Utah, Part 1

In November, i spent about a week up on the Colorado Plateau, winding my way up the Grand Staircase and spending not nearly enough time at f i v e ! of the National Parks in Utah’s share of the region. I’ve always been a sucker for red rock country. It probably helps that i was exposed to Lake Mead starting at just 18 months old. I’ve been lucky enough to travel many places, but i have yet to find anywhere else that, pardon my purple prose, alight my being and fill my soul with urgency and meaning. I read somewhere that “the function of music is to release us from the tyranny of conscious thought.” (Sir Thomas Beecham apparently) For me the outdoors, and the National Parks like Zion and Capitol Reef and the Grand Canyon in particular, are like good music on steroids.

Which basically translates to me constantly cursing both under my breath and quite loud:

Watchtower Trail

It had been two yeas since i had been to Zion. I had planned on going both those missed Novembers like i had in years previous, but put simply, life got in the way. I love going in the late fall. The weather is wonderfully chilly. The park is quiet, but not deserted (though less quiet than it used to be. This must be what getting old feels like.). And the whole park is dressed in these amazing colors. That and i’m a sucker for the American flags the towns of Springdale and Rockville put out to celebrate Veterans Day.

I love to draw in the park, but tend to take more photographs. My impatience and want to hit all five parks during my limited time were the primary factors in this. Another was the less than dry weather while i was in Zion. I don’t mind being out in the cold. In general i’m with the Scandinavians in the thinking that there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. That written, trying to draw in the rain is problematic. Paper + water = mush. Und das ist nicht so gut. So on that rainy Friday, instead of hiking and drawing, i was driving and drawing. Each of these little sketches took me about 20 minutes. 20 minutes also is the time it would take for my warm dry car’s windows to start to steam up. Perfect timing to turn the engine back on and find a new spot. I have photos to supplement these quickies and hope to utilize the resources together to create larger pieces.

Drive by Drawings

And without and any further drivel from me, the Zion, the beautiful:

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More on my misadventures in Utah later.

A Little Empordà Village

A Little Empordà Village by Francesc Gimeno
Torroella de MontgríOil on Canvas, 42.3 in by 48.2 in, 1918
At the MNAC (The National Museum of Catalonian Art) in Barcelona


I saw this beautiful piece in the Spring of 2010. I was in Barcelona for Spring Break, or Semana Santa in the local parlance, with a friend who was studying in Madrid at the time. The Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya or MNAC sits atop a hill that rises up south of Plaça d’Espanya. Sitting on the steps just off the MNAC’s façade, you are treated to a panorama view of the city. If you’re there when the sun is setting, at least in late March, the panorama turns glorious. The distant sky above is still warm. Purple shaded hills frame the scene, while the western walls of the hundreds of geometric buildings in the city’s lowland light up with this orange golden light. The buildings also cast rich shadows that, with the light, create a countlessly textured scene. A readymade cubist painting, is what i thought at the time. No wonder Picasso kept coming back here.

As for A Little Empordà Village, it’s just one of several paintings by Gimeno in the MNAC, but it was my favorite. I don’t think there’s a single pure color on the canvas, but the different hues coming together just work so well, and the color light is continued perfectly into the shadows that the painting just glows. Lovely glowing colors. Warm yellow and greens intermingle with neutral reds and oranges in the light. The loveliness continues in the darks with the same reds and with purpley blues. Thick coats of paint layered on top of each other again and again make a rich, yet relatively even, surface. No muddle. No fuss. Just a beautiful portrait of a city who’s roots go back over a thousand years.

All that color is held together in a composition which mixes classic two-point perspective and foreshortening with an expert hand. It’s both a triangle coming at you and a series of flat planes coming together. And all broken up by nature’s nature—the shadow in the foreground, the clouds in the sky and the mountain between.

I wrote in my journal at the time ‘Good gracious he could paint.’ It’s too bad (yet understandable) that art history has to focus so much on the major canonical pieces. There is much awesomeness off the main road.