|Arlene Braithwaite painting in the 'Footsteps of Thomas Moran' 2009.|
If I were allowed only 90 minutes in Zion National Park this year, I would choose the 90 minutes beginning at 12:00 noon, Mountain Standard Time, and ending at 1:30 p.m. on Friday, November 4. During that magical hour-and-a-half, 24 of the most wonderful landscape artists in America will participate in a "Quick-Draw" event. They will be standing at their easels on the large lawn in front of the Zion Lodge as invited artists in the 2011 "In the Footsteps of Thomas Moran Plein Air Art Invitational in Zion National Park." Each will be painting the scene of his or her choice, and I, along with everyone else fortunate enough to be there, will be able to look over their shoulders as they miraculously create a work of art that must be finished when the signal is given at 1:30. Then, if I were allowed to stay another couple of hours, I would have the chance to view all the completed pieces, and even bid on the painting(s) of my choice during a live auction.
Of course, anyone in the world is allowed to spend all the time they wish in Zion National Park, but I can think of no better day, no finer hour, to be in the canyon.
|Thomas Moran made his first sketches of Zion in 1873.|
On the first Friday of November last year I learned how short, and how long, an hour is. It was the day of the "Quick-Draw" art event in Zion National Park. Twenty-two superb landscape artists had been painting throughout Zion Canyon all week, setting up their easels in the same spots where the iconic Nineteenth Century artist Thomas Moran made his first sketches of Zion in 1873. Each artist had produced a half-dozen paintings that would go on sale that evening in the Zion Nature Center as part of a fundraiser for the Zion National Park Foundation. But starting at noon that stunning Friday they were each given 60 minutes to produce one painting to be sold in an auction immediately following.
I wondered how they could do it, and I was skeptical about what the results would be. These were artists accustomed to painting on location, but they were also perfectionists who labored for hours, days, weeks, even months to finish a painting to their personal standards. Before it started I wandered all around the outside of the Zion Human History Museum where the artists had selected the scenes they would paint. Some had settled on the Temples and Towers of the Virgin, the West Temple, the Sundial, the Altar of Sacrifice. Others were oriented toward the Watchman or Bridge Mountain, or the Beehives.
The countdown began and at noon sharp the painting commenced. I settled in at the shoulder of one artist and watched as a pure white sheet of watercolor paper began to take on the subtle shades of the canyon. I thought to myself, what am I capable of accomplishing in 60 minutes? And I watched as the seconds ticked and that blank leaf of paper transformed, minute by minute, into an astounding work of art.
When the hour was over and the signal was given, the artist deftly dabbed one last brush stroke and stood up. By now a dozen admirers had gathered around his easel. We looked at each other in amazement. It went unsaid, but we all felt we had just witnessed a miracle.
I strolled off to look at all the other artists' creations. One by one I was stunned by each, overcome by the realization that only 60 minutes earlier none of those exquisite creations had existed.
On Friday, November 4th, you can have the same experience. This year's Zion Plein Air event features many of the same artists as last year, as well as several new ones from across the country. The "Quick-Draw" event starts at noon and this year it will be held on the lawn of the Zion Lodge. It's open to the public. If you come you will leave with a new appreciation for the value of an hour.