Robert Dalegowski loved Arizona – especially the Grand Canyon. And it showed in the artwork to which he devoted so much of his life.
I first learned of Robert Dalegowski and his masterful creative talent just a few months before his passing on June 17, 2018. In preparation for my first rim to rim hike of the Grand Canyon, I joined a Facebook group called Grand Canyon Hikers and Backpackers. As I began the countdown to the June 3 hike with my wife, Robert’s paintings began to appear with just enough frequency in the Facebook group to build anticipation for each new post.
With every upload of his work came a detailed description of the vantage point from which he painted it. He liked to call out specific rock formations, trees or other features by name. I was so enamored by his work that I often showed my wife and hiking partner each of Robert’s posts with great enthusiasm.
Sampling of Robert Dalegowski’s plein air watercolor paintings of Arizona landscapes
Although I never met Robert in person, I felt a connection to him through our mutual love for the Grand Canyon. Sadly, Robert’s last post was June 15, 2018. It was by other people’s comments that I learned of his passing. Such a great loss for all of us.
Through others’ comments, I also learned that Robert painted most of the works he shared on Facebook while rafting the stretch of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon a few years earlier. Robert himself was clear to point out that he set up his easel on the banks of the Colorado and painted with water from the river.
Robert Dalegowski biography
Following is the bio that was on Robert’s official website at the time of his passing:
Robert Dalegowski was born in Flagstaff in 1948. The oldest of five brothers, he roamed the forests and canyons of Northern Arizona as a child, developing a deep love and respect for the solitude of wilderness which surrounded his rural home in Doney Park. At that time amenities were limited, without electricity, and water was pumped from a cistern. In this environment, his father instructed the boys in the practice of drawing as entertainment, using fireplace charcoal on old newspapers. From the earliest days, artistic expression was associated with family and relaxation, leading eventually to a very personal meditative process involving plein air watercolor painting.
Many years of experimentation with watercolor and plein air painting has achieved a unique style of controlled and colorfully expressive brushwork to develop a final vibrant image. Combined with the inspiration and solitude of the wilderness, this technique can capture the essence and light of moment and place. Usually, a short day hike will reveal a compelling perspective, other times more extensive effort is expended.
Plein air painting is about leaving the four walls of your studio behind and experiencing painting and drawing in the landscape. The practice goes back for centuries but was truly made into an art form by the French Impressionists.
Wilderness (often Grand Canyon) plein air painting frequently involves multi day backpacking trips carrying minimal equipment. Scenes involving water are painted using water from that location. A half dozen brushes, small pigment loaded paintbox, and small watercolor block of 140# or 300# quality paper allow these quick (1 to 6 hr.) interpretations of place to sometimes result in a finished painting.
Nothing Robert painted was an exact representation of what is seen, rather an edited vision to express the glow of light and complexity of mood. Grand Canyon was a favorite place- rock, sky, water – a vast wilderness of intimate oases accessed by foot, rope, river, or art. Through his art, he shared the beauty, geology and mystery of Arizona landscapes with others.
In memoriam: Robert Dalegowski
The Artist’s Gallery, at 17 N. San Francisco St., Flagstaff, AZ has been known to feature some of Robert’s art but it’s unknown if they still do.