A month of painting on location equals a lot of new work!
You know what the biggest surprise was from my time away? How much I enjoy painting outside.
To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of plein air painting because I just always thought it couldn’t help but be a pain. First of all, you have to lug around a lot of stuff. The weather can be brutal. And what if you forget something important, like paper? What if it’s windy out? What if there’s bugs?
But it was either paint outdoors or don’t paint at all on this trip and we planned to be gone for a whole month, too long to go without pastels. So I decided to make an effort because art is important, dammit.
I prepared as well as I could by fitting everything into one big backpack and trying it out once or twice before we left to make sure I had everything. I also did some research on southwest color palettes so that I’d have the right pastels for the job. I cut up a lot of paper to take with me, with different textures and tones to keep my flittery fluttery mind engaged. I ran into one snag at the beginning when I discovered the foam core boards I’d brought to work on were too small, but I clipped two of them together and it was fine.
The only day it was too windy to paint was while we were traveling through New Mexico on day four. It’s pretty scary pulling a trailer in winds gusting to 70 mph. After an hour of that we were only too happy to find a place to wait out the weather. We ended up sitting in a gas station parking lot in Vaughn for seven hours. I doodled semi trailers in my sketchbook and Steve and I took turns watching the cover over the gas pumps to see if it would break loose and go flying off across the prairie.
After that we had non-stop beautiful weather right up until we headed north again. We put off visiting Taos on the way home because camping in the snow is just not a viable option at our age. Most of the time, though, I was up bright and early and working in my pajamas, coffee in hand. It was lovely.
As for bugs, I saw exactly one while I was painting, and that was a bombardier beetle at Las Cienagas National Preservation area. He came perilously close to running into my foot, aimed his butt at me for about five seconds while I held my breath, and then went on his way. Everyone’s a critic.
So now that I’m back I’ve decided to get out there and do more painting outdoors because who doesn’t have as much fun as they can? No one, that’s who. I have to say I like the look of my landscapes much better when they’re done on location than from photos in the studio. I’m looking forward to doing a lot more. It’s going to be awesome.
I’ve posted the best of my southwest USA plein air efforts on eBay this week, so be sure and check them out, a new painting every day at 9pm for the next week or so, and then it’s back to local landscapes, but with a new (for me) outdoor twist. If you see me out there, be sure to stop and say hello!