Gregory Hull: Painting the Grand Canyon

30 Artists, One Big Subject

by Clara Beard

Published online courtesy of Grand Canyon News, August 23, 2011

 

GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Capturing the majesty of the Grand Canyon on canvas has been a welcome challenge for hundreds of artists over the years. This September 10, artists from all over North America will congregate at different points around the Canyon to be part of the third annual Grand Canyon Celebration of Art.

The prestigious event, to be held Sept. 10 to Nov. 27, raises awareness and acts as fundraiser for a permanent art venue or museum on the South Rim.

According to the Grand Canyon Association (GCA), the future venue will preserve and showcase the spectacular collection of historic and contemporary paintings owned by Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP) and the GCA, ensuring future generations of visitors to the park will be able to experience Grand Canyon art at its best.

GCA Public Affairs Officer Helen Ranney said some of the art belonging to GCNP and the GCA is already on public display, but available space for every piece has become an issue, and for this reason the idea for a permanent venue was born.

While temporarily residing at the Canyon, 30 artists will be painting by the rim, or in some cases right below it. Visitors will have to opportunity to watch right before their eyes using primarily oil, watercolor and acrylics and scratchboard.

"All of the artists that we select are very good at interpreting what they are doing to the visitors," Ranney said.

New this year, artists will give demonstrations to the public at the Mather Point Amphitheater. Two artists will also be painting a North Rim perspective.

The completed works of art will be on display and on hand for purchase at Kolb Studio Sept. 17 to Nov. 27.

Expansion of the event is already in the works. Ranney said the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art is already one of the bigger events in the Southwest, and in the future, organizers hope to assign artists to a Phantom Ranch location as well as have artist workshops available for the public.

"I think it will probably be a model for other events like this in other national parks," Ranney said. "There are other national parks that do things like this, but not on the scale of the Grand Canyon."

Returning to the event this year will be oil painter Gregory Hull. He finds the opportunity to stay at the Grand Canyon for a week and focus on his art a rare treat.

"I just want to be there," he said. "I just can't wait to have the Canyon at my disposal for a whole week. That is the exciting part. I get to stop my normal life and go up there and concentrate."

As a landscape artist, Hull spotlights his work on the Western United States, predominately painting California scenes. The challenge of the Canyon, he said, is the sheer magnitude of it.

"It's so huge," he said. "Being a plein air painter, you really have to paint fast because the light changing and you only have a couple hours to get that lighting situation. That's the beauty of plein air painting, the quickness of it."

Familiar with Hull's perception of the Canyon is Michael Chesley Johnson. Even though it's his first year participating in GC Celebration of Art, it's not his first time painting the Canyon. Johnson is a versatile artist, but claims landscape painting as his first love. He splits his year between south of Sedona and Campobello Island, New Brunswick.

As a first timer, Johnson said he looks forward to seeing familiar faces and making new friends while at the Canyon. He said even though painting the Canyon is a big subject matter, the opportunity to test himself is always exciting. "There are a couple of challenges associated with painting the Canyon," he explained.

"One is it is just so vast and you are trying to take 100 miles of what you can see from one point, selecting from that something that you have to put on a few inches of canvas. There is a lot you have to filter out and a lot you have to zoom in on."

He said the second challenge is the lack of horizontal lines while standing on the rim. Compositionally, it can be difficult to design. "Getting down below the rim helps gain perspective on it," he added.

 

For more information on the Grand Canyon Celebration of Art visit, www.grandcanyon.org/celebration.

For more information on Gregory Hull, visit his website at www.gregoryhull.com

For more information on Michael Chesley Johnson visit website at www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com.