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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Adventures and Misadventures of a Plein Air Painter: A Helicopter Landing and a Red Ant Bite

We all have war stories from plein air events .
I recently encountered two instances of bizarre obstacles during plein air events, yet managed to overcome them because of my working methods based on years of experience in the field.

Bugs,wind, changing light, rain, and traffic are common challenges but a helicopter landing and a red ant bite?

The Helicopter Landing

During my first day of painting in the Kern County Plein Air Painting festival, I set up in the parking lot of a wild flower trail at Wind Wolves Preserve.
A relatively flat area out of the road and traffic, it had a great view of the hills with quickly moving shadows.
Thirty minutes into the painting, the ranger arrived to tell me a helicopter would be landing where I was standing and would take approximately an hour to ferry supplies to the mountain top.
Because it was a morning scene with fast moving light, I had generally indicated where the shadows on the hills should fall.
I spent the next twenty minutes carefully drawing all the shapes and analyzing them to make sure I was happy with them. Then I relocated about a tenth of a mile back, where I could still see the colors and values and used that view and my drawing to finish the painting successfully.

Understanding time limits  and how to work within them saved this painting.


 Hill at Wind Wolves 
The Red Ant Bite

During the second day of the Carmel Plein Air Event there was a downpour so intense my palette became a  lake of pale colors and the drying time was way too long.
I gathered up my gear and as I drove away something stung me hard on my leg. I shook out my pants and  a large red ant fell out, it had probably climbed up to get out of the rain. The welt was large and painful and growing fast so I took an antihistamine to stop the reaction and fell asleep .
The next morning I was still very drowsy but it was sunny so I dragged myself out to paint and told myself I'll just stay two hours and see what happens.
 I was so tired I was hanging on to the easel for support.
 And I simplified the scene as much as I dared.
This was the painting that won Best Watercolor.
It could never have been painted in the rain.
Waiting for the cloud bursts to end let me have enough endurance to paint in better conditions.

Where they ride Horses

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