Death Valley Days
A travelogue through Death Valley with the
International Association of Astronomical Artists 
February 6-12, 2005

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For the Bulletin Board:
Each day people posted stories of events from the prior day on yellow sticky notes.  The departure from Death Valley has not stopped the stories from continuing...
The Boots Saga

When Robin Heart packed her things she put her boots in a separate 
shopping bag and put them in the trailer.  When we got to Reno she left and the boots didn't. Malcolm kindly unpacked the trailer and brought everything in and placed them inside my house with all the luggage.  After everyone left and I started to put things away, I noticed the left over bag and since they were women's boots and Jackie was the only woman visitor at my home on Sunday night, I packed them up and shipped them off to England. (When they arrive Jackie, be sure to look inside the boots as 2 new hair combs arrived and that is where I packed them with some bubble wrap.) I found out they were Robin's when I put the lost and found notice up on the listserve.  Robin’s boots should arrive in the UK in 4-6 weeks.  So after you get your hair combs out Jackie, you will at least know  where to ship them.  And by the way, were is Malcolm?

p.s.  Does this count as a Death Valley drawing?
IAAA Group Photo.  Good folks all.
Front Row (kneeling): Dirk Terrell, Paul Hoffman, Malcolm Currie, Robin Hart, Kara Szathmary, Jackie Burns, Dan Durda, Aldo Spadoni, Rick Sternbach 
Second Row: Mikey Carroll, Gus (the Hat) Frederick, Dave Hardy, Julie Jones, Bob Kline, Shirly Hettick, April Faires, Betsy Smith 
Third Row: Frank Hettick, Gavin Mundy, Bill Hartmann, Pam Lee, Joel Hagen, Bob Parkinson 
Back Row: Jeff Fennel, Joe Bergeron, Jeff Sturgeon, Bettina Forget 
If you have read this far and can figure out which one member didn't have a proper IAAA shirt, I'll send you something for your effort.  (IAAA attendees need not apply.)  Just send me an email with your name, address and the name of the person you think didn't have a shirt. Hint, the shirt had to be digitally painted in.

Between mars Hill and Golden Canyon there was an interesting large piece of lava.   It was as if it had frozen while being ejected.   It was affectionately dubbed "Malcolm's Molten Mushroom" as he was observed being photographed with it in various poses. Thanks to Aldo for the binoculars from the swap meet as it was too muddy to get close to while sketching.
Death Valley has a wealth of geology and formations that are appealing to space artists and so was chosen for the 2005 IAAA Workshop.  Death Valley is also stunningly beautiful and inspirational for all artists and visitors.  Many thanks to our organizer, Rick Sternbach, whithout whom this successful event would not have been possible.  
February 4-5, 2005
We picked up colleagues from the UK (Malcolm Currie, Dave Hardy, Gavin Mundy, Jackie Burns) who had arrived a couple of days early to rest up before the long drive down to Death Valley from Spanish Springs, Nevada near Pyramid Lake.  Some shopping on 2/5 preceded the trip and we began using the infamous line, "Where's Malcolm" who has an uncanny ability to disappear like a Cheshire cat.  Robin Hart joined us Saturday night for the early departure the following morning.

February 6, 2005
Reveille is at 4:00 am for a 6:00 am departure and an estimated 10 hour drive to Death Valley. We're off at 6:30 am towing a U-haul luggage trailer behind us. Trying to get the trailer's break lights to work takes an hour's toll and a couple of fuses.  (Turns out the trailer had some electrical problems.)
We continue on and hope the CHP and Nevada Troopers don't stop us.

The scenery on the way down is great.  Highway 395 is a marvelous route.  We stopped several times for pictures especially in the Mono Lake area.  The eastern Sierras look more like the Rocky Mountains than the Sierras.

                                     Mono Lake driving down Hwy 395 to Death Valley
We arrive at 5:00 pm, check in, unpack and meet with the rest of the group at 7:00 pm to discuss what we'll do.

Monday, February 7, 2005
Our group meets and we discuss interesting locations to visit and break into groups. We gather at "Rick's Cafe" to make sandwiches, grab drinks, fruit and snacks. (Rick Sternbach's room was like going into a 7-11 only much friendlier.)  

We pick up our permits and head out.

Our first stop, "Mars Hill" was a hill that appeared to have arisen out of the desert and was strewn with rocks and looks like-- Mars.  Many sketch images and almost all of us take photos.
Each evening we convened to share the day's art and to see and hear what each other had been doing.  The presentations were fascinating and included those who had written books (the number of authors in the group are almost too numerous to mention), members whose art has been/will be a part of of motion picture productions (Aldo Spadoni's aircraft are soon to be in "Stealth" coming out in 2005) and one of our group, Dan Durda, had been selected as an astronaut candidate and presented what it was like to go through that process.  (All those tests in the movie "The Right Stuff" are true!)  One evening we even had a star party hosted by Joe Bergeron.  I am amazed at the art presented. It was so beautiful.  Such talent in one location.    

Tuesday, February 8, 2005
Each morning Post-It Notes begin appearing on the bulletin board about the previous day's adventures.  Most are pretty funny.    

On Tuesday a group of us went to Ubehebe (volcanic) Crater.  As you drive up to it, it is just amazing.  The colors and depth are wonderful.  Several hiked down to the bottom and several people hiked and painted.  We also went to Scotty's Castle and to the old abandoned borax mine.  (They really did use 20 mule teams to haul the borax.  It was only in operation a few years due to the expense and heat.  Death Valley can get up to 120 degrees F.)

Ubehebe Volcanic Crater

Dave Hardy and others painted the crater.  That day and the following day others including Robin Hart, Paul Hoffman and Dirk Terrell were creating digital images of distant cratered worlds.  Gavin Mundy was busy the whole week and created some outstanding plein air work.  Dave brought his art from previous workshops and it was fantastic.

The Borax Mine with friends, Gavin Mundy (UK) , Robin Hart (USA) and Jackie Burns (UK)
Wednesday, February 9, 2004

Death Valley has had an unprecedented amount of rain so we headed out to see the beginning of the blooming wild flowers. 
There were miles of daisies in bloom but also an amazing number of other flowers and plants.  This interspersed with brilliantly colored rock made for some great images.  Bill Hartman painted the scene for us.

Wild Flowers
Desert Holly
Thursday, February 10, 2005

We assembled back at Mars Hill for a group photo and then headed different directions for a day of painting and exploring.  Many of us headed for an area outside the park where there were supposed to be fossils.  Found were: a trilobite, an unknown fossil and even some stunning fossil waves found by Dirk Terrell.  One fossil even appeared the next day at a group meeting.  It was beautiful and very clear and turned out to be a great IAAA prank due to some great painting by Mike Carroll.
A possible fossil                                            Not a fossil as I had hoped but a great crystalline forms found                                                                      by Jackie Burns.
An unusual spiky form found by Pam Lee.
Can anyone identify this?  
Dust devils on our way to leaving the park for fossil hunting.
On the way back from fossil hunting we were pretty desperate to find a restroom.  We finally saw a building with the obvious "Men" and "Women" signs.  Dashing in, we were greeted by an elderly woman in the buff.  We had stumbled upon nudist hot springs.  The woman wanted to explain their bathing procedures.  I snuck into a stall after answering only one question but Pam Lee was snagged into listening to the entire process.  It was kind of like a school marm lecture only with a twist.  Now that was a surprise.  I and my puritan attitude raced back to the car.

Friday February 11, 2005

Friday was a free-form day.  Can you believe it rained in Death Valley!! We had a swap meet thanks to the efforts of Aldo Spadoni.  He had some wonderful treasures for a song.  I picked up some field binoculars and some oil pastels to play with.  I headed off to do some solo sketching and photograph some of the great rock formations near Golden Canyon.
Near Golden Canyon

"Strata-Various" is a greeting card that was created based on the colors of the strata in Golden Canyon and some of the patterns near Mosaic Canyon.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Saturday was our last opportunity to see the sights so we headed to see what we had not seen on other days.
Mosaic Canyon and the Natural Bridge were our destinations.  Note that all of the rock formations are natural.

Mosaic Canyon
Near Natural Bridge
The clouds were so much a part of the hills, it was as if you could reach up and touch them.
During the week, I had been walking by the gift store at the Furnace Creek Inn on the way to our meeting room.  In the display case were some lovely sculptures of lizards, frogs, snakes, horny toads and the like.  They were intricately made of fimo.  They were really one of a kind works of art.  I looked at them longingly and decided to ask the clerk if I could see one particular lizard.  I looked at the price and decided that I would leave it for some other admirer.  Arriving late for dinner on Saturday night after a day of exploring, one of my van mates asked if I was hungry.  They appeared to be almost done with their dinners.  One of them handed me a brown bag.  I thought it was a doggy bag of left overs--knowing how this group can be a bunch of kidders and having seen Joel Hagen feign falling into a display of original art.  I opened the bag and was stunned.  Here before me was the lizard I had been looking at all week.  It was so beautiful it was as if it was alive.  My van mates presented me with the gift for the driving and hosting prior to our departure.  Here is the gift and information on the artist:
Sculpture gift from my van mates!
These amazing animals are created by Jon Anderson using colored Fimo clay. Every color in each design is actually a different piece of clay. There is absolutely no paint used whatsoever!
Using a technique based on the ancient Millifiore method of glassmaking, Jon combines different colored canes of clay to create an illustration roughly the size and shape of a loaf of bread. The central design is repeatedly stretched and cut as other designs are added. Just as in nature, simplicity is replicated over and over until the finished organism becomes quite complex. The composite image is finally reduced by further stretching to the size of a small coin and then cut and applied much like mosaic tiles to the animal's  form. Each and every stage of this arduous process "is done completely by hand. The entire piece is then fired and finished.
Because each piece is completely handmade, no two are ever exactly alike and once the design tiles are all used, that image is gone forever. This renders each and every piece unique and collectible.

Jon Anderson is simply the most accomplished polymer artist in the world today. An exceptional combination of artist, botanist, mathematician, zoologist and engineer, Jon is inspired by the wonders of nature as well as the ancient cultures of the world and their art. He has been refining these amazing sculptures for over a decade and continues to create new and beautiful images by his own hand every day in his studio hidden deep in the paradise of Bali.

Also see the picture at the top of this page.
Sunday, February 13, 2005

We left Death Valley at about 11:00 am and had an equally beautiful drive on the way back seeing unusual cloud formations, sundogs and anti-crepuscular rays--a first for me.
Anticrepuscular rays near Mono Lake
Monday, February 14, 2005
More art is coming based on some of the great sights we saw.  Check back to see.
There was something special about this area.  As I drove by, I was playing a symphonic piece that included a slow moving part with a penny whistle.  Listening to that and watching the undulating strata was very moving.  It was as if the hills themselves were in concert with the music.  The hand of God is evident in Death Valley.  

Here are photos from some of our other members showing the great art created, other people and scenes around Death Valley:
Mars Hill at Death Valley