Donal Jolley’s Passion for the Southwest

Monday, July 15 2013 23:15   People of the West
Red sandstone canyon walls, thick pine and juniper habitats, narrow backcountry trails, cool waterfalls, pools of water on a hot summer's day and even snowy, stormy winters-all just a perfect place for a boy to explore and find adventure.

For Donal C. Jolley, those scenes and memories of being a boy growing up in Utah's Zion National Park, playing with his siblings would fashion a love just as powerful as the rough, rugged mesas of the American Southwest.

donal_jolley"Yes, I do, I really love the Southwest," Jolley said, sitting at his desk in his artist's studio in Rimforest, a small community just off state Highway 18 not far from Lake Arrowhead in Southern California. Jolley talked as he worked on his latest watercolor, a scene of a mesa somewhere in southern Utah. "And I have a lot of fond memories of the National Park Service and of all my dad's friends."

Jolley's father, Donal Jones Jolley, was the first chief ranger for Zion National Park. Donal Jones Jolley (Donal is a family name) started working in Zion in 1919, finally leaving Zion in 1943 when the park service moved him to Lake Meade National Recreation Center. But it was those boyhood days in Zion, playing and exploring with his sisters, that forged Donal C. Jolley's love and interest in the history and mystery of southern Utah and the West.

During his career as an artist, Jolley has painted hundreds of images of the Southwest, ranging from detailed acrylics or oils of historic trains and cowboys and Indians to abstract watercolors of landscapes, farms and barns.

Zion has a special place for him, however, and his passion shows up in the many watercolors he's created over the years. Not only does he capture the majesty of rising peaks in the sunlight, or valleys coming alive in the morning dawn and falling shadows, but the energy of lofty cumulus clouds being swept past rugged clifts or a lightning-filled thunderstorm breaking over a mesa.

His studio is on the second floor of his home and includes an art display and sitting area. Both rooms are welcoming and offer plenty to see. His studio is almost more like a museum, with dozens of award-winning ribbons, personal memorabilia and well-worn hats hanging up high on the walls. Behind his desk is a small bookcase filled with art books.

On display in his studio for visitors to see (and maybe to purchase) are both framed and unframed paintings and watercolors, although Jolley now mostly works in watercolors. Visitors are welcome to stop by, but should call first. He has been painting full time in his home-studio in Rimforest since 1970.

Now 80 years old, Jolley attended Brigham Young University where he graduated as an art major. A brief time serving in the Army took him to Germany in the 1950s. Returning to civilian life, he found a job as an illustrator for the Aerospace Corporation in El Segundo, California and freelanced for Rod & Custom magazine. His interest in art originally was piqued by a high school art teacher who favored working in watercolor and pastels.

His talent and ability to capture the beauty of the American Southwest brought him many fans and admirers over the years, and he and his wife, Velma, have made frenquent trips to Zion and other national parks to research and take pictures. He'd also pack an easel, brushes and colors to work in the field as well. He's attended many of the plein air programs held in national parks in the Southwest, and is scheduled to attend the fifth annual "In the Footsteps of Thomas Moran Plein Air Artist Invitational," to be held Nov. 4-11, 2013, at Zion National Park.

Hosted by the Zion National Park Foundation, the event will bring together 24 of the country's finest landscape artists to paint in the places Moran sketched in Zion Canyon. The artists will paint plein air (on location) throughout the week at the same vantage points where Moran first made his Zion sketches. Park visitors that week will have many unique opportunities to witness these great artists at work in the park through daily demonstrations, lectures and activities.

Jolley's met many artists who shared similar passions about the Southwest, including Native Americans.

"I remember meeting a Navajo artist one time around Canyon de Chelly (National Monument)," he recalled. "We talked, but I wished I could have had more time with him." Looking back, Jolley said he would have liked to have learned more about the artist's feelings for the country. Other favorite places for Jolley include the area around Monument Valley between Arizona and Utah, and its pinnacles of rock, surrounded by mesas and buttes, and the Virgin River and its tributaries.

Jolley's credentials as a Southwestern artist are lengthy. He is a member of the National Watercolor Society and Watercolor West. He has been featured in Southwest Art, Contemporary Western Artists, Who's Who in American Art, Camera Life, Inland Empire Magazine and others. His work is in the collections of the Church Museum of History and Art in Salt Lake City, the San Bernardino County Museum, and the Smithsonian.

"Life has been very good to me," he added.

Jolley's Website can be found by going to .


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