One can only dream of a painting day in Canyon de Chelly. Five plein air artist met at Chinle, Arizona for a trip of a lifetime. Good friends Nita Harper and Patricia Rose Ford had a trip planned to New Mexico for some painting with the Plein Air Painters of New Mexico and a reception at Purple Sage Gallery in Albuquerque. When they asked me to join them for a trip to Canyon de Chelly, I jumped at the chance. I arrived Sat. night in Albuquerque after a delayed trip on Southwest airlines. Boy they sure do have scheduling problems.
My most favorite painting from the trip. 12 x 12 oil on canvas, with palette knife of Spider Rock.
Nita and Pat picked me up at the airport in Albuquerque, New Mexico and we went to our motel. The next morning after breakfast we headed to Purple Sage Gallery for a reception to honor Nita and Pat.
Pat with her group of paintings.
After the reception and a great dinner in old town Albuquerque, we checked into our motel for the night. Early the next morning we headed to Canyon de Chelly. Well along the way we shopped in Gallup, New Mexico and made some fabulous deals on some beautiful Indian jewelry. I bought Zuni jewelry, of which I have always loved. Got a few pieces that I wished I had bought in the 70's, but never did. So happy with my find.
We arrived in Chinle and met two other plein air artist friends Carol Benally and Teresa Onoda. Carol, lives in Pinon and hired our guide for the next day to take us into the canyon. The canyon is a National Park but because it is ran by the Navajo tribe it was still open to the public. However, any part of the park that is ran by the government was closed due the government shut down. Hence, port a potties!
So with some afternoon light we decided to drive out to the canyon and do an afternoon painting from the top of the canyon looking in.
"Five Sisters" 9 x 12 oil on canvas.
Funny story about the monument in the canyon in this painting. We met two Navajo artist who told us the monument was called 4 sisters. Sounded good to me. Well our first stop with Harris the next morning to see his wife's jewelry was right beside this monument, when I told him what the men had told us up above, he laughed and said they were fakes! He said the people who sale at the top of the canyon, didn't live their and they make up their stories. Harris was quite serious about the canyon he was born and raised in and didn't like outsiders giving out false information. This monument did not have a name, but he said if you want to call it 5 sisters after you 5 artists that would be nice. We laughed and decided 5 sisters it is!
Early the next morning we were greeted by our guide Harris. A wonderful Navajo man who grew up in the canyon and was a wealth of information. If you ever need a tour guide for the canyon, he is your man.
Harris Navajo tour guide.
First stop into the canyon we were greeted by his wife. We all bought some of her hand made jewelry. What a delight and also very knowledgeable. I bought two necklaces made from pinon blueberries. She said they ward off disease and keep you from having nightmares. Sounded good to me. Brought one home for Eddie, hoping it will help with his rheumatoid, and one for me, hoping for no more nightmares!
Juliana John Navajo jewelry maker in the canyon.
Next stop a painting sight and that it was. It was difficult to figure out which view I wanted to paint.
Here are some random photos as we traveled the river bed in a four wheel drive truck to our first sight.
ruins built by the Anasazi's dating back to 1600. The Indians liked to build their homes up high so they could watch for white men who would come to take them away or harm them.
Riders on horseback through the canyon.
Terry and Harris our guide.
8 x 10 oil on canvas, "Uncle's View"
Beautiful light in the canyon. Looking towards Harris uncle's place.
After a potty break at Harris uncles place (outhouse oh my) we started down the canyon.
Fry bread! yummy
Harris cousin making Fry bread for us.
It was so good. You had your choice of salt or cinnamon and sugar, I did both.
Teresa enjoying her fry bread.
A flute player played music in the canyon as we painted, in between the howling winds. It was magical.
My version of Howling Coyote. Didn't have time to finish this one. The wind came up and was howling through the canyon. Dirt in my teeth, eyes, hair and the painting
Harris found some old clay that had washed down the canyon at some point.
more pieces. He said he would put it back as it is bad luck to take anything out of the canyon.
All 5 of us painting.
My 3rd painting of the day and my favorite from down in the canyon. The light changed at every bend. Truly amazing. You could paint a thousand paintings and none of them would be the same.
On our way out of the canyon, all good things must come to an end. Memories that will last a life time. Thank you Carol for setting this adventure up for us, thank you Pat and Nita for inviting me and thank you Harris for a wonderful tour of a sacred canyon.
Until next time, please enjoy the ART! Terry d. Chacon
Plein air has it's ups and downs dealing with the elements, but creating in nature is the best. Canyon de Chelly is unbelievable and everyone should experience the canyon at one point in their lives, if just to take photos, you will not be sorry.