Grand Canyon Finding Art Inspiration through Travels

Grand Canyon TravelsEVERYONE should see the Grand Canyon sometime in their lifetime & the sooner the better! Words, even pictures can not truly encompass the vastness & unquenchable beauty of this incredible landscape. Walking up to it for the first time was absolutely amazing-all we could say was “WOW”! Breathtaking doesn’t seem like a strong enough word to describe the emotion we felt!

“The glories and the beauties of form, color, and sound unite in the Grand Canyon – forms unrivaled even by the mountains, colors that vie with sunsets, and sounds that span the diapason from tempest to tinkling raindrop, from cataract to bubbling fountain.”John Wesley Powell (Colorado River Explorer)

The Grand Canyon did not disappoint. Every direction you looked there were incredible views & new compositions to inspire-so bring a camera & your sketchbook! Even as the light changed over the canyon through out the day, the landscape changed and was transformed by how the sun touched it. You could spend a year exploring the 277 river miles of the canyon and not even come close to capturing all of it! I took some time at our cabin to sketch paint some of the Painted Desert from photos I took earlier in the week.

Painted Desert Art Watercolor PaintingEven though we didn’t go down into the canyon very deep, the sites from the rims were beautiful. The first day, we came up through Cameron and started at the East Entrance (sometimes known as Desert View). Then we drove from point to point in our van-which I liked the best because we weren’t squished on a bus with tons of people (like day 2). We watched the sunset at Grandview Point which was incredible. My teenage kids LOVED what they called “mountain goating” (aka hiking) around the Grandview area which was not too treacherous for teens (from a mom’s point of view).

The second day we came up through Tusayan & visited the National Geographic IMAX Theatre which gave a great overview of the human history inside the Grand Canyon (there was brief nudity at the beginning-National Geographic…). We entered through the South Rim and had to take a shuttle bus to all the points along the South Rim (buses run every 10-15 minutes). I understand why they have to have the shuttle system, because of the amount of people, but I like to explore on my own. Apparently there is a hiking trail along the whole south rim (paved & unpaved 14 miles) and we decided next time we go, we will hike a portion of it and take the bus for the unpaved parts (which are dicey along the edge!). The are so many awe-inspiring spots for some plein-aire painting along this rim!

This was a trip of a lifetime for my family, we brought along my mom who has always wanted to see the Grand Canyon, we also explored around the Flagstaff  & Sedona area (Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, Meteor Crater, Sunset Crater & Wupatki Indian Ruins, Red Rock State Park, etc).


I’ve spent the last few months working on two paintings from my pictures from the Grand Canyon. Here are some of the pictures of the work in progress. More about these paintings and the finished paintings can be seen on my personal art blog

Grand Canyon painting Michelle East Grand Canyon painting Michelle East

Inspiration Brewing!

Being an art teacher and an artist, I hoped to get a couple of things on this trip (beyond family time): get ideas & resources for lessons for my classes and inspiration for new personal artwork. Arizona is rich in American Indian culture and history, so some of the lessons I’ll be writing will be based on Hopi & Navajo art history (architecture, pottery, weaving, & petroglyphs). I also plan on making an arial perspective lesson of the Grand Canyon and the Painted Desert-look for all of these on Create Art with ME this next school year.

The Grand Canyon Celebration of Art has inspired me to pursue more plein-aire painting. We grow as artists when we get outside our normal setting (4 Ways to Grow Creativity), typically my personal artwork has been in-studio and so I feel challenged to paint on location & maybe pick up oils again! How could anyone not be inspired by these incredible landscapes created by the Master Artist long ago! These are some of the pictures I took on our trip (©Michelle East).

Make the Most out of Traveling

  1. Take TONS of PHOTOS of things that normally inspire you and of NEW subjects. Take pictures of non-obvious things (find a different angle or point of view to approach a subject). When you travel you see things you don’t normally have in your environment-take advantage of the new setting!
  2. SKETCH on location & from photos! Bring a waterproof pen & some watercolor pencils for quick easy application of color. Take the time to relax & take the time to create!
  3. Take a walk at sunrise & sunset-lighting is best during these magic hours (extreme highlights, shadows & intense colors).
  4. Look at local artists work-what inspires them? Do they have a new use of color or technique?

Supplies for Travel Sketching


Sakura 30067 8-Piece Pigma Micron, Graphic & Brush Pen Set, Black

Derwent Watercolor Pencils, 3.4mm Core, Metal Tin, 24 Count (32883)

Pentel – Aquash Water Brush Medium Point & Small Point 2 Pens Professional Arts Value Set

Windsor & Newton Cotman Hafupan 12 colors with Suihitsu

*Amazon affiliate links-I only recommend products I use and love!


More About the Grand Canyon (Info & Art)

Grand Canyon National Park

Historic Kolb Studio Art and History Exhibits

JUST GO PAINT: On the Plein Air Circuit (Grand Canyon Celebration of Art)

The Grand Canyon: how to get the most from a short trip

Grand Canyon National Geographic IMAX Theater


If you choose to use any of this post (written, graphic, or photo) please link back to my blog Create Art with ME.

  1. Tania

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