“Coming here has been wonderful,” said artist Bonnie Griffith, of being chosen as the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument’s 2015 Artist-in-Residence. “There is inspiration everywhere!”

Griffith was selected as the monument’s plein air Artist-in-Residence, in conjunction with the Escalante Canyons Art Festival held September 21-26 in Escalante.

The program’s purpose is to promote awareness through art of exceptional natural and cultural treasures preserved by the Monument.

“The GSENM Plein Air Artist-in-Residence (AiR) Program, now in its fourth year, provides one artist the opportunity to live and paint in the Escalante area for the month of September,” explained BLM GSENM AiR program lead Allysia Angus. “Their time here coincides with the Escalante Canyons Art Festival, so their end-of-residency exhibit and public programming event can be shared with those attending the festival.”

“We are so proud that by its fourth year this artist-in-residence program has gained a reputation as one of the best in the country. Bringing creative and talented artists to engage with the local community and our spectacularly beautiful monument pubic lands is a real gift for all involved.”

Through the AiR program, the BLM provided Griffith with a camp trailer in Escalante for one month. Bonnie and her husband spent that valuable time in and around the small community. She gladly seized the opportunity to paint the stunning scenery that is the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument! “We tried to visit and I painted many sites on the Monument. Everywhere you look, the beauty is just so incredible.”

Bonnie, a native of Montana, and husband Les, currently live in Boise, Idaho. As a successful landscape artist, she had wanted to come and compete in the juried Escalante Canyons Art Festival for several years, but time constraints always seemed to get in the way. This year, while again planning to attend the event, she saw the Artist-in-Residence program application. Griffith was soon notified of her selection. “I was so excited to be able to spend a month in such a beautiful, inspiring area!”

She had numerous adventures in the formidable landscape during her month in Escalante, including one unfriendly gust of wind off Highway 12 that sent one of her creations flying off the cliff! “I guess that one just wasn’t meant to be,” Griffith recalled with a chuckle. “We spent a lot of time on the Burr Trail, as well as Smoky Hollow. What incredible landscapes!”

Griffith is a plein air painter and landscape artist who works mostly in pastels, oils and encaustics. The rich pigments of pastel and oil allow her to create paintings that have the brilliance and bold color seen in the landscapes of the western United States. She likes to include washes, trails or paths in the paintings, because she believes they provide a frame of reference and draw the observer into the scene.

When asked where she got her creative talents, she just smiles and says, “it’s all in the family.” Her mom was an illustrator and worked with oils, and a great uncle had used his art in advertising in the late 1920’s and 30’s. On her father’s side, music was the artistic medium of expression.

So Griffith was always encouraged to express herself through art. “My first art show was when I was 16. I just dabbled in art in college, and actually got a degree in radiology science. But I kept up the painting.”

Griffith has enjoyed increasing professional success with her landscapes in recent years. Her work is on display in eight galleries in the southwest.

The art Griffith has created from her month in Escalante is beautiful. “When I paint, I’m trying to record what actually is there, not what a camera is telling me. You could just stand out most anywhere here, and slowly, incrementally move, and be able to create a full circle of paintings. It was just so inspiring,” said Griffith.