One of the pleasant difficulties of plein air painting in Sabino Canyon is narrowing down a site. A few days ago, along with TPAPS members Laurie Williams and Kathy Willis, I jumped aboard the first tram of the morning with my trusty park map in hand, ready to mark potential spots along the route. With the whole day free and lunch and water bottle stashed in my paint bag, I was eager to explore this beautiful canyon, riding along the main road that ascends from 2,800 to 3,300 feet and crosses Sabino Creek over nine stone bridges.
By the time we reached Stop 6, my map looked like a football playbook, with stars and arrows scattered all over the paper. (Okay folks, that’s my only acknowledgement of the up coming national championship game). This stop is called the beach stop because there’s a small strip of sand that edges Sabino Creek. It’s a beautiful place, with many picturesque views of rock reflections in the creek, craggy peaks in the distance, a stone bridge, the winding road, huge boulders… Whew!
Unfortunately, just as we made our choice of view and began preliminary sketches, what seemed to start as a brief drizzle turned into a this-is-going-to-settle-in-for-a-while type of day. We were all disappointed because we really liked our “starts”, so it was with reluctance that we quickly packed up and headed home.
A few days later, the advantage of recording GPS coordinates when I paint became abundantly clear, as I was able to return to exactly the same spot. The benefit of a warmer, sunnier morning was quickly apparent as well. Not only was it more comfortable, but what a difference the light makes! A vista that had looked good on a gray day was nothing compared to the one I got by moving just six feet, where the entire canyon opened up in glorious contrast as the sun illuminated one side and threw deep shadows on the other.