River Painting Trip: Post 6 - critters, textures and oddities

It wasn't all vast sweeping views, towering glowing cliffs, emerald waters and painting... the canyon is also, well, odd. There are textures and shapes, critters and dead things. Here are some of my favorite strange things from the river trip.

Critters. Crows, Turkey Vultures, Ringtail Cats, BATS, Swallows, Big Horn Sheep, BONES, Lizards, Song Birds and Fish... and thankfully I saw NO SNAKES.

My crow friend. Actually, he's a thief.

My crow friend. Actually, he's a thief.

Just stopped by to say hello

Just stopped by to say hello

This little fella was about 9" long

This little fella was about 9" long

Everyone got excited when we'd spot a Big Horn Sheep

Everyone got excited when we'd spot a Big Horn Sheep

Another sighting...

Another sighting...

A not so lucky Big Horn Sheep. Found at camp.

A not so lucky Big Horn Sheep. Found at camp.

Assuming this is the leg to the skull...

Assuming this is the leg to the skull...

This 3" flying creature is a Tarantula Hawk Wasp. Nasty, nasty

This 3" flying creature is a Tarantula Hawk Wasp. Nasty, nasty

I'm a fan of design in nature. I see the shapes and the movement and the colors... here is some of the specialness that caught my eye!

Geology!

Geology!

Gorgeous granite!

Gorgeous granite!

We had to skirt this giant Lava Rock sitting in the middle of the river.

We had to skirt this giant Lava Rock sitting in the middle of the river.

Pumpkin Spring rock... Mile 212.9. This is travertine, which is a form of limestone and also contains high levels of arsenic and lead.

Pumpkin Spring rock... Mile 212.9. This is travertine, which is a form of limestone and also contains high levels of arsenic and lead.

The Vishnu Schist looked like Rodin sculptures to me

The Vishnu Schist looked like Rodin sculptures to me

Sun rainbow!

Sun rainbow!

My first time to see a 'Sundog' or Fire rainbow. It was particularly HOT this day

My first time to see a 'Sundog' or Fire rainbow. It was particularly HOT this day

River Painting Trip: Post 5 - side tripping

Most river rafting trips down the Colorado include side trips to hike to waterfalls or unique views or Anasazi Indian ruins. Because we were painters, we wanted as much time at each camp location to paint which meant that in large part we would forego side trips and save our time for painting.

Thankfully, we weren't 'all work!' and were able to experience some of the side treasures in the canyon. These were some of my trip highlights!

Approaching Redwall Cavern, mile 33.2

Approaching Redwall Cavern, mile 33.2

Actually just a lunch spot... but not just any-old-lunchspot! This was a great spot to appreciate the size of the canyon. Can you see the boats on the beach? We ate lunch at this spectacular canyon and had a bit of time to explore and soak-up the immense space that the river waters carved out in the wall of the canyon. So unique! 

See the people sitting on the beach?! Mile 33.3

See the people sitting on the beach?! Mile 33.3

The Little Colorado. This river confluence, where the Little Colorado meets the Colorado, provided us with a small hike up river to play in some rapids and gawk at the gorgeous pale blue water. The contrast between the orange cliffs and this pale water was spectacular. 

Confluence. Pale blue water meets emerald green water. Mile 61.7

Confluence. Pale blue water meets emerald green water. Mile 61.7

Yes, I sported a waterproof fanny pack and a sarong most of the trip.

Yes, I sported a waterproof fanny pack and a sarong most of the trip.

'Flour water' is the minute particles of dissolved travertine and limestone in the water. 

'Flour water' is the minute particles of dissolved travertine and limestone in the water. 

Riding the little rapids on the Little Colorado

Riding the little rapids on the Little Colorado

I LOVE the contrast of the pale water and orange canyon!

I LOVE the contrast of the pale water and orange canyon!

Mile 117, Elves Chasm

After a short scramble we were rewarded with this jewel!

After a short scramble we were rewarded with this jewel!

I was SO TEMPTED to climb up into the Chasm to jump... 2 people did - but the water was so cold you thought your heart would stop.

I was SO TEMPTED to climb up into the Chasm to jump... 2 people did - but the water was so cold you thought your heart would stop.

Mile 136.9, Deer Creek Falls

First glimpse at Deer Creek Falls

First glimpse at Deer Creek Falls

Just a short walk, some traversing through tadpole water, over narrow rock bridges and under some brush... you come to THIS sight!

Powerful and LOUD, Deer Creek Falls

Powerful and LOUD, Deer Creek Falls

Backing up as close as I could!

Backing up as close as I could!

Mile 157, Havasu Creek

Havasu Falls is famous for its vivid blue-green water. You also need a permit to visit them. We were able to hike the Havasu Creek up to a series of plunge pools, spillways and giant boulders. The hike was on a very narrow and precarious pathway from the Colorado River. It was so nice to be off the boat, stretch the legs, stand in cool water (not so cold it hurt!) and enjoy this very special area.

That's a long way down, beautiful though!

That's a long way down, beautiful though!

Hiking up Havasu Creek, mile 157

Hiking up Havasu Creek, mile 157

River fashion in all its glory

River fashion in all its glory

Fording the creek

Fording the creek

River Painting Trip: Post 4 - truly painting on location

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.

Watercolor, 6x6, mile 19.4

Watercolor, 6x6, mile 19.4

WIP (work in progress) of Upper Saddle camp, mile 47

WIP (work in progress) of Upper Saddle camp, mile 47

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!?!!

This was a beautiful view! Upper Rattlesnake Camp, mile 74

This was a beautiful view! Upper Rattlesnake Camp, mile 74

Strada Micro easel set up, WIP on a cactus painting. Lower Granite Camp, mile 115

Strada Micro easel set up, WIP on a cactus painting. Lower Granite Camp, mile 115

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. 

6x6 Watercolor of the cliffs at Panchos Kitchen Camp, mile 137

6x6 Watercolor of the cliffs at Panchos Kitchen Camp, mile 137

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!

I climbed over a lot of rocks to paint on this little spit. Lower National Camp, mile 167

I climbed over a lot of rocks to paint on this little spit. Lower National Camp, mile 167

WIP shot, painting our boat.

WIP shot, painting our boat.

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!

Mitch Baird and Laura Wambsgans painting

Mitch Baird and Laura Wambsgans painting

Amery Bohling painting

Amery Bohling painting

Cody DeLong painting

Cody DeLong painting

Patricia Rose Ford working on her pastel painting

Patricia Rose Ford working on her pastel painting

River Painting Trip: Post 2 - sleep on it

All but one night we slept under the stars on cots. Each of us scurried off the boat at the end of the day to select our camp for the night. Some liked to group together, others preferred to find a corner to themselves - I tried both! Here are some of my favorite 'bedrooms!'

My 'bedroom' at mile 47 1/2, Upper Saddle Camp

My 'bedroom' at mile 47 1/2, Upper Saddle Camp

My 'bedroom' at Mile 115, Lower Garnet Camp.

My 'bedroom' at Mile 115, Lower Garnet Camp.

My 'bedroom' at Panchos Kitchen, mile 137 1/2. I stuck driftwood into the rock crevasses to hang my clothes.

My 'bedroom' at Panchos Kitchen, mile 137 1/2. I stuck driftwood into the rock crevasses to hang my clothes.

Last bedroom of the trip, I was the only one to sleep right on the river, loved listening the the rapids all night. Three Springs, mile 216 1/2.

Last bedroom of the trip, I was the only one to sleep right on the river, loved listening the the rapids all night. Three Springs, mile 216 1/2.

Not to be overlooked... there is the potty situation. Tucked away as best possible, a lovely diamond plate commode was set up at every camp. A hand washing station and bag of TP was at a pathway before the potty, so if the TP bag was missing... it was in use!

bestbathroomever.jpg

River Painting Trip: Post 1 - 280 miles

... and that would be the full length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon! May 17 – May 24th. Launched at Lees Ferry and disembarked at Pearce Ferry.

Usually described as 'a trip of a lifetime' my 8 days on the river did not disappoint. I signed up for this trip one year and one month ago! Arizona artist Cody DeLong has organized these trips for painters for the past 9 years and this trip was his 10th. Grand Canyon Expedition Company was our rafting company and two fabulous women, Den and Hannah, loaded all our gear, fed us, entertained us and above all - guided us expertly through the renowned rapids of the Colorado River

Just look at the colors in the water!

Just look at the colors in the water!

The light in the canyon is beautiful. The reflections in the already gorgeous and surprisingly GREEN water of the river was stunning and oranges, pinks and bright blue seemed just as at home on the emerald green river as they did on the canyon walls and bright blue sky of Arizona.

Our river guide, Den

Our river guide, Den

Each day we'd wake at 5:15, disassemble our cots (yes! we slept under the stars!) and pack up our sleeping bags and by 5:30 we'd hear this sweet melody from our lead guide Den... "HHHHHHHHOT COFFEEEEEEEE!" Coffee-in-thermos-in-hand we'd each head back to our sleep spot to pack up our clothes and sundry items in day bags and ammo cans. The light first thing in the morning on the river is beautiful and the day isn't yet super hot so for painters this is the magic time. As the guides made breakfast and started packing items back onto the boat, we would paint/draw/write. In total, we were 2 guides and 12 painters of different media (watercolor, oil, pastel) and a writer.

Artists pack A LOT OF STUFF! The beige dry bags are just our clothes. We also had blue bags with sleeping bags/pads and a tarp.

Artists pack A LOT OF STUFF! The beige dry bags are just our clothes. We also had blue bags with sleeping bags/pads and a tarp.

Hannah (left) our Swamper (aka guide in training) and Den our master River Guide!

Hannah (left) our Swamper (aka guide in training) and Den our master River Guide!

A boatload of artists.... and GEAR!

A boatload of artists.... and GEAR!