Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Grand Canyon

When the bus stopped rolling, it was a short walk from the parking lot to this overlook at the rim of the Grand Canyon. Rather than push forward to the staging area on the rock overlook I was more fascinated with sketching the crowd at the rim. Pam pushed ahead and took some amazing panorama photos. She asked another tourist to take a photo of her alone on a rock outcrop and the photo lakes in a stunning 180 degree vista. Clearly this would be an amazing place to return to to do a series of painting.

When this sketch was done, we took a hike along a trail and found an amazing photographers studio built into the side of the canyon. Built in 1906, it is known as the Kolb Studio. Brothers Elsworth and Emery Kolb got permission to build the studio from the owner of Bright Angel Trail. For the next 112 years the brothers explored the canyon from every conceivable angle with their cameras. They made a living selling their photos in small leather bound books for $3 each.

Besides taking still photos, the brothers decided to also explore the Colorado River filming the adventure using the new medium of motion pictures. The brothers toured the eastern United States presenting a successful film lecture series. People packed the theaters to hear about their great adventure. A 1913 lecture tour in Ohio proved unsuccessful and the brothers fought bitterly about the loss. Their already tense relationship grew even more heated, causing them to split the business. A coin-toss granted Emery the studio and Ellsworth moved to Los Angeles. Emery stayed in the canyon home with his wife Edith and daughter Edith.

Big business in the form of the Fred Harvey Company, which wanted a monopoly on tourist trade at the canyon, and the National Park Service conspired to close down the Kolb Studio over the years but the enterprising lovers of nature and adventuring spirit which built the studio persevered, overcoming every hardship.  The Kolb family lived in the studio until 1976 when Emery died. After his death, the National Parks Service acquired the home. Today the building is used as an art gallery, bookstore and information center. Sales from the bookstore help renovate the structure.

I am certain that any artist who enters this studio instantly feels the amazement and wonder of what it would be like to create in such an inspiring studio setting. Besides the amazing collection of photos on display, there were also large scale paintings of the canyon. A boat, the brothers used to photograph the Colorado River, some of the original cameras, and other artifacts brought the history alive. The place inspires me to want to find or create my own grand adventure.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at analogartistdigitalworld@gmail.com

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