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Grand Canyon dawn oil painting by modern landscape painter Erin Hanson
Grand Canyon oil painting done over 24kt gold leaf, by contemporary impressionist Erin Hanson.
Hiking into the Grand Canyon to see a sunrise, I captured this vista with oil and canvas and 24kt gold leaf, framed in a gold floater frame

Golden Dawn


Oil on canvas and 24kt gold leaf by

40 x 50 in


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About the Painting

I started hiking down into the Grand Canyon one early morning, 2 hours before dawn. The trailhead began way back from the main canyon, a few miles' hike from the first uninterrupted view where you could see the wide expanse of the canyon. As I hiked along with my two brothers, large packs on our backs, I watched the sky slowly lighten above us. Eventually, we no longer needed our headlamps, and I could make out the dim shape of the steep cliff beside us. As the hour of daybreak approached nearer, I started jogging anxiously forward, hoping to catch that magical moment of dawn hitting the Grand Canyon. The trail kept switching back and forth behind a large outcropping in the cliff, and I could not get a full view of the canyon. In the distance, I could see the sun starting to hit the first tips of the distant peaks. I urged my brothers forward, trotting forward at a near gallop now, and when the trail finally led me around the final switchback and out into an unimpeded view of the canyon, I skidded to a stop. This is the vision I saw: an ancient manzanita tree catching the bright rays of the sun, mere minutes after daybreak, with the wide expanse of the canyon as the backdrop. In my painting can see the sunlight striking the top of the boulder next to the trail -- five minutes later and the entire trail was bathed in warm light. Five minutes after that, and the Grand Canyon itself was fully lit from top to bottom, and the dramatic and mystical period of dawn had passed. The colors changed rapidly from brilliant gold and purple to a dull orange and brown. I was so happy I had made it to this spot in the trail in time, and I took about a hundred photos during those subsequent minutes, recording the sun slowly descending down the canyon walls.

This painting captures the moment of first light I experienced as I came around that final bend in the Grand Canyon.

This painting was done over a unique underpainting: where the sunlight is hitting the mountains and tree, I applied 24kt gold leaf beneath the oil paint. The effect is subtle, but at the right angle you can see a little glimmer of gold peeking through the brushstrokes. This painting was done on 1-1/2" canvas, with the painting continued around the edges. It has been framed in a gilded and hand-carved floater frame.

This painting will be shown in the The Red Rock Show at The Erin Hanson Gallery, June 16th, 2018. Click here to view the other Red Rock paintings.


ERIN HANSON has been painting in oils since she was 8 years old. As a young artist, she worked at a mural studio creating 40-foot-tall paintings on canvas, while selling art commissions on the side. After getting a degree in Bioengineering from UC Berkeley, Erin became a rock climber at Red Rock Canyon, Nevada. Inspired by the colorful scenery she was climbing, she decided to paint one painting every week for the rest of her life. She has stuck to that decision ever since, becoming one of the most prolific artists in history. Erin Hanson's style is known as "Open Impressionism" and is now taught in art schools worldwide. With thousands of collectors eagerly anticipating her work and millions of followers online, Hanson has become an iconic, driving force in the rebirth of contemporary impressionism.

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