In the mid 1970s to the early ‘80s, I coördinated a very interesting documentary art program for the National Park Service. The program had been going on between the New York Society of Illustrators and the National Park Service in Washington D.C.
I had received word that they wanted to include a professional art society on the west coast into their program ”Artists In The Parks”.
A ‘Parks’ official flew out from Washington D.C. to meet me to discuss the program and their needs.
Fortunately our Society of Illustrators was having an annual exhibit in the lobby of the Crown Zellerbach Building at the same time. After having wined and dined him, I took him to see the illustration exhibit. He was very impressed with the caliber of talent in the San Francisco Society of Illustrators. Two days after he flew back, I received a phone call. We were a part of the program!
The San Francisco illustrators that chose to travel and create paintings for the National Parks Collection were:
1‑Jim Sanford (not shown) 2‑Chris Kenyon 3‑Dave Grove 4‑Earl Thollander (not shown) 5‑Norm Nicholson 6‑Suzanne Siminger (not shown) 7‑John Rutherford (not shown) 8‑Ray Ward 9‑Bill Shields 10-Dick Cole (not shown) 11-Joe Cleary 12-Ed Diffenderfer 13-Robert Bausch (not shown).
I was asked to assign those artists willing to travel and participate in the program to a national park or monument in the U.S. Upon their return, an artist would produce one or two paintings with complete freedom to express their interpretation of the park they had visited.
One assignment that I had, included traveling to Glacier Bay National Monument, Alaska and Klondike National Historic Park in Skagway. Skagway, Alaska, in 1976 was a quiet village and tourism was minimal.
Upon my arrival, in a conversation with one of the residents, I told him my purpose for being there. He immediately suggested an afternoon excursion for my wife and me. Our guide offered to take us to a ghost town called Dyea, site of the starting point for the gold prospectors in the 1898 Yukon gold rush. We accepted his offer and found ourselves bouncing over and old dirt road for miles in his truck. We climbed up and over a mountain until we came to a spot where the road ended. “Now we have to hike in, the rest of the way”, our guide said.
My wife and I looked at each other with apprehension. The only thing visible was thick brush and heavy timber ahead. I told my wife that I would fall back behind her and our guide as we hiked in, as a safety measure. Was this guy for real or had we accepted a ride from a possible Klondike mass murderer? The thoughts went through my head.
After about a half-mile hike through mosquito-infested brush, we suddenly came into a clearing. There before us were a number of old deserted cabins from the 1898 gold rush. Many cabins still contained remains of furniture and some utensils on the tables. We saw an old gravesite with sixty head stones. This was at the base of the steep Chilkoot ice steps that the miners climbed on their way to the gold fields of the Yukon. As the story has been told, the miners waited for days to climb the ice steps, single file and burdened down with all their gear. On one occasion, one slipped and fell – – bringing the others down with him, resulting in the deaths of sixty miners. All now buried in that graveyard.
After safely returning that afternoon to Skagway, we reflected on what we had experienced that afternoon. The whole experience of that afternoon directed me to a different approach to the art I later produced. I created a large assemblage, depicting the history and the events of that area.
For the Glacier Bay assignment, I painted one of the massive glaciers. I was trying to capture the quietness of this vast landscape. The quiet, once in awhile, only broken by the roar of an ice cliff collapsing into the bay, called “caving”.
“An Other-Worldly Experience”
Artist Robert Bausch was born in 1938 in San Francisco and grew up in California. After graduating from college he was an art director for several advertising agencies in San Francisco before he launched a freelance design and illustration business in 1968. He has always had a strong interest in aviation, and has produced many paintings of aircraft, which led to his participation in the Air Force Art Program. He also made several paintings for the US Navy and NASA.
In 1979 the National Park Service commissioned him to travel to Carlsbad Caverns as part of the Artist-In-Residence Program, where he produced sketches on the spot, down in the caverns. Bausch had never been to Carlsbad before, and found being underground for hours at a time to be an unforgettable experience. This was also the first time he had been to the Southwest, and the sweeping landscapes made a lasting impression. Bausch reflects on his time in the cave:
“The experience of visiting Carlsbad Caverns was surely one of the most unusual ones I’ve ever had. What an astonishing thing the caverns are! It would have been different enough just being there. But the fact that I was actually working “down below,” drawing and thinking about what I was drawing, in this very strange and awesome place, was quite a treat for the senses. Every morning after breakfast for four days I went down and sat on a campstool and started sketching. This was early in the day, and very few other people were about, if any. Down here was a truly magical world, the prehistoric depths of our planet. The lighting was very subdued, and it was extremely quiet, except for the sound of dripping water, echoing from unseen chambers around me, as the process of the formation of the caverns continued. I will never forget this other-worldly experience.”
Bausch created a series of impressionistic pen-and-ink renderings on illustration board and paper of various areas in the cave, and donated a total of nine large drawings. Some of the drawings were executed using only detailed hatched ink lines, while others were enhanced with ink washes. Each drawing also has a line of hand-written text at the bottom describing the location. Documenting the process of a drawing with text as part of the finished image was very popular in the 1970s.
In 2009, Lois Manno, who at the time had been volunteering at Carlsbad Caverns for 15 years, and has been involved with the National Park Service for many years, published a beautiful book, Visions Underground, which chronicles various artist’s involvement with Carlsbad Caverns, and the art they have produced as a result. 4 of Bausch’s drawings are featured in the book.
Assignment: Harpers Ferry Historical National Park, WV
SFSI member, Ed Diffenderfer
Dick and I phoned Ed who described the trip in the Fall of 1970. He said that before leaving home, Mary Ann planned an extended stay. They would rent a car and touch on selected locations in that region of our country.
When they arrived at Harpers Ferry, viewing and taking many photos, Ed said that the history of both; that location and abolitionist John Brown, combined in determining his illustration.
[Mary Ann, was a commercial artist before she turned her talents to writing. She has had a number of books published. This from her recent email to us: “I have a novel coming out soon (September) about a woman artist — “All Kinds of Beauty”.”]
She suggested that I search the life story of John Brown.
Here, first, is Ed Diffenderfer’s painting.
Following Ed’s painting (and a photo of Ed from the 2001 SFSI Reunion) I show images that I have found about John Brown—
‑the man: Born May 9, 1800, ancestry back to 17th-century English Puritans, and from a staunchly Calvinist and antislavery family. Father of 20 children (some sons, were also abolitionists). Many years involved with the Underground Railroad and other anti-slavery efforts.
‑the Harpers Ferry Raid that he instigated: On the evening of October 16, 1859, Brown led 21 men on a raid of the federal armory of Harpers Ferry in Virginia (now West Virginia). Holding dozens of men hostage his followers gathered the stored guns with the plan of inspiring slaves to march north, to freedom.
Brown’s forces held out for two days but they were eventually defeated by military forces led by Robert E. Lee. Many of Brown’s men were killed, including two of his sons, and he was captured.
‑and the price he paid: — hanged — for his attempt to abolish slavery in the years before the Civil War.
Visiting West Virginia at that time of the year, Ed said that they found the trees were showing their ultimate of colors. He said that they drove a lot, stopping at the chosen locations, such as Norman Rockwell’s original: home-studio / museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Ed said that the collection, there, offered the chance to see the detail of the brushstrokes on paintings never seen when reproduced in halftone printing.
The Diffenderfers traveled as far as Rockport, MA and then it was soon time to return to California and start painting.
Yosemite and Mount McKinley National Park
G. Dean Smith studied at Pratt Institute in New York and the Art Center School in Los Angeles before opening a graphic design firm in San Francisco in 1959. It was in 1962 — for San Francisco’s ABC outlet, KGO-TV, that he designed (known as the Circle 7 logo) – the first of the trademark symbols that were to make him known nationally.
Conference of National Park Concessioners
For this leaflet shown: “Welcome to your park” — Dick Moore was asked by G. Dean Smith to show the various services available for visitors during their stay in the US National Parks.
Welcome to the Tetons
Line art of a section of a full mountain range — Dick created this line drawing for a folder about the Grand Tetons for G. Dean Smith. The year and details are forgotten. Just this sample remains.
Norm Nicholson and Robert Bausch supplied the stories of their experiences.
Then, with a phone call to Ed Diffenderfer, I was able to present the third National Park Service, “Artists In The Parks” report.
The other samples, here, were not part of the SFSI project.
G. Dean Smith’s trademarks for the NPS were designed in 1968 –for the Yosemite Park & Curry Co. and in 1970 –for the Mount McKinley National Park.
The assignments that Dean gave to Dick Moore in the 1970s show other graphic designs required by the Conference of National Park Concessioners.
To show the locations of the parks described, I added the maps from Google.