By Bonnie Gangelhoff
For decades Elizabeth Black has been traveling to the Grand Canyon to paint one of the great natural wonders of the world. Ten years ago she first saw the Tanner Delta region of the canyon, the subject matter of her painting ANCIENT CROSSROADS, ON THE GRAND, which is featured in the Cowgirl Up show. But the idea percolated in her mind for 10 years before she considered her skills up to the task. On a 2010 return visit to the locale, she took reference photographs, sketched, and finally decided to paint the area that had haunted her imagination. “It’s a very special place. And the pictographs are testament to how long this trail has been a route across the canyon,” Black says. “Indians, and later horse thieves, would use this route to cross from the North Rim to the South Rim and either ford or swim across the river.”
When conceiving a painting, Black adheres to the advice of an artist friend who once told her to boil down everything she wanted to say in a painting into one sentence. Today, she observes, that formula works well for her. Once she has clarity on what she intends to say, her paintings work the best. “In ANCIENT CROSSROADS, ON THE GRAND, I just wanted to convey that this is a crossroads that people have been coming to forever,” Black says.
She also has learned through years of experience that her most successful works are of places that she knows intimately, such as the Grand Canyon, the Sierras around Lake Tahoe, and her hometown of Boulder, CO, where there is sprawling agricultural open space not far from her front door. “It seems as if to paint the landscape honestly, I have to have spent some time there … weeks, months,” she says.
Featured in March 2012.