Posts Tagged ‘Arches National Park’

Printing the National Parks

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

I came across some vintage travel posters from early last century as I wandered through my RSS feed this morning (via lines and colors).

Zion National Park Vintage Travel Poster

Zion National Park Vintage Poster
Click to go to National Geographic's site for a larger image

It turns out that one of the posters advertises Zion National Park, and another depicts Arches National Park (though it wasn’t a national park when this was made).

It is timely that these appeared today, I am working on a woodblock print from some of the stuff I drew in Arches National Park while I was there a couple weeks ago.

What I really find fascinating about these is the visual perspective they offer, particularly, how to depict these large landscapes with just a few colors. The Arches poster has 5 colors, though it is possible that the darkest brown is created by overlapping the medium brown on top of the green. That’s how I would do it, though I am not sure how silkscreen inks behave with transparency. Silkscreen is the printing medium I have the least (read: none) experience with.

I have carved 4 blocks for the image of Arches, and I am working to create a few extra colors by using overlapping blocks.

This is one of the bigger challenges I face with a multi-block print: how to use the blocks effectively and efficiently to present the most amount of visual information with the least amount of elements. Each color added is another block added, which means hours of painstaking carving.

Arches National Park Vintage Travel Poster

Arches National Park Vintage Travel Poster
Click to go to National Geographic's website. The larger image is worth it.

When designing a print of something as large and nuanced as a gigantic rock arch rising from the desert in front of a vivid blue sky, I have to make decisions about what is important to depict. Not every detail can be shown, certain things need to be generalized, and certain details ignored, in order to create the overall picture.

Simplicity of design, and making just a few colors work to convey an image, and convey them beautifully, is one of the challenges of printmaking. This challenge is one of the reasons I enjoy printmaking so much. The process requires careful planning, then when the elements are printed together, an image slowly starts to take shape out of the jumble of colors.

These posters accomplish this requirements of using minimum elements for maximum effect masterfully. They are simple, they make use of just a few printing elements, and still convey the beauty of their subject. I hope to be able to do a fraction as well as these with my current series of blocks.

There are a number of posters on the National Geographic website. They are worth spending a minute looking at.

As for my take at printing the National Parks, I have the first two blocks printed on the first image, the prints are hanging to dry in front of my window of my apartment. I should have results to share this weekend, the 2nd and 3rd prints should roll out next week.

Through the Fiery Furnace and the View from the Partition

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Note: I spent last week in Utah, climbing and roaming around the desert in the middle of nowhere. These posts are about the things I saw, the places I climbed, and sometimes, the drawings I made. Previous day’s journeys include climbing to Angel’s Landing, weaving through Devil’s Garden, and threading the Needles to Druid Arch.

From Thursday, June 3

Fiery Furnace Arches National Park

The Fiery Furnace

Today was my day to relax. No 1,200 foot climbs up mountains, and no 11 mile marches through the desert. I thought I might wake up early this morning to hike out to Delicate Arch at sunrise, but that was not in the cards.

I woke up a little before sunrise, as usual. On this trip, I largely went to sleep when the sun went down, and woke up when the sun came up. For this trip, my bed was the bed of my truck, I never bothered to set up a tent, I didn’t really feel a need.

I also didn’t feel a need to light a fire at night. I did on the first two nights, but then never bothered to collect or buy wood after those first nights. When the sun set, and I had eaten dinner and cleaned up my dishes, I opted to lie in the back of my truck, and watch the stars emerge up in the sky, and feel the air cool. The air cools in discrete steps out here. The air would remain one temperature for several minutes, then I would feel a distinct and sudden drop in temperature by a few degrees.

Into the Furnace

I took my time in the morning, making coffee and cooking up eggs and chorizo. Today I would head back to Arches. I had a reserved spot in a guided walk through the Fiery Furnace.

The Fiery Furnace is similar to Devil’s Garden. It is made up of tall fins of rock closely packed together, creating a maze of canyons and passages. Access to this area is limited, it can only be accessed with a Park Ranger, or with a special permit, issued to people who have been into the furnace before.

The walk itself required a bit of climbing and weaving through narrow bits of rock, at times I had to wedge myself between closely spaced walls of rock and work my way through a crack. We only hiked about 2 miles through the furnace in the 3 hours of the hike, we stopped plenty of times for the Ranger to talk about how water influences the life and architecture of the desert.

Fiery Furnace Drawing Arches National Park

Ink and Pencil Drawing of rocks in the Fiery Furnace (click to enlarge)

Interesting fact: If you need to refill your cantina, and come across a pool of water, make sure you draw water from the pool with the bugs on it, and the green algae growing at the sides. The crystal clear water probably has poison in it, that is why nothing grows at its side. The green, murky water is good enough for other life, it is probably good enough for you.

After emerging from the furnace, I plopped my down on a rock overlooking the area, and sketched up a section of the rocks that makes up the edge of the Fiery Furnace. It was hot, and the bugs were chewing on my relentlessly. The further along in the drawing I got, the faster I worked.

Afternoon at the Partition

After my morning in the Fiery Furnace, I had an afternoon to kill, and I headed back to Partition Arch. I walked by it two days ago on my way back from the Dark Angel, it is about half a mile to a mile past Landscape Arch.

Devil's Garden Fins Arches National Park

Ink and Pencil drawing of rock fins near Devil's Garden (click to enlarge)

Partition Arch sits high up on a rock mountain, and has a nice open, sloped area underneath that looks out from the edge of Devil’s Garden to an open area of flat desert. In the middle of this open area is an array of rock fins, similar to the one I climbed two days earlier in Devil’s Garden, though these sit all alone.

For some reason these fins stood out to me, and I sat under Partition Arch for the afternoon to draw them.

Drawing rocks is like drawing faces. It is easy to put the elements in place to make the face I am drawing look like a face, but it is far more difficult to make the face look like the person I am drawing. Similarly, it takes effort to make the rocks I draw look like the rocks I am looking at. It is quite easy to make the rocks look like arock, but it takes much more work to make it look like that particular rock.

As I worked I started to think — in the personifying way man is prone to do – that the rocks each had a different personality. Some are quiet and reserved, some big and loud, and some sly, and maybe untrustworthy.

Rock Fins Arches National Park

Rock Fins, on the outskirts of Devil's Garden (click to enlarge)

I know that is not true at all, but I can’t help it. I am man.

When I had enough of being bitten by flies, and I had eaten lunch, and I had finished my drawing, I headed back down the trail. On my way out, I took a small side branch that led down to the plain that the fins I had drawn sat on. I took a few pictures from the back of the fins, from down on their level (it’s possible I will do a woodblock print of these fins, in fact it’s possible I’ve already started carving the blocks).

The day slowly came to an end, the sun went down, I returned to my camp. I slept away, the last night I would spend in Utah.

Next: Walking the (Sync) Line

Dancing Through the Devil’s Garden

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Note: I spent last week in Utah, climbing and roaming around the desert in the middle of nowhere. These posts are about the things I saw, the places I climbed, and sometimes, the drawings I made. You can also read about climbing Angel’s Landing from the previous day.

From Tuesday, June 1

“This is the most beautiful place on earth.”

– Edward Abbey, speaking about the canyonlands of Utah, near Moab

I packed up camp Tuesday morning and started the 6 hour drive to Moab.

Dark Angel Arches National Park

Dark Angel, at the end of the Devil's Garden Primitive Trail loop

Moab is a small city in southeastern Utah about 3 miles from the entrance to Arches National Park. From what I can tell, the primary business is catering to people visiting Arches. There are restaurants, stores selling trinkets, and all sorts of “outdoor, adventure” themed hotels.

Just before Moab, I turned up the 128 to drive along the Colorado river and find a campground. I pulled into the first one I found, Goose Island Campground, pulled into the first available site along the river, paid my fees, dropped off a chair and tent, and headed for Arches.

By the time I got to the Park, it was late in the afternoon, about 3pm. Perfect time to start a long hike. I drove the windy road through Arches, past the paved lookout points and easy, 0.3 mile paved “trail” around Balance Rock, and finally got to the end of the road, Devil’s Garden trail head.

The first mile or so are an easy, well marked trail — essentially a developed dirt road. There may even be asphalt under the rocks, dirt, and sand along the trail. This ends at Landscape arch, and it is here that I went the primitive route.

Devil’s Garden is named for it’s fins. The rock has eroded in to leave long, narrow, and closely spaced walls of rock emerging up from the ground. This leaves tall rock walls, with deep, narrow canyons in between.

It is not unlike a pod of giant rock sharks, with huge dorsal fins, swimming impossibly close together, just underground, with only their rock fins in layers of brown, orange, red, and white sticking up above the earth.

Devil's Garden Arches National Park

The outskirts of Devil's Garden

These fins captivate me in a way I can’t quite explain. I think it is a combination of their orderliness, their giant size, and their peculiarity that intrigues me.

The primitive trail followed a sandy trail away from the main trail, towards the Garden. Soon, I was coming to the outskirts of the fins, and detoured from the trail to walk up one of the fins.

The fin I climbed sloped gently from the ground, and I quickly made it to the high point on the far end. The wind was blowing hard, and I broke out my pad and pencil to sketch out the neatly spaced walls of rock that were in front of me.

I sat on top of this rock, drank some water, ate a granola bar, and worked with my pencils for half an hour or so before turning around to climb back down.

Devil's Garden Pencil Drawing

Pencil Drawing of the fins of Devil's Garden

Soon after I rejoined the trail, it led me into one of the canyons between fins, and before I knew it, I was climbing up, through valleys, over large rocks, scaling sloped rock walls, and generally working my way far back into the middle of nowhere while weaving my way through this rock garden. Climbing Angel’s Landing the previous day made me much more confident on rocks, and I leaped, climbed, scaled, and lifted my way through this magnificent Garden.

I had the trail mostly to myself, I only came across one or two other groups of folks on my way. The solitude was peaceful, and I was able to focus on my footsteps and push myself along at a reasonable pace. The Devil’s Garden trail ends at Double-O Arch, and meets the main trail out to that Arch, which I took back.

But first, I found an Angel.

The Dark Angel is a rock about half a mile past Double-O Arch. It is a tall, dark, pillar of stone that sits out alone, not part of any nearby rock formation. I got to Dark Angel around 6pm, it was time to take a break. I got out my pad and pens, to draw the angel. I figured that if anything was worthy of breaking out the ink, it is the Dark Angel.

Dark Angel Ink Drawing

Ink Drawing of the Dark Angel

As I drew, flies, and other small, winged insects decided to repeatedly see how I tasted. I had to continually bat the flies from my face and arms.

Eventually, it was late, I was done drawing, and it was time to head back.

I took the main trail back from Double-O Arch, though it was about the same difficulty as the Devil’s Garden trail, just a shorter, more direct path. I made a few detours on the way, Navajo Arch, Partition Arch (which was so nice I would come back in a couple days), Pine Tree Arch, and Tunnel Arch.

As I walked back I thought about the Dark Angel, how it was so different from most of the other rocks out here. It sits apart from everything else, it is at the end of the most remote trail here. In a park of arches and fins of rock, it is a pillar, tall and erect, standing on its own.

I started to think of the Dark Angel as the mighty king of these canyonlands, and all of the Arches as his queens and concubines. I’m sure I can’t be the first to notice this obvious symbolism.

The sun was low in the sky when I got back to the trail head. I drank some water, and started the long drive back to camp. By the time I reached my camp, the sun had set, it was getting dark, and I was starved.

I made dinner in the dimming light, sausages and a can of split pea soup. By the time dinner heated up, I was using a flashlight to see what I was eating. I rolled out my mats and blankets in to the back of my truck, and went to sleep, under the stars, a dozen feet from the Colorado River.

Next: Threading the Needles