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Her name was Irma.  Hurricane Irma.

She lashed through Florida on the day when I was to fly to Grand Canyon.  Florida airports were closed.

We feared for our safety and thought we had lost our long-anticipated time for hiking and photography in the Canyon.   Fortunately we were blessed -- and grateful -- when we could reschedule our flight and reservations.

Because of Irma, we arrived at the rim of the Canyon during the Celebration of Art - a plein air event.  

One morning as we walked to early breakfast we passed several artists standing with easels and creating beauty on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon -- oils, acrylics, pastel and clay.  Fascinating.
 

Although I'd wanted to draw for years, I did not draw to my satisfaction. And so at age 12, under my father's tutelage, I embraced SLR photography. Ultimately I spent hours in the black & white darkroom, toning, experimenting with multiple exposure, learning to hand tint and finally succumbing to the chemical-free allure of digital photography.
 

But there on the Canyon's rim, I watched as the plein air painters captured their view of the canyon.   My hiking companion and I decided to try capturing our own views with limited art pencils we could find there. And we liked it.
 

When I returned from hiking and sketching the canyon, I searched to learn more about plein air painting online and stumbled on "urban sketching."   For the next two years, urban sketching became my passion and my moleskine and watercolors went everywhere with me.

You see, after a career that involved lots of teaching and computer screens,  I wanted to do something different ... and experienced the joy of creating through making musical instruments and music. From cigarbox ukuleles, Native American style flutes to kanteles (a Finnish musical instrument) I embraced creating through wood.  The joy of artistic expression through woodturning, pyrography and carving mesmerized me for serveral years.
 

But my wood tools were not portable.  When I had to travel quite a bit (for family reasons) I began the quest for a portable art.  And that is how urban sketching came to be part of my travel experience.  Capturing the moment, whether it's roseate spoonbills feeding in the Florida wetlands or a windy walkway in a medieval village on the hills of Spain, was transformative. I loved using pen and watercolor to create how a scene, felt and sounded.  


We returned with enthusiasm to the Celebration of Art in the Grand Canyon the next year and practiced our own art celebration on the rim with watercolors.  However I discovered, painting outdoors with watercolors in humid Florida is more feasible than painting with watercolors in arid Arizona.  

 

With a view to returning to the Grand Canyon with acrylics or and water-based oils for plein air painting, I eagerly continue learning and painting daily.