The first full day of any plein air event is always full of promise. The artist part of our brains literally knows no bounds so, as far as it is concerned, the sky is the limit. The best plan is to come to the event early to scout out potential painting locations and note the times of day that the light is most likely to be interesting. With that comes the excitement and the grand plans. As Rose Franzten said in an article I wrote about her, “In painting, our reach will always exceed our grasp. Why should we think it will be any different?” We should always be stretching ourselves beyond what we think we might be capable of. Otherwise, how will we grow? So enter the grand plans.
Reality Sets In
The reality of the first day is usually somewhere between frustration and elation. Frustration that you are still driving around looking for inspiration and not painting, or that your effort to capture just the right value and color has eluded you or, worse, made you tighten up. And, I admit it, I get elated once I am in the middle of my first painting and it is going well and I am rocking out to my new CD (this trip it’s ADELLE) and I am just really glad the fates saw fit to give me the gift of paint that I get to put on canvas and dang if I not in I’m in Sedona.
So this morning was my elation/frustration painting. Mostly, it turned out cool, but, in the end, it didn’t have the color energy I would have liked. That doesn’t mean a few well placed strokes after I have had time to reevaluate won’t just make it sing though. I loved the foreground shadow with the Century Plant as a lacy center of interest. I knew this would be a challenge with the changing light and you can see that by the end of the painting the scene was completely different. I had to constantly be moving my easel because the moving sun causing raking light and glare on my palette and painting. But, that is what I signed up for. Plein air painting is about showing up, being present in the moment, and bringing all your skills and experience to bear for the brief time you are given. It doesn’t always work, so we move onto the next painting. We all have complicated rules for when a painting should be scraped, saved or trashed. We do it and move on. Because on the next horizon is the “hey, I like how this one turned out” painting. Mine was an 8×10″ night scene of the Sedona lights from up high tonight. I feel like the whole day was leading up to this. It is too dark out right now to take a picture of it, so I will leave you wanting more….until next time.
I’d like to tell you a little story about how looking for the perfect spot makes you do stupid things. On my way hiking into my painting spot this morning I had passed this awesome spot with huge tumbled down rocks with an overhang and a twisted old tree and I thought, “I wonder when the light is just right on that?” So I am done with my morning painting and walking out the trail with ADELLE playing on my incredible ear buds, and, what do you know, awesome light! I say to myself “score.” I note the time and proceed to walking in closer to get a bunch of pictures. I think, it will be better if I can get closer. Yes, I go closer. Take pics…then I think, “Don’t snakes like to sleep during the day in rocky overhangs and crevices?” So in response to this thought I look, don’t see anything, and get closer. Because that is only the sensible thing to do. Get close to a place where snakes like to hang out with your eye to a camera view finder and ADELLE blaring in your ears. Suddenly, I think, I can’t hear the rattling if there is a rattle snake. I rip off my ear buds and turn to walk out of there. I couldn’t resist turning back to look so I can see what a big baby I was being and, yep, SNAKE. I was not four feet from him moments ago. He was just waking up and moving towards me. Talk about adrenaline. The worst part was, walking out I said, “Awesome I just saw my first rattle snake ever.” I have no idea if it was a rattler or not, I didn’t think it wise to stay and find out. At least I had that much sense. Me and my artist brain are going to have to have a little talk about safety.
A Beautiful Compliment
And, as promised in my last post, the reason why the Sedona landscape is so imposing and powerful is that you are basically sitting in a bowl of two complimentary colors – red and green. They are opposites on the color wheel so they produce to the eye a vibrating effect of high energy. It is everywhere you look. Super beautiful, but leaves no doubt that you are but a speck in comparison.