Thursday, October 1, 2015

ESCALANTE CANYONS ART FESTIVAL 2015 -- A Radioactive Experience

Every now and then a string of curious events can result in a fabulous surprise.

For decades I wanted to make art (see my first blog post). Over those years I wrote several books (see, collected art supplies, and made many artist friends. I sketched but simply could not paint. Artists with both MFA degrees and teaching credentials tried to help me paint. No dice.

In 2013 when I left Bellingham, WA, to explore Southern Utah, I discovered Escalante -- home of the famed Escalante Canyons Art Festival (ECAF). I moved here and participated in the plein air festival that year. My entry: a tight little pastel pencil drawing. The next year, a fabulous artist friend in Bellingham, WA, Lorna Libert, finally got me going with oil paints. That fall at ECAF I managed to paint a large aspen tree to enter in the plein air competition and, be still my heart, someone bought it. Of course, I had priced it very low. But still. That winter I painted and hiked, hiked and painted. I loitered on Pinterest looking at art and stalking artists. I watched Youtube videos on how to mix paint. And one day I discovered Kellie Day, a mixed media/collage artist near Telluride, CO. On her website I learned that she planned to teach an online workshop. I got on her email list and managed to win a scholarship for her summer 2015 online workshop.

This fabulous workshop, with the lovely and generous Kellie Day, was just the boost I needed. Using her techniques, I painted up a storm all summer as I traveled in Montana and Idaho. I shared the techniques with my 11 year-old granddaughter and a couple other friends – one of them a very successful artist who’d been in a painting slump. There were so many happy tears – because you cannot do it wrong, and it is SO much fun. The techniques are so freeing. Generous friends and family members who hosted me during my travels received paintings. They invited me back!

And then I returned to Escalante to participate in my third ECAF event. But could I use these mixed media collage techniques to do plein air??? I already knew what scene I wanted to paint – a row of hoodoos east of Escalante that I call The Doll Men. While I had sketched them often, and painted them in oils before, I had never used the mixed media collage techniques with acrylic paints. So I worked smaller (9 x 12) and carefully prepared. I collaged the panel with a story told to me by a geezer – about uranium prospecting by dogsled in the 1950s – and painted the sky in red tones and two of the doll men in gold tones, leaving much of the story readable. I had gelli-printed papers that I cut up and added for the shrub. When finished, the painting fit into a bold black and gold frame. The judges called my painting “original,” “fresh,” “unexpected,”and said it had a wonderful “pow” factor from across the room. The photos below show where it happened and what the results were at ECAF 2015. I could not be more pleased.

Painting "The Doll Men" for the art festival
Photo by Irit Reed

Sudsie helping me
Photo by Irit Reed

Using a portable masonite "table"
Photo by Irit Reed
Winning a Merit Award in the Watercolor/Mixed Media Category and $500.00
Photo by Allysia Angus