The Perils of Plein Air

Every artist that has painted outside has a story to tell. It could be about the weather being horrible, bugs chomping on every inch of flesh, the sun mercilessly beating down with a chorus of, "HOW could I forget my HAT?!" pounding in the artist's ears.

Here in the Rocky Mountains of Canada, there are situations that occur that make outdoor art practices more...interesting!

One autumn afternoon, my life partner Yannick and I decided to spend the day beside the Kootenay River. We had everything: a thermos of coffee, camp chairs, a book for him, painting supplies for me. It was glorious. Until we heard the guns. Lots of guns. HOW could we forget that it was hunting season?! It should have been foremost in our minds!

Yannick's truck has lots of "just in case" supplies, thank Goodness. He not only had a high visibility safety vest for himself, but a toasty woolen one for me to wear. I enclose an image below of me decked out in my finery. We didn't have to give up our day, but rather adapt to it.Plein Air Painting Beside Kootenay River

This summer was devastating to British Columbia. Wildfires burned everything in their paths, the skies choking with ash and smoke. Lives and entire communities were lost. Our hearts hurt when we would look for the sun and only see an angry, red ball. Every day meant more fears we had to endure.

Many of the planned plein air painting events were cancelled due to the poor air quality, plus the fact that we literally couldn't see a few feet in front of us. The smoke was as thick as fog, swirling and blanketing the view in every direction.

As artists, we have to motivate ourselves when the world doesn't cooperate. We have to find beauty in chaos; it is our vocation.

A dear friend and painting mentor invited me one afternoon to paint with him in his lovely English garden. We were seizing the moment; as we were not able to see the incredible wetlands due to the smoke, we could paint the flowers that were dazzling us with their colours despite every day being grey.

That day, I came away with a small painting of one tiny corner of that massive garden, painted in watercolour with pen & ink on handmade paper. Here it is:

I guess the lesson was, (and is!), to find a way, no matter what. Even a tiny study was STILL a painting. We worked, outside, despite the smoke; a small victory in a summer of challenges. It enabled me to spend time with dear friends, sipping tea on their verandah after a lovely afternoon of painting en plein air.

Thank you for spending this time with me, 

Lori  xx

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