Former Danbury Artist to Attend Grand Canyon Art Celebration

Whenever Jose Luis Nunez visits the Grand Canyon, he is amazed by the vastness of the landscape before him, from the craggy buttes and the range of color rock formations found there.

A professional painter for more than 25 years, Nunez will return to the South Rim of the canyon to paint during the Grand Canyon Art Celebration, an event hosted by the Grand Canyon Conservancy, which invites artists to apply to paint. “en plein air” (open air) September 10-17. Artists display their work in an on-site gallery during an exhibition that runs through January. Formerly from Danbury and now living in San Diego, Nunez will mark his third year participating in this event and is one of 22 participating artists this year.

Artist Jose Luis Nunez.

Marina Anderson/ Contributing Photo

The event is a longstanding tradition that provides an additional experience for visitors to the canyon as well as an opportunity for artists inspired by the landscape. It is also a fundraiser to support the Grand Canyon’s historic Kolb Studio, which hosts the exhibit. According to a press release issued by the Conservancy, “Art plays a vital role in the appreciation of our national parks, and this event helps maintain the artistic tradition in the Grand Canyon experience.”

Nunez said that given the vastness of the canyon, he found it better to focus on small parts of the landscape, rather than trying to paint everything. Among his favorite places to paint on the South Rim are Mather Point and Yaki Point.

“There’s so much to paint and that’s one of the things I love about the Grand Canyon – almost everywhere you look you find something interesting to paint and not only interesting but very moving,” he said.

The artist also noted that the Grand Canyon touches his emotions due to its sheer scale. “It’s vast and everything is majestic. This year, I can’t wait to paint the contrast of the trees,” he said. “There are lots of junipers at the edge of the rim overlooking the canyons, so I’m going to look for that contrast between the trees, the canyons and the rock formations.”

As a painter, he often painted natural landscapes, bridges and culverts in Kent and around Danbury during the three years he lived in Connecticut from 2011 to 2013. He said painting in the West is different, because the qualities of light and color are more intense, drier and sunnier.

Jose Luis Nunez said that Yaqui Point, depicted in this painting, is one of his favorite places to paint.

Jose Luis Nunez said that Yaqui Point, depicted in this painting, is one of his favorite places to paint.

Courtesy of José Luis Nunez

“There are normally no clouds, especially where we live in San Diego. You almost never have clouds and clouds are very important in painting because they are shades,” a- he said, explaining that the clouds tame and neutralize this intense light.

Painting in the Grand Canyon brings its own set of challenges as the sunlight moves quickly, so he must paint quickly to complete a painting in a single session outdoors as the light and shadows are constantly changing.

“The sun is not only moving forward every minute and changing the light and the shadows, but also the clouds…I have seen storms and clouds approaching and they are sweeping the canyons,” he said. declared. “There is a lot of drama in the Grand Canyon. Every day when you paint, you don’t know what you’re going to find.

When he previously painted outdoors at the Grand Canyon, he averaged about two paintings a day. Artists are allowed to finish the next day, but he said he prefers to finish a painting in one sitting.

An artist painting the Grand Canyon as part of the Grand Canyon Art Celebration.

An artist painting the Grand Canyon as part of the Grand Canyon Art Celebration.

Grand Canyon Conservatory / Photo Added

Artists are encouraged to return to the studio each day, frame their work and hang them in the gallery on their assigned wall. Nunez said avid collectors will visit the gallery every weekday to see what new works will catch their eye and try to be the first to buy them. Most plein-air painters work on small canvases to allow them to be finished in a few hours, and Nunez mostly does paintings that are 11 by 14 or 9 by 12 inches. He has worked in acrylics, but prefers oils for this kind of work. “Normally these are oils because they give me more time to mix, reflect, correct. Acrylics dry really fast,” he said.

Making decisions on the fly and trying to capture a changing scene in front of him is one of the things that drew him to this event.

“That’s the magic of plein art painting, there’s something new: you capture it or maybe you haven’t captured it,” he said. “It’s a very spontaneous painting and the brushstroke is very loose. The canyon surprises you with large plateaus, rock formations, chasms and also with the change of landscapes and light.”

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