painters. I love seeing each person capture what s/he saw... each piece of art unique and personal!