Painting through the National Parks

Painting the National Parks: Utah Canyons

Bryce Canyon Impression

I’ve continued my journey this week Painting the National Parks. I’ve continued in Utah Country focusing on Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef.

The otherworldly landscapes of Utah’s Canyon country are so vibrant and indescribable I struggled in narrowing down my compositions. I decided to be very impressionistic here – capturing the essence of the place – the vivid colors, unique topography and focusing mostly on shapes and values.

One of my biggest influences is Cezanne – who I often find leaning into (I also have a cat named Cezanne – photo at the bottom of this post), because Cezanne’s paintings use blocks of shape and impressions to capture the moment. I could paint the canyon country of Utah over an over again and constantly find new ways to pain the same scenes because the topography is so unique.

Bryce Canyon:

To learn more about the park, I recommend checking out the NPS park page

Bryce is one of my favorite parks to visit. I first traversed the amphitheater of hoodoos in college and returned years later with my mom. Every moment is every changing. The shadows of light and dark – the seasons of snow and sizzling heat.

Bryce sits atop the Colorado Plateau and is carved by erosion – wind, heat, ice, rain and God’s careful breath in time. It astounds in hues of orange, reds and yellows and burnt umber browns. As a story teller, I imagine this being a gateway to a fairytale world or how the ancient civilizations live (more on the NPS page about the interest history of the human habitation in the park).

The image I captured on canvas is a hoodoo called ‘Thor’s Hammer’ from the Norse mythology. It is one of the quintessential views of Bryce.

This painting demanded a lot of layering and detail work. Looking at the broad brush strokes this looks like a effortless impressionistic painting, but it demand several hours of layering browns, oranges, yellows and details.

One of my favorite teachers, Ginger Cook (check out her page) – always talks about layering in her tutorials and is so true. One lesson I’ve learned from painting is that the best painting (even if they look simple) are a result of time spend blending, layering and paying close attention to values.

As a painter I’m not focused so much on realism as the color values and essence of the moment. Eventually I’d love to advance enough to be a photorealist painter – but at the end of the day art is meant to be an impression and unique. My style leans into focusing on the color, shapes and values and building detail from there.

I will paint Bryce again in the future and share it with you.

Capitol Reef:

One of my favorite adventures was spending the night camping under the moonlight in Capitol Reef. One of the lesser known of Utah’s Big Five National Parks – it is just as elegant and wild as Zion.

It is a remnant of a geologic water pocket fold giving way to extraordinary landscapes from a reef like wall of rock to towering monoliths of orange and browns.

Painting a monolith isn’t as easy as you’d think with perspective so I really spent time looking at the shadows and colors and trying to emulate it. This paining has almost a montage like feel, but rock often looks that way as it comes from layers and layers of time and shifting stone.

This is a winter scene. Nothing is prettier than snow on the wild rocks of Utah.

My favorite memory of this park was seeing the Native American Petroglyphs

To learn more about Capitol Reef

You can purchase these on Etsy and I will donate 20% to the National Parks Foundation. Please spread the word

Cezanne the cat

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