I am on the scene at the Sedona Plein Air Festival. One thing I learned last year is that Sedona’s landscape is a seducer. It says so sweetly to the artist “Look at me, I’m so beautiful. In fact, I’m so beautiful that it’s going to be easy to paint me! Go ahead…paint.” Somewhere in the distance I hear laughter. See my blog post from last year for details on this landscape. Suffice to say, the landscape seducea the artist into a sort of cockiness in order to dash his hopes.

Knowing this, I spent the last three months in training for Sedona, taking my painting technique apart and putting it back together only after months of experimenting with paints, medium, and different frames of mind. I tried it all and then took what I learned and put it all back together into a new, for me, way of painting. All the while, I said to myself over and over, remain humble, don’t listen to the seduction, remain focused, resolute, deaf to the siren’s call.

A Good Start

So fearful was I of this gorgeous landscape that I even needed a new strategy, a firm plan to follow. Without going into boring detail, my plan was to follow what I had learned in my training without waivering, most of all to “finish” my paintings, spending lots of time toward the end working on paint thickness and brushwork surprises. I also decided to paint one large piece over a span of four days, painting each morning at sunrise for a couple of hours. Each day I would return to the same place and work another two hours. To do this more easily, I brought along my gloucester easel and am leaving it on location, a location I had only envisioned but which I found an actual match in real life, a very short walk from the home I am staying. This morning I began that large piece and it was a good start.

Yesterday was the quick draw on Main Street Sedona. Like many artists, I had decided to paint umbrellas at a cafe. There are several cafes to choose from with either yellow, white, or red umbrellas. I chose the outdoor Taos Cantina because their yellow umbrellas went in a direct line to the distant Cathedral Rocks. Following my plan, I spent the first part on nailing down a strong composition, then blocking in the basic colors. I spent most of my time finishing the piece, laying on more paint and looking for chances to juxtapose colors and do rich brush work.