The Art of R. Geoffrey Blackburn

Desert Paintings

"Up until the 1970's, I was never too enthralled with the desert.  After all, it's hot, dry and often desolate.  At that point my only real experience was the Mohave and the western deserts of Utah and similar places-boring-not my cup of tea aesthetically or otherwise. When I first rolled into Moab, actually as I approached Moab and saw the massive red rock walls for the first time, that all changed for me.  From then on the desert became a place of mystery and magic and the principle focus of virtually all of the paintings I have done since.  The more I learned about the geology of the area the more fascinated I became.

My partner Al Dart and I used to drive up the Colorado River every day on our way to and from some of our mining claims on Wilson Mesa overlooking Castle Valley on the flank of the Manti LaSalle Mountains.  We lived in a small trailer up on the mesa and staked claims, drilled, and prospected the whole area looking for and finding uranium.  We also had numerous claims in other areas too.  One block of claims was just north of Dead Horse Point up high on the rim.  Some others were way out south and east of the point. All very scenic, all in the desert.  Three of my paintings were off the finger of land upon which Dead Horse Point is the southern most tip.  These paintings, Red Canyons, Dead Horse Autumn and Dead Horse Winter all show the magnitude and the grandeur of these desert vistas from high-up looking out over vast distances.  My Arches paintings, Indian Summer, Red Dawn, Walking Wild, Hovering Specter, and Two in the Bush show yet other aspects of the desert. All magical and mystical.

While living in the desert, I was also struck with how alien these landscapes appeared.  I could easily imagine interstellar spaceships landing and departing these areas.  My imagination took flight in this regard with a series of paintings I call my "Spaced Miners Series," wherein I had red rock vistas floating in space. 

I also came to appreciate the beauty of the desert in the winter, blanketed in snow.  On one trip, driving through 18 inches of new snow on our way to inspect some of our claims, we decided to stop by Dead Horse Point.  This was before the visitors center was there.  The reflection off the snow was so intense that even sunglasses couldn't prevent our eyes from smarting.  This particular desert trip was memorialized in my paintings, Dead Horse Winter and Moab Blues.

In later years, now totally attuned to the beauty of the desert, I visited other locations in Southeast Utah which yielded my Zion Park Series and my Sedona Series of paintings.  In northern Arizona I discovered a rock house out in the middle of the desert and created two paintings of that scene as well.  I also have dozens of photos of desert scenes from New Mexico which I some day hope to use as source materials for still more desert paintings. So, hot or not, I am now and forever a desert artist.  Desert paintings will continue to flow out of my brush."

R. Geoffrey Blackburn


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Revised: 04/12/20