oil on Belgian linen mounted on archival board (Raymar)"In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer."
- Albert Camus
I did it! I painted outdoors IN THE SNOW!
I rarely ever paint snow - and when I have, it has always been done from the comfort of a room with a decent view to the outside. Which is fine, but does have its limitations. I got interested in expanding my 'plein-air season' after reading Stapleton Kearn's blog
entries about 'Snow Camp'. I knew a good part of my problem fell under the 'comfort & safety' category. How does a self-respecting Florida transplant do this without freezing to death? I had initially signed up for Stape's 'Snow Camp'- knowing this would be the key to unlocking all these cold-weather secrets from a pro! Unfortunately I had to withdraw when I learned that scheduled radiation treatments (which start up this coming Tuesday) would conflict with the workshop schedule. Bummer. (No, I was not worried that I would cause regional meltdown & ruin the fun for everyone. It's not supposed to work like that anyway).
My daughters really liked the idea of my new venture...'learning' to like the snow. I got myself some decent water-proof snow-boots this winter. I was gifted with some nice gloves & hat that have actually been pretty effective on my outdoor walks, it was time to put them to the painting test. Today was just above freezing, probably around the mid-30s. You'd be surprised at how good that feels after you spent some windy days in the teens & twenties (brr). So, things were starting to melt a bit, I could hear the crackling of ice falling through gutters, down roof-tops, off of the trees. There was a very unusual bird-call in the woods right in front of me! I stared out to try to find who was singing at me - a big woodpecker! Beautiful! For a "gray-winter-day", my surroundings were actually alive and beautiful! While the sun never quite came out, the lighting did change the variety of grays through out the day. I continued to look for relative contrast, starting my painting the way I always do - by laying down the darkest darks first. Even in very subtle light conditions, the warm light will be 'warm' relative to the cooler tones. Reminders came back in my head from my painter friend Leif Nilsson
, "get that canvas covered, right off the bat, tweak it later". When the weather is this cold, you do indeed want to make your decisions and get on with it. "Tweaking" can be done in the studio if necessary. Leif had reminded me the essentials of getting those first masses of paint laid on, it's the basic road-map for everything that follows. "So that if you're chased by a bear, or a hurricane blows in", (whatever catastrophe) you've at least recorded your initial impression of the scene before you.
So today was a good day for one that I would have previously classified as 'dreary'. It was vibrant and alive, and I was glad to be out 'in it'. That said, there are still things for me to grow in the learning curve; getting used to painting with gloves is the biggest thing. Since it was over 32F I painted without gloves for a while. I hated the thought of getting paint on new gloves, but quickly got over that, since that's what they were meant for. One of those 'little kid' saucer sleds would be handy to have for laying your gear on & hauling it over to where you want to set up. I used a big "muck tub" (one of those big gardening buckets with a rope handle on each side) to haul my stuff to the back yard woods. I look forward to my next winter plein-air experience...as long as it's not windy and 20 degrees! ACK! - at that point, I'm sure my eyeballs would freeze up!
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