Day 1 - Hidden Canyon
I’m up at the crack of dawn - 5:10am to be exact (not great after a 32 hr journey from the UK and two time differences) - told to make my lunch, eat my breakfast and then get up and out to Hidden Canyon.
I’m not sure what to expect. I see the huge rocks in the flesh for the first time and feel as though I’m on a movie set, that the rocks are made of polystyrene and seemingly unreal. It’s very big, very very big, maybe too big for me...
We start our ascent up the canyon and my breath is literally taken away by the scale and the colours of the rock faces. We meander our way up the canyon, stopping only briefly to take pictures and wait for the stragglers to catch up. I thought I was fit when I arrived but i battle with the altitude and my lungs are burning. Parts of the way, we are aided by chains drilled into the rock, (a saving grace I was to later discover when my foot slipped on the sandy pathway). It’s scary and exciting and I cannot believe I am here. I keep going, right to the end, looking straight down at the path so I don’t suffer from exposure.
The enormity of the landscape is overwhelming. I deliberately don’t take many materials as I want to walk the path and absorb the environment, the cold or heat (both as it turned out), the colours, the energy of the group, the foliage, the wildlife, the whole thing.
I applied to Legendeer with the intention of focusing my work into a commercial sphere, to see where my work could go in a commercial context and probe the tutors about my future career as an artist. As it turned out I nearly didn’t come out to Utah. My brother in law died on the Thursday before my flight; he collapsed at home from a massive heart attack, and whose death has shocked my family to the core and span me out more than I’d like to admit.
With two days to pack before my trip I made the decision not to go. My family decided they knew better and say no. In their darkest hours my sister and my two bereaved nieces convinced me, no told me, to get on a plane and come to Legendeer.
At the end of Hidden Canyon watching everyone around me open their sketchbooks and begin painting; as I listen to Adam take everyone through an exercise that I’m keen to participate in; as I eat my lunch; I sit with my pack to one side and my sketchbook closed, thinking and looking. I can’t draw. I’m propelled back to when my boyfriend Justin died 3 years ago and I stopped drawing. I’m in exactly the same place, not drawing... trying, but unable to put pen to paper.
I decide not to fight it. I decide to sit and watch others, absorb the atmosphere and not beat myself up for not doing the same as everyone else. At this point a wave of FOMO runs through me but it is brief and I start to enjoy the light changing on the rocks, the sounds of conversation throughout the group and the sun on my face.
On the hike back down the mountain, I stop and am compelled to draw for 5 minutes. It feels good and right and the result is ok. But that’s not what this is about. I realise that this trip isn’t about what I produce or how my sketchbook looks to other people. It’s about my experience, it’s about my time away from all the grief and heartache, about being in the enormity of the landscape on my own terms. This trip is all about the principles of Legendeer - being present, authenticity and telling our stories, about embedding artists in the world.
I don’t know what this week will bring but I do know that I am exactly where I need to be.