Thursday, October 21, 2010

Strange Bedfellows and Haunting Memories

Wednesday. When I first came on this scene I just had to pull over and have a good cry for quite a while. Patti Griffin was singing about how some of us aren't afraid of death and are meant to fly. My late husband came to mind...and how he flew away unafraid of the hereafter. I try not to let myself miss him much...but he haunts me at the strangest times. So it was no mistake that I went back to this scene to paint. Bob had red-orange hair, peachy skin and intense blue eyes...just like the colors of the landscape here. Memories flooded back. It was like looking at his big heart...and one of my favorite times in my life, loving him.

"Haunting Red Spirits", oil on linen, 16x12"

Plein Air Painting is a strange bedfellow. The above oil was painted on location in about a 4 hour effort consisting of about three 15-20 minute painting sessions. I guess I should have tried a 10x8" to get my feet wet on these new local colors...but trying to paint something so large, so small, seemed even more difficult, so I went with the larger 16x12" board.

I didn't realize I was going to get more than just my feet wet! I was painting under the hatch back of my van to keep cool in the hot sun. However, a few minutes later I got sprinkled on, down poured on, fogged out, drenched again, and frozen all in a span of a few hours. I continued to paint as long as I could under the van's rear door, but eventually the wind swept the rain all over...nothing like rain droplets sticking to your fresh oil paint!

Then to make things more difficult, I'm using unfamiliar oil colors in an effort to capture the local color. To my delight I found a brand of Walnut Alkyd Oil that helps the paint dry faster...that I hadn't been able to obtain in Austin or find online. Tim's Sedona Art Store had it and he said I can order it in the future from him...hooray! Dad bought it for me once and I loved it...I think it's by Graham? Made in Oregon.

The most difficult part of the whole fiasco was that the light kept changing every 10 minutes...I couldn't even keep up with the changing values or remember them in my head! At one point the clouds completely hid the mountains and then the fog rolled in and changed it all again. The sky went from sunny to almost night in 15 minutes! Ah the glories of painting en plein air!

They say nothing in art school about having to pee after a long day of painting explorations. This must be why most outdoor painters are men as they are more equipped for these things. Well, I'm 2 hours out on a dirt road not meant for a van...with a steady stream of pink tourist jeeps going by...and one government official. So, I find a large cup and hiding under a map, relieve myself in the back of the van. Let's just say that I was not as graceful or controlled as I hoped. In fact it was quite a "Lucy Moment" only mom and my sisters can imagine! Let's just say I'll be having the van's carpets shampooed when I get home!

Now I'm drenched...and not just from the rain. So I change clothes (thank goodness I remembered to bring a change of warm clothes...just not a bucket!) I then proceed to get red mud and paint all over the van...which I'm having shampooed anyway, so who cares! It's gone from the 80's to 54 degrees...burr! Setting up my painting again...I wait for the clouds to clear, and suddenly I sense nature so clearly: the birds chirping, the brook babbling, the smell of Christmas trees. I'm shooting the lovely fog rolling in and the ever changing clouds when a sun enshrined pine catches my eye...the raindrops make it look like an electric Christmas tree! It was stunning...I've tried to show you here, but it was much more impressive in person. Remembering Christmas is with us always...every day!

The day's experience made me realize how my efforts to tune out the public or the noise from the highway I live on by listening to music constantly, I've tuned out so much more to my great loss. I continued to paint without my music on...until the next rainstorm!

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