Grand Canyon Celebration of Art

Plein air artist painting on rim of Grand Canyon
Park visitors watch an artist paint en plein air on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Photo by Julie Dodd

Imagine creating a painting of the Grand Canyon. You must decide which section of the massive canyon to paint. You must mix the colors to create the range of hues you need to capture the multi-colored layers of limestone, sandstone and shale and the blues of the sky.

Now imagine that you aren’t painting in a climate-controlled studio but on the rim of the canyon. The light keeps changing as the sun climbs in the sky, which changes the colors and shadows of your view of the canyon. You need to wear a hat and UPF sun-protective shirt, as you stand and paint for several hours.

That is the challenge for plein air artists participating in the Grand Canyon’s Celebration of Art, Sept. 10-16, 2022.

I was introduced to “plein air” painting when I studied art in a college humanities course. I learned about Impressionism and artists (like Monet and Renoir) who painted en plein air, which means painting outdoors on location.

Dawn Sutherland paints en plein air as part of the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art. Photo by Julie Dodd

But I hadn’t realized the current-day popularity of plein air painting until I watched the Plein Air Paint Out at the Grand Canyon a few years ago.

Grand Canyon Celebration of Art

I was at the Grand Canyon for a week of hiking and saw an ad in my motel room for the Plein Air Paint Out that was happening the next day.

The next morning on the way to breakfast, we encountered the invited artists with their easels set up along the South Rim walkway, capturing the fantastic views.

The artists started with a blank canvas and had two hours to create their painting. Watching the artists in action was captivating as they mixed their paints, blocked out their composition, and applied paint to their canvas.

The Plein Air Paint Out is part of the Celebration of Art, hosted by the Grand Canyon Conservancy. The event is a fundraiser to create an art venue at the Park.

This is the 14th year for the event. Artists will be painting in different locations in the Park during the week. The invited artists will paint together along the South Rim on Saturday, Sept. 16, from 3-6 p.m.

An exhibition and sale of the paintings that the artists create of the Grand Canyon will be on display in the Kolb Studio Gallery beginning on Sept. 18 and running through Jan. 16, 2023. The work will be available online for viewing and purchase.

Kolb Studio gallery
The paintings of the Grand Canyon created by the invited plein air artists is displayed in the Kolb Studio. Photo by Julie Dodd

When I visited the Kolb Studio, the artists’ work included locations I’d seen from hiking on the Bright Angel and South Kaibab trails and views from the Colorado River that I’d seen from riding a mule to Phantom Ranch.

Standing in the gallery, you feel immersed in the canyon and its many locations and changes in mood and feel based on the time of day and weather. You can enjoy the variety of techniques used by the artists.

You can get a taste of the Kolb Studio experience by checking out the Celebration of Art Online Catalog that is posted online. You also can bid on the artists’ paintings.

Grand Canyon view - photo by Julie Dodd
So many spectacular views of the Grand Canyon. I’ve done the 9-mile roundtrip hike to Indian Garden — shown in the center of this photo — but didn’t carry an easel. Photo by Julie Dodd

One comment

  1. Interesting read, Julie! How amazing it must feel to be on the rim of the canyon and capture the scene on canvas.

    Liked by 1 person

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