Last Monday I sat down at my desk and thought, today is the first day of my new job. I’ve had an exciting fall. After completing my artist residency at Joshua Tree National Park, (which I promise to tell you more about soon!), I came back to Alaska to scramble like crazy before leaving for another month to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Much of that time was spent finishing up my work for the Wrangell Mountains Center and working with the new Executive Director, Nate Anderson. After spending the last three and a half years as the Program Manager and Executive Director for the educational nonprofit whose mission is connecting people with wildlands through art, science, and education; I decided that I needed to spend more time focusing on my art and illustration work. I feel fortunate to be able to make that choice and to have spent time working for an organization that does important work and reflects so many of my personal values. I will certainly stay involved with the WMC in the future, but I welcome this change. After the transition, it felt fitting to leave for a 22-day river trip.
Scenes from the Grand Canyon - top left to right: sandstone textures, colors in the rock layers, flowers from the desert, fossils of Nautiloids, rock patterns, and Monarch butterflies
Even though I live off the grid in rural Alaska, it is still a rare occurrence to be out of internet and phone range for three weeks. I wanted my time on the Grand Canyon to be a break from work of all kinds, which includes my art business. However I did bring my sketchbook and supplies and really enjoyed drawing and painting for my own pleasure. The landscape of the canyon is varied and complex, and I enjoyed trying to map it out in pen and watercolor. I often only had a half hour in camp before it got dark and I would make a little meditation on the place in my sketchbook. I can truly say that it felt empowering to sketch for my own sake and not to worry about finishing an illustration or making something to share online. I’m happy to share a few of them however.
Above: Sketching on the boat. Right photo by Greg Runyan
Above: a series of quick gesture sketches I did from the bow of the boat. I had to work quickly because the scenery kept changing as we went around another bend of the river. Watercolor
It has always been a bit of a culture shock to get back to civilization after an expedition. I missed the whole presidential election and it feels like a different world to come home to. It was also a bit of a shock to arrive back in Alaska where there was no snow or shortage of cold weather and ice. Now that I’ve been home for a week I am settling back into the rhythm of a northern winter.
Thank you for all of the support and happy belated Thanksgiving.
You can click on the photos above to see a larger version. The last two photos are by Vince Hempsall of myself packrafting and Greg guiding the Hydra (our 18 foot boat) down the river.