Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Short Rendez-vous with the Red Cliffs of Arizona

By the time the month of March rolls into the Pacific Northwest we all feel rusty from the endless rain and moisture in the air, deficient in vitamin D, and depressed from the constant gloom and grey. That's why a trip to a sunny place like Arizona could serve as a much needed psychological bandaid to recover some sanity. 

As we arrive to Sedona and first spot the majestic red cliffs we are greeted by a strong spring storm that is immediately followed by an intense double rainbow. 

15 minute sketch as the rain is starting to fall over the spectacular red rocks. The light is changing minute by minute and rainbows are starting to form

The sweet Polish woman who is hosting us at her Bed and Breakfast outside of Sedona recommends that we go see the sunset from the hill behind the airport. The view doesn't disappoint.

Next day we are off early to accomplish a lot of hiking and sketching. Hike # 1 is an easy mostly flat walk along the Fay's Creek Canyon. There is an option to climb the smooth warm rocks at the end of the walk for an incredible view of the canyon, the valley and the mountains in the distance. 

Fay's Creek Canyon
The second hike for the day turned out to be a lot more serious, nevertheless rewarding us with some amazing views on both sides of the ridge. 

Sitting on a little shelf, smelling Jeffrey pines around us. Unfortunately, the view directly opposite of me is backlit to fully capture all of the details 

Next morning we are up at 3:30am to experience the highlight of the whole trip and something that I have been meaning to do for a while now–sketch from a Hot Air Balloon. I watch and quickly sketch the preparations. Our captain says once you see the flames shoot up in the air–it is your boarding call. We need to quickly climb into the basket and take off. 

The first few seconds of being air born were especially magical as the precise manipulation of laws of physics allowed us to rise up with ease of a feather picked up by a gentle puff of wind.

The fun challenge about sketching from a hot air balloon is the constant rotation, so the drawing ends up being a synthesis of a 360 degree view.

The town of Jerome–Arizona's classic Ghost Town

Jerome became a ghost town after the massive copper mine located here closed in 1950s leaving behind piles of tailings and partially collapsed houses. Fortunately, this town enjoyed some rebirth after a community of artists and hippies moved in attracted by the scenic views of the Verde Valley from the 5000 feet elevation of the town clinging on to one side of the Cleopatra hill. Now the Wild West aesthetic of the town with its former brothels, haunted hospital turned Grand Hotel, and steep winding streets attracts a lot of visitors attention. 

View of Jerome, Arizona from the bottom of the hill

Closeup of the panorama above

Historic photo of Jerome from its copper mining boom days
We climb all the way to the top of the hill to take in the view and enjoy a cup of coffee followed by a glass of wine on the terrace of Wes Andersonesque Grand Hotel. It is sitting like a cherry on top of the cascading rows of houses. What is now a hotel restaurant called Asylum used to serve as a general hospital where all patients with tuberculosis and mental illness were sent away. A very old fashioned waiter greets us “Hello and welcome to the asylum!” 

View of Jerome from the top of the hill

The closeup of the panorama above

More from the streets of Jerome

Arizona cacti collection


  1. Such beautiful a beautiful journal!
    The hot air balloon sketches are magical - but, truth be told, the once from the ground are great too!

  2. Lovely colors. thanks for posting