Maynard Dixon (1875-1946) was a 20th century American artist whose work focused on the American West. WE THREE are fans and one day while we were “retreating” in southern Utah we saw a brochure advertising a tour of Dixon’s home and studio in Mt. Carmel. Goodness! It wasn’t that far away. So we zipped on over. Found out that a knowledgeable and generous couple, Susan and Paul Bingham, had established a mecca in the desert for us Dixonites. http://www.thunderbirdfoundation.com/ In 1938 Dixon had written to a friend: “Big news is we are going to quit Calif. & build us a log house in Utah, far from any large town. Mormons are simple honest farming people. We like them. Beautiful country, but cold in winter. Don’t know if we can make a living there, but take a gamblers chance.” For one week, each year, for the next six years, WE THREE retreated to his “log house” and under the influence of Dixon’s artistic spirit, we practiced the art of painting.
Our first Dixon Retreat was in May 2008. It was COLD!!! We were getting our “retreat” sea legs that first year and made some “field notes” for future reference: bring a blender for our morning shakes, don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen, warm AND cool clothes, more wet paintings storage, ODORLESS paint thinner (we had a spill of smelly turp in the car), be up at 6:30a (hard for Barb and me, no prob for Rox) , and someday paint a night painting. Fabulous southwest scenery, HIGH quality art in the Bingham Gallery, plenty of rock cliffs for me and Rox and plenty of horses for Barb. This view, above, is across the street from the Bingham Gallery.
Dixon Retreat #2, May 2009. Now it is WAY warm! Location, location, location…the Dixon site was only 45 minutes from Zion National Park. At one time we had a goal to stop and paint at every car “turn out” on the road through the park. We hit quite a few. This is Barb and Rox painting in a wash, waiting for a flash flood to cool us off…lol.
Dixon Retreat #3, also in May, 2010. We explored surrounding areas a little more stopping at Pipe Springs National Monument ranch, photographing people in western costume in Kanab, painted at the spooky “mystery pond” (Google Montezuma’s treasure in Kanab), and saw the full moon rise over the Coral Pink Sand Dunes. Every shared experience is still a unique and individual experience. In the photo above, Rox and Barb are standing by the old TV film set for Gunsmoke (series ran 1955 to 1975). We got permission to climb over the fence, carry our supplies a short trek, take photos, and set up to paint in the atmosphere of this (fake) old western town. Light good, temp not too bad…but the wind was unpredictable and kept blasting us. For Barb it was one of her worst “retreat” days. She just about gave up the sport of “plein aire”. For me it was one of my best “retreat” days. I love ghost towns and old wood, memories of my father’s dedication to Gunsmoke, and loved the sound of the wind in the trees.
Dixon Retreat #4. We thought we’d try the end of June into July for some warmer weather. Way hot!!! Except in the morning and late evening. WE THREE got smarter. Barb stayed in the Dixon studio to paint and I got up early with Rox to go out plein aire painting. We joined Barb in the studio for midday. Then we went out again at dusk. One morning Rox and I set up in Barracks Canyon by the side of a dirt road under a tree for shade. Could not understand why a herd of cows began to gather around us. Art critics? They continued to gather, bunching in so close that we had to “shoo” them away from upsetting our paints. We finally noticed that there was hay strewn around our feet. We had set up in their feeding spot. They thought we were there to feed them. Rox (above) and I got lots of “cow” photos that day, I can tell you.
Dixon Retreat #5. The first part of June 2012 was perfect weather. WE THREE are standing outside of the Maynard Dixon home that we stayed in each time we came on “retreat”. Continued our “smarter” regimen of Barb, a studio painter, painting in the studio, while Rox and I got up early and at dusk to paint outside. We gathered to work at midday and then at night we watched DVDs on Rox’s laptop while discussing great themes and solving the world’s problems…as well as sharing the adventures of growing children and the maladies of getting older.
Dixon Retreat #6. The last week of June in 2013 was part nice temp and part hot temp. Fluctuations in conditions just go with the artistic life. The serenity and support of being with friends while working on the passion that has “dogged” us all of our artistic lives can never be over valued. This photo is of Barb and Rox working in the studio. We thought Maynard worked here, but found out he preferred to work outside under a tree in front of a shed by his house. Finally, that night, I set up to do a “night” painting and painted where Dixon painted. My compatriots had gone to bed so I was alone. Night creaks and rustlings, I will have to admit, made me a little nervous. Interestingly, I found comfort in the sound of trucks driving the nearby highway, both of us working into the night.
Each year for the last six years I have journeyed with art buddies, Roxane Pfister and Barbara Edwards to Mt. Carmel, Utah for a week’s art retreat at Maynard Dixon’s home site. This year we went for the last week of June. Rox, Barb, and I have wandered in the world of art together since middle school. It is a precious long term friendship that has only deepened over the years. Paul and Susan Bingham, owners of the Dixon site and an accompanying prestigious art gallery have been very generous in providing this art opportunity for us and others. Even as I am writing this I am struck by my good fortune to have dear friends that I can share my passion for art and life experiences with, paint and draw to my heart’s content, adventure in the semi-wilds, laugh a lot, be under the influence of the ghost of Maynard Dixon, and be inspired by the quality art of the Bingham gallery. Following are bits and pieces from the week. This first sketch is of Diana’s throne. Waking up with a full bladder, hunger pangs, and the anxiety of making a living with my art, I climbed the 4 minute hike to an overlook that inspired Maynard Dixon. Sitting on a rock in the early morning quiet, amazed at the enduring magnificence of the landscape, the anxiety took a backseat and I started the day’s “work”.