Saturday, May 31, 2014

En Plein Air Painting in Arizona: The Sedona Airport

"View from the Sedona Airport" watercolor, 9" x 12"

I’ve already mentioned that the smoke from the Slide Fire was really present in Sedona in the mornings. But sometimes you could see smoke in the early evenings too. On Sunday night we went up to the local airport to get a good view of the mesas. In one direction the smoke was very obvious, but in the other, the sky was clear.

We had an early dinner at the Mesa Grill and afterwards I asked them if I could do a painting from their back patio. They cheerfully agreed, and out I went, to paint a far mesa behind the airport. This proved to be a good vantage point for painting, except for one thing — the occasional jet exhaust! But you need to be flexible to paint en plein air. And for me, it is well worth the inconveniences.
Showing my painting setup

Painting and original scene

Plein Air Painting in Arizona

I recently returned from a plein air painting vacation in Arizona. Our original intention was to stay in Oak Creek Canyon, which I’ve always considered one of the most beautiful places in all of northern Arizona. Unfortunately, disaster struck a few days before we left home in the form of the Slide Fire. This large wildfire broke out in Oak Creek Canyon and is not yet fully contained.

Changing our plans quickly, we elected to stay in Sedona which is slightly further to the south. Sedona is a very magical place with huge red rock mesas and incredible views. Though I hadn’t been there in many years, it remains one of the most stunning places I’ve ever seen. Evidence of the fire was seen in the form of firefighters and service vehicles in town and obscuring smoke all through Sedona in the mornings, some days heavy enough to obscure the mesas. On those days we drove south until we found a non-smoky (or less smoky) spot for painting. Later in the day the smoke tended to dissipate, at least at ground level, so there were many more options for painting. I painted two paintings a day for several days. It was a fantastic trip— beautiful, hot, adventurous, and I enjoyed every minute of it!
Smoke from the Slide Fire rises in the distance

This is the first painting I did early Sunday morning, showing the Chapel of the Holy Cross. The smoke was not too bad when I started painting, but by the time I was done, the smoke had dropped enough to make breathing a bit uncomfortable. The chapel is an impressive structure nestled amongst the red rocks. You can read more about it here.
"Chapel of the Holy Cross" watercolor 9" x 12"

Pretty happy with the painting

My plein air setup