Celebrate Zion’s Art Legacy

DSC_0169_RoydenCard_2014_Dennettt_334K_72dpi Royden Card is among the 23 invited artists in this year’s edition of the Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational. Royden was born in Canada but grew up mostly in Utah and began his transformation into a painter and “desert rat” at age 14 with instruction from his father. He was especially inspired by the Utah desert where his family vacationed. His painting is characterized by its intensified color, odd perspectives, expansive vistas, and close-up fragments of the landscape.

As this year’s plein air event draws closer (November 2-8, 2015), we asked Royden to share some of his thoughts about this annual tradition in Zion. His responses follow.

What does it mean to you to have the opportunity to paint plein air in Zion Canyon for several days in early November?

“The invitation to paint on location in Zion in early November brings a bit of angst, joy and gratitude all mixed together. Gratitude, because I get to be in Zion at that most golden and beautiful time of year. Joy, because I get to paint on location, and angst/fear (and sometimes joyous satisfaction) that comes from painting on location.  There is always the possibility of a bad painting – as well as rain, snow, heat stroke, etc. ”

What is it about the red rock country of southern Utah that draws you as a painter?

“I guess I’m in love with God’s sculpture. Man hasn’t messed it up too badly yet.  Being made from “the dust of the earth,” I think we recognize the beauty from which we came.  I am drawn to these desert lands. Being still, contemplating, looking deeply, before and as I paint, feeds a deep longing in my soul, slows me down, quiets my soul enough to receive and hopefully share the richness I behold.”

You work in several mediums, including writing. What is your favorite way to express what Zion Canyon means to you?

“Painting allows unique expressive qualities.  Color and composition can be pushed to energize a painting – to make an equivalent visual “sound” or “vibration” in the eye of the beholder to feel a portion of the “awe” I felt while painting on location.”


DSC_0333_RCard_2015_Dennett_489K_72dpiWhat do you enjoy most about the Zion Plein Air Event, and why?

“I enjoy the time set aside to paint in this Canyon. The “why” should be obvious.  And I do like meeting friends and the other artists and getting to see their interpretations of Zion.”

 What are the challenges and rewards of painting plein air?

“The big challenge, besides the bugs, heat, cold, high winds and sometimes hiking to a painting location, is getting a good painting done, to push the composition, the colors, so it embodies not just a rendition of the landscape but makes it “sing” or strike a visual chord which invites intelligent looking or “vision” (in all of its’ possible meanings).”

Other thoughts you’d like to share…  

“If we go to nature only for “sport,” an adrenalin rush, a trail to be conquered and ticked off like time in a gym, we will miss the revelations gifted us in silence and contemplation.  We will miss the secrets spoken by the wind in the leaves, sounded in the song of the canyon wren, what water speaks to us from the stream or as rain in the storm.  We will miss the stories the stones shout to us in the fiery light of sunset or the amber light of morning…and we will not know those deep secrets and insights Nature intends for us to understand.”

For a complete list of events for the 7th Annual Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational click here.

Photos: Top – Close view of Royden painting at the Saturday paint out on the Zion lodge lawn (Tif Hafen). Left – Royden painting during his demonstration on the museum patio (K. Dennett). Bottom left – Royden painting at the Saturday paint out (K Dennett). Photos are from the 2014 Zion National Park Plein Air Art Invitational.