The Norwegian Artist Climbs around Rocks in the Grand Canyon

22 Jul

This article was originally printed in Epoch Times, New York City. Arts & Entertainment Section.

Morning at Hopi Point, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

When you live with a professional fine artist who snaps non-stop reference photos each outing, you don’t “vacation” – but that being said, work is pretty fun when it’s happening at the Grand Canyon, Zion, and Bryce National Parks. We recently spent a chunk of time camping in southern Utah and Arizona’s assorted rock collections – me; my husband the Norwegian Artist; two of the progeny; and the Norwegian’s camera.

Unlike the throngs that we avoided by hiking trails no one else wanted to explore, we had only the one camera — one of those old fashioned things that slings around the Norwegian Artist’s neck, and you can’t make calls on it.

But the great thing about being at the bottom of a canyon, or at the top of it overlooking a 5,000 foot drop off, is that there is no phone service, so that the throngs can’t make calls either. People accommodate this inconvenience by stepping back, holding out their arms, peering through a two-inch square, and taking picture after picture after picture after picture.

Our favorite was the woman in the Grand Canyon who leaped, nymph-like, to the top of every overhanging rock, turned her back to the drop off below, and smiled at her husband, who smiled back, held out his arm, and clicked. His easygoing acquiescence to her antics suggested that the life insurance policy was generous and paid up.

But this couple was by no means alone in either shudder or shutter activity – people of all ages denied gravity’s existence while their companions took photos for Facebook, Twitter, and America’s Insane and Inane Moments.

For the first time in my married life I encountered humans who took more photos than my Norwegian Artist, and the only explanation I have is that there must be a tremendous surge of fine artists taking reference photos, and the world should be ready for a flood of National-Park-themed paintings over the next six months.

Somehow, I don’t think so.

The Norwegian Artist, by the way, was in raptures. It’s not as if there are no rocks where we live, but they don’t tend to be 1) fiery red (Bryce), 2) 1,000 feet high (Zion), or 3) plunging a mile to a ribbon of a river below (Grand Canyon).

He awoke before dawn and walked, shuttle-bused, drove or crawled to a rock formation and exercised that right index finger. Sunset found him nestled amongst more rocks. In between he hiked, indefatigably, up, down, across, over, around, and within the stones.

I don’t know how many times I heard this sentence:

“It’s not as scary as it looks.”

And to his credit, it generally wasn’t – a 30-foot drop or so to the next outcropping, which fell another 30 feet, and so on to the bottom.

“You wouldn’t bump far before you stopped,” he assured me, “and the stones and trees would impede you long before you got to the real drop off.”

Lest the man sound too cavalier, he only speaks this calmly because he knows that I keep a six-foot clearance from the edge. The words and voice he uses with our Son and Heir, who inherits his father’s mountain goat genes, are less measured and serene.

Step for step, the Son and Heir matched the Norwegian, but after the first five miles of the day, daughter Tired of Being Youngest and I dropped out to stroll the gift shops. With this easy compromise, harmony reigned, and in two weeks, the Norwegian Artist packed three digital photo cards with reference shots, four if you count the one he “borrowed” from Youngest – 2,000 images total.

Why so many?

When you live 1,500 miles away from an area, Pleine Aire isn’t an option.

Back on the farm, the Norwegian Artist was barely out of the car before he was in front of the easel, transforming white canvas to a fantastic fusion of blues and purples and oranges and reds – and transporting us back in memory, place and time to a place that people want to remember because it is so awe inspiringly beautiful.

So that’s why the throngs snap so many pictures of it.

But as the wife of not only an artist, but The Norwegian one, allow me a word of advice:

If you want to experience the beauty of Zion, or the Grand Canyon, or Bryce, or any of our many National Treasures – whether or not you’ve ever actually been there – then look for a painting or a print of a painting – done by a skilled artist who sees and can interpret what he sees.

That way, no matter where you are, you can be in that place.

Canyon Silhouettes, by the Norwegian Artist, Steve Henderson

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