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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Painting through the National Parks: Utah Dreaming

Arches National Park impression(above)…If you like my art you can email me or go to my Etsy page

Utah is a land of dramatic vistas, tantalizing colors and otherworldly landscapes that invite travelers to explore, relax and experience God’s artistry. Utah is home to the ‘Mighty Five’ – five stunning national parks including: Zion, Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef.

I am grateful to have visited all of Utah’s national parks multiple times. I first traversed the wild landscapes in college during a cross country road trip. My favorite memory is sleeping under the stars at Capitol Reef National Park.

My mom and I spent two weeks in Utah during a road trip in 2014. We loved camping at Zion National Park (in March) at Watchman. The campground is in the shadow of ‘The Watchman’ near the entrance of Zion Canyon. We also spent time in Bryce Canyon at Ruby’s Best Western.

When I got my job at Qualtrics – a key motivator was the ability to travel to the Utah office (I’m based in NC) periodically. I loved the fact Qualtrics included the outdoor philosophy into their business model and experience management focus.

This weekend I am enjoying a NC snow day ‘Painting through the National Parks’ focusing on Utah’s Mighty Five. I started off with impressions of heavenly Zion National Park and Arches National Park

*I will be blogging about Utah Parks in on my sister site ( – Travel Blog) in February and sharing my favorite stories and tips about Utah’s Mighty Five.*

Arches National Park:

Located just outside of Moab in eastern Utah, Arches National Park has the distinction of having the largest concentration of natural arches in the world – more than 2000.

Arches is one of my favorite places to paint because i love the bright colors – vibrant hues of oranges and sand yellows, against the cool blue to mud colored jagged La Sal Mountains. It is an otherworldly place – you imagine God hand carving the canyon and ancient peoples living in the shadow of the arches.

This is my latest painting of Arches Delicate Arch. This is a winter scene. I love the snow contrasting the orange red of the rocks.

This painting took roughly 3 hours to complete. I started with a grounding color (ultramarine+q magenta+unbleached titanium). I then built the arch layer by layer. When I paint I focus on values. As a perfectionist I used to get frustrated when paintings don’t come out exactly like the realistic picture – but I’ve learned to let that go and focus on painting what I see – even if it seems irrational. If the snow looks blue – add some blue. If you mess up it is okay! Play with the paint and learn.

A big tip I have in my painting journey is that even beginner painters need to invest in the right materials. I used to use student grade paints because they were cheaper and the colors looked good – but they are hard to paint with an you have to use an entire tube practically for one painting. Same with brushes – using a cheap brush means you brush hairs get on your paintings and will break. I now only purchase quality brushes and they last.

My favorite brushes: Silver Brushes (they last forever if you clean them and are ideal for my landscapes); Raphael – just discovered this brushes and they are great for grounding the paint (painting the background); Princeton; Jerry’s Artarama Soho brushes.

Best places to purchase: Amazon (of course); Jerry’s – great paint store; The Brush Guys

Arches National Park

Zion National Park:

Located in southwestern Utah – Zion is ‘heaven’ on earth. Words won’t convey the majesty of Zion. The canyon is glorious and mysterious – a canyon of wonder and adventure. To learn more about the park click here.

My mom and I visited Zion in March – the offseason. In the summer Zion is so crowded they have a ticketing system and limited vehicle traffic (visitors rely on shuttles). If I return it will be in the off season because it was quiet -and I could really explore the hiking trails without congestion.

The only issue of visiting in winter/early spring is it can get cold. But the dry air and bright sun keep it manageable during the day. If you are camping (we were) – just make sure to have a negative zero sleeping bag. It got down to 17 degrees and I still felt warm.

No photo description available.
My photo from our trip