An absolute highlight was journeying down into the Grand Canyon for 9 days rafting the Colorado River with AZRA - paddling exciting rapids, exploring beautiful side canyons, sleeping under the stars and meeting great people like David & Roxanne who can be seen relaxing in the stream (above).
The rock formations were extraordinary and I was astounded by the variety in geology as we travelled through the canyon.
A spectacular hike led to Thunder River shooting straight out of the cliff-face and cascading down this tall waterfall, providing cool relief after a desert-hot ascent.
It was natural to rise with the sun and in the evening watch the glowing light slip away around the river bend.
Our group included Thatcher & Skip (and their amazing moustaches), 2 film-makers working on an awesome series called Of Souls and Water, including The Elder about our paddle captain Rob Elliot. I really enjoyed seeing some of their process and effort from nightly time-lapse setups to make-shift solar-panel recharge centres.
Roxanne was master of hair-blowing-in-wind ultimate fishing style.
Master river guide, guitar player and generally fun guy Nate took our drawing swap (which happened to fall on my birthday) as an opportunity to unleash his inner artist. Can you believe this fantastic collection of river memories was inspired by a simple piece of driftwood?!
Arriving straight from the seclusion of the Grand Canyon I was slightly overwhelmed by the concrete canyons and human floods of NYC, but still deeply inspired by the abundance of great museums/galleries and always intriguing subway characters.
In Baltimore I received an exceptionally warm welcome from some of my best friends in the world - it was amazing to catch up with everyone as well as taking time to revisit some special places like the Walters Museum (above),
and my favourite artwork in the outstanding American Visionary Art Museum - so charged with emotion.
In Baltimore there were both chance reunions and friends who went out of their way, but always some great food & drinks! Above is sushi @ XS with Brian & Justin (& me drawn by Brian)
Further south, in Sarasota, I came across the beautiful princess Jasmin,
and was seduced by her seaside wonderland.
In Virginia, I was excited to see how happy Krystle & Deon were with their gorgeous and much loved 3 month-old girl Makayla.
The final leg of the journey was back to NYC, which I appreciated even more having re-adjusted to city life and staying with the lovely Raphael who took me to a great (and extremely popular) drink n' draw night at 3rdward in Brooklyn. The first series of drawings (above) are in response to a period of continuous movement from the model.
I had fun splashing some watercolour around in the longer poses and enjoyed the surprise last pose of the evening where the experienced female model was joined by a daring French traveller who wanted to try something new on his first visit to America.
After an impressive night of exhibition openings in gallery-ville (Chelsea) I stumbled across one gallery (The New Blue Riders) that was not only still open, but had a jazz band playing and a belly dancer asking to be drawn!