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Rowe Fine Art Gallery breaks down plein-air painting and sculpting



Originally Published: August 31, 2019 6:09 p.m.

The romance of the artist in the field, standing at the edge of the Grand Canyon at sunrise, just the painter and the endless vista … but what happens if said artist left his pillow at home?

Rowe Fine Art Gallery explores the process of plein-air painting and sculpting on Friday, Sept. 6, 5 to 8 p.m., during Fruits of Labor.

Meet oil painter Lynn Heil and bronze wildlife sculptor Ken Rowe. Lynn spent a week camping in his Ford Econoline van at the Grand Canyon this spring, only to learn that his romantic vision of plein-air painting was only a partial reality.

“When I got home, I looked at my paintings, and immediately realized that something was off,” says Lynn. “I paint what I experience, and the work that I had done in the middle of the day was very blown out – the light is so different in the Canyon compared to Sedona. So I only wound up with one painting that was up to my standards.”

Lynn won’t make the same mistake when he returns to the Canyon in October for another expedition. He says this time around, he will only paint at sunrise and sunset when the colors are richest. That wasn’t the only thing he learned from his spring experience: On that occasion, he forgot his pillow at home. “That was the worst part,” he says, laughing. “I had to improvise.”

During the September show, Lynn will display the gear he uses when he’s painting in the field, and discuss his trials and errors during a talk at 5:30 p.m.

Of course, it wasn’t all blown-out colors and forgotten comforts. Lynn started each morning with a pot of strong coffee and some of the best views in the world without another soul in sight. He also took time to explore the South Rim, and, as a result, he has a list of places he wants to paint when he returns in October.

Sculptor and gallery owner Ken Rowe has had his fair share of adventures in the field in his 30-plus-year career as an artist, too. Ken will also be at the show with the gear he takes into the field, including the wire armature he pre-builds before he spends a week in the wilderness.

“It’s helpful to build the basic armature for something like an antlered animal and have that with you,” he says.

Armature isn’t the only thing at the top of Ken’s packing list. What is the No. 1 item he has to have on him in the field? Binoculars, he says.

He also has to take precautions to ensure his clay sketches make it home to Sedona. That includes bringing items such as an umbrella and an ice chest to keep the sketches from melting.

“I’ve had a lot of pieces melt, and I’m not just talking early in my career,” says Ken. “Almost every time I’m in the field, I’m dealing with a sketch that’s melting or drooping or decomposing right before my eyes. There have been plenty of times that I’ve been looking for a creek, desperate to dunk the sketch and cool it down before it’s completely ruined.”

Two of Ken’s favorite places to sculpt wildlife such as bears, bison and elk are Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks. “In the Tetons, there is open camping in the national forest just outside the park, so you don’t have to stick to designated campgrounds,” he says.

“I sculpt all day, go back to my campsite, cook dinner, and then work until dark. I love it. In fact, I hate breaking the mood to go into town for supplies. Being out on one of these field expeditions – just me, my clay and nature – is one of the things I enjoy most about sculpting.”

Come learn about the realities of creating art in the field during this engaging evening.

Rowe Fine Art Gallery represents traditional and contemporary southwestern artists. The gallery, located under the bell tower in Patio de las Campanas at Tlaquepaque Arts & Crafts Village, is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, call 928-282-8877 or visit rowegallery.com.