Bon Hiver!

I'm missing the snow terribly. I want poofy flakes that burst when they hit the ground. Branches heavy with white. It's not winter without it.

I've had the phrase "Bon Hiver" in my mind for a few days. It's french for "Good Winter" (not a misspelling of Justin Vernon's Bon Iver - although it is pronounced the same) and I've written more about my relationship to the phrase in the past. A page in my sketchbook was filling up with some hand lettering ideas and I decided to turn them into desktop wallpaper. If I can't have snow outside of my window, I might as well dream about it while I'm at my computer.

The images are available for download on my Flickr page here and here.


Chapel of the Holy Cross.

I didn't get enough time at the Chapel. We arrived fifteen minutes before they locked up. It was a bit of sensory overload. The architecture, the sun setting over the red rocks, and the overwhelming scent of the hundreds of candles lining the chapel walls. I've never felt so compelled to sit and just breathe and listen to God. But I didn't, and before I knew it we were being ushered out. It's the one thing I regret about the trip.

I don't have enough quiet moments in my life. I want to change that. 

(All of my Arizona pictures can be seen here.)


Plein Air Painting.

My goal for this whole trip to Arizona was to try something completely new with my art. New subject, new environment, new process. I got exactly that. 

I took a "hiking to paint" plein air workshop taught by Michael Chesley Johnson and spent four days learning all about the way he works and trying it out myself. To be honest, I was completely discouraged after the first day. I hadn't done any landscape painting in almost nine years and the whole experience of painting outside and on site was a bit overwhelming. I didn't even want to look at what I had painted that day. But after spending the evening attempting another piece using a photo reference I was feeling ready to try again.

I had to remind myself that I wasn't there to make a masterpiece. I was there to learn and try new things.

The last day that we painted was the most interesting and challenging due to the weather. Our view was sunny one minute, cloudy the next, followed by partial sun, a rainbow and more clouds until finally we decided to pack up right at the moment it started to pour on us. But that is the nature of plein air painting. It's constantly changing and as an artist you need to constantly adapt.

My two favorite paintings that I completed during the week (or the two paintings that I'm not completely embarrassed to share):

When the sun returns to Cleveland I'm going to try and connect with some plein air painters to continue to expand on what I learned. I'm interested in mixing more of my own style into this more traditional way of painting. I have so many ideas and images in my head from Arizona that I want to develop over these winter months.

(Some of Michael's paintings and photos from the week can be seen here.)


Beautiful Objects.

It's hard to not be bombarded with cheap gimmicky products this time of year. I've been making a conscious effort to buy quality gifts. Things that are handmade or local. Things that last. There's a quote from William Morris that I think is fantastic - "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." 
Those are words to live by. 

Here are some objects I've come across in the past week or so that I find to be beautiful and useful.


The Grand Canyon.

It's like a painting on a wall. The biggest painting on the biggest wall and it's just far too much to comprehend and appreciate. I needed a week with that masterpiece. A week at the least. Someday. 

We drove north from Sedona and spent a day in the park. After admiring the sites from the rim for a while, and nearly getting charged by an elk munching on the landscaping outside of the visitor center, we hiked a mile and a half into the canyon on the Bright Angel trail. 

Despite knowing that the return hike would be challenging, I didn't want to stop my descent into the canyon when we reached our turn around point. I wished that we were among the small group of people that would be bunking at the Phantom Ranch in the bottom of the canyon that night. I wanted to stand there, exhausted, and look up and feel terribly small. 

Golden hour at the Grand Canyon is something no one should miss. It's the one time in the day when you can almost grasp the size of what lies before you. It's no longer a flat plane of color and detail, it's now miles upon miles of rock and shadow fading into the sky. It's wonderful.

There is a moment in Donald Miller's Through Painted Deserts when he talks about watching the sunrise somewhere in the desert. He describes the color as "...a blue like no blue on and painting or picture. This is living blue, changing from one hue to another..." and I can't think of a better way to describe the blue I saw in Arizona. In the canyon, across Sedona's red rocks and under the prickly pear, it was the richest of blue shadows. I never saw it more intensely than that evening in the canyon. It was one of the things I will always think of when I think back on this trip.