My sister, Debbi, and I went on a scouting trip to Sedona a couple days ago. We were looking for a future camping spot and future painting spots. We're going to bed down in her pop-up tent somewhere in Oak Creek Canyon, sometime soon. She's going to fish and I'm going to paint. That's the plan. Of course, we'll do other stuff, too, like eat, and hike, and lay around. We'll probably gossip a little and take naps. I don't know, if she really wants to fish, but, the reason for the trip is so I can get some brush time en plein air and Debbi is graciously providing the digs.
Now, I was born in Arizona and you can imagine, I've seen a few cactus paintings, especially saguaros, Grand Canyon paintings, Sedona paintings, cowboy paintings, and Indian paintings, and of course, quite a few of those Monument Valley paintings. That stuff seems "normal" to me. It's the desert. I grew up in it. And, while I can so appreciate its beauty, whenever I'd think of painting it, I'd think, "OMG. It's been done SO many times." I don't know what I was thinking. So have apples and pears and heads and figures and flowers and oceans and horses and Jesuses and Marys and . . . You get the idea. Everything's been done a gazillion times, but not by me.
Sometimes, you need to get a crack in your brain to let the air in. This Buddhist saying had been beating on my brain for quite a while and it finally opened it up - a little crack. Nothing like a stroke or a near death experience, thank goodness, just a little crack. The saying goes, "Why look far away for what is close at hand?" I heard this little, Buddhist voice repeating that Buddhist saying over and over so many times, in the left ear and the right, I finally gave in. I cracked. I stopped longing to paint France, (that's a lie), and I asked my sister, if she wanted to go camping in Oak Creek Canyon, so I could paint that.
Now, Sedona is a dizzying place, in that while you're there, your head keeps jerking around to look at stuff. Or, maybe, it's the magnetic field in the vortexes that keeps it spinning, I don't know. I doubt it. I think it was the "God's Country" landscape coupled with fast moving clouds that made our scouting day a perfect picture day, as well. With our heads jerking this way and that, we snapped a ton of photos and we found where we hope to camp, as well. I can't wait.
I haven't had a lot of experience painting en plein air. In fact, before last year's Plein Air Convention, I had only tried it once. I took a three-legged, aluminum easel, an 18 inch by 24 inch stretched canvas, and my hip-high, rolling tool box full of paints and supplies out to Sahuaro Ranch Park, over in Glendale. (Saguaro can be spelled with a "g" or an "h.") There's a little house tucked away between the main house and the orchard. I thought I could paint the house and the chickens that were running around out there, and not too many people would see me. I set up and got started.
It was a disaster. Despite the fact I had this giant canvas, I couldn't seem to get the house to fit on it. My colors were all mud. Little kids came by to stare at me and their parents would run up and swift them away. I think they thought I was nuts. The chickens wouldn't hold still and the wind started to blow. Luckily, my painting ended up in the dirt, where it belonged. That was probably sometime around 2002 or 2003ish. I'm bad with time, so I can't tell you for sure.
Last year, I went to the 2014 Plein Air Convention in Monterey, California with high hopes of painting the ocean and some boats. (Like nobody's ever done that before.) I had a blast. I bought a Gorilla Box with a tripod, some Raymar canvas panels, and went out with the convention bunch to paint the ocean by myself. (I didn't want anybody to see I'd never painted the ocean before. I had to test the waters, so to speak.) It was heaven. Pure, unadulterated heaven. Even though, I had to pee all the time and it was cold, it was heaven, I tell you. Pure. Just like that. But, even with all that heaven stuff, my paintings of the beautiful black, rock islands out there in the beautiful, turquoise ocean, that I thought were so spectacular "for a newbie," looked like little rocks in some water by the time I got home. They'll never see the inside of a frame. Oh well. It was still heaven.
Since I haven't had a lot of en plein air experience, I thought I should practice in some indoor air with my photographs, before we go up and get our camping spot and I end up crying because I'm a loser who can't paint outside. This painting, above, was the result of my first practice session.
I have a lot more pictures to practice with and I'm going to start timing myself. I'm going to pretend I'm out there in the yonder and the sun's burning and moving and I'm listening for snakes while I'm painting. I have to get faster. I have to get a system. I have to learn to simplify. I have to stretch my bladder. It's like training for the Middle-Aged and Showing It Olympics. (Not really. Everybody of every age likes to paint outside. Well, I'm sure not everybody, but you know what I mean.) I'm going to do this thing! I'm going to paint outside and it's going to look good, I tell you! Good!