My traveling companion wanted to meet up with an old friend she hadn’t seen in 30 years. He works as a singing cowboy on the Grand Canyon Railroad and she is interviewing people about the intersection between art and culture. Normally, I wouldn’t spend that much time away from my desk on writing retreat, but this promised to be a special sojourn.
My friend’s friend got us on the train for free, for which I was grateful. It’s a pricey experience, even at the lower levels of luxury, and the train takes about 3 times as long as it would to drive (135 minutes to go 65 miles). Since we were friends with the cowboy, we got some freebies and were able to hang out on the back of the caboose and watch the track peel away behind us, which I have wanted to do my entire life. (Yes, it was everything I envisioned.)
While my friend went off to reminisce about the old times and do some preliminary interviewing, I walked along the rim a bit and did a little writing and a lot of sketching. The problems with sketching the Grand Canyon are a) it’s huge, b) there’s a lot going on visually, and c) the shadows change every 15 seconds.
The Grand Canyon is an impressionist’s fantasy. It’s all light and shadow. It was hard to render in pencil. When I did try to focus on the dark parts, the clouds kept moving, so the dark parts kept changing. I’m not dissatisfied with this attempt. If I had kept at it longer, I think it would have improved. The digital drawing tablet might have rendered better results, but the sun shone too brightly to really use the computer.
After I got frustrated with the first sketch, I mailed some postcards to my nephews and sat down in a different place, thinking of focusing on a smaller section of the landscape. Before I started, I noticed that the tree above me cast some interesting shadows on the paper, and I decided to just draw the shadows, as an easier exercise. My sketch is not quite as awesome as the shadows were, plus you can see through to the next page. Oh, well.
Then I decided to focus on one tiny canyon, which you can see in the middle, before getting distracted by some interesting trees. The trees are not bad for the time spent.
Here I try a couple views of a squashed pine cone and a bit of pine that fell on the walkway. All in all, I’m really glad I went, but maybe I shouldn’t have walked so much. I could have gotten more accomplished.