Plein Air Summer: Planning for Adventure

This summer we will be in Northland again, living in a cute little cottage on a friend’s family farm. And I am planning to get in a whole lot of plein air painting while the weather is warm and I am surrounded in beautiful scenery. I have done some plein air painting here in Christchurch this year, but I struggled to find inspiration in the jungle of man-made structures, as well as it being cold for most of the months we are here. There are many beautiful places here to paint, beautiful parks, and interesting streets, but I still feel much more inspired to paint wide open country spaces. So I am looking forward to spending this summer in the country.

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   Caleb found me a pile of cast of strips of metal a little while ago which are about the perfect size to cut up into 9 x 12 in. panels to do paintings on. I have never painted on metal before, so it should be interesting. I will let you know how it goes. I also have a few pieces of glass to paint on, also something Caleb found for me in his city scavenging. He finds so many things that ‘could be useful’.

   I’ve been looking forward for awhile to this opportunity to paint outside somewhere beautiful. I often want to go outside and paint more, but I don’t do it much because I get so distracted by what is going on in my studio and because it requires more effort to get myself outside when I’m not feeling inspired. But this summer I wont have a studio, and I am thinking of it as a sort of plein air adventure. I will be there to paint landscapes and to make the most of the opportunity of living in the country with beautiful landscapes in every direction just a step outside of the cottage.

    From the experience I had doing The Art of a Hut project I know that making the decision and then putting yourself in a position where you have to do the work helps a lot. I made the decision to tramp to all those huts and at each one I had to get out in all weathers and draw the hut because I only had half a day to do it in. In that way extreme adventures where one must act in order to survive can seam easier mentally than leaving the house one afternoon into the serene sunshine of a calm afternoon to paint. There is no room to procrastinate, and when you are slogging up a mountain in the rain with all your painting gear and  no rest until you get to the hut you are not going to stop and sit down to think this through, even if you are having second thoughts! Whereas for me, I am always finding myself procrastinating by thinking the painting through a bit more, how about a bit more inspiration research on pintrest? I’ll just make myself a cup of tea and then I’ll get into it–and while I drink it I may as well flick through this art book…I might learn something important…

   I know I can be lazy and procrastinate a lot even with things I love to do once I have started, so I need to get my mind into a place where I see it as a challenging adventure, an exploratory journey, with one opportunity of getting all the painting and learning done that I want to. And then to remember that I do enjoy it, every time I have hit canvass with brush I realize I don’t want to do anything else in the world and I get lost in time.

But still, the struggle is real, creative blocks can be a sort of lingering paralyzing part of our lives. You could call it paralysis by analysis. But I will write about that later… I’m still figuring it out for myself after barely lifting a brush for the last couple months.

Below is a painting I did back in 2014. It is one of my favorite plein air paintings I have done, but unfortunately it never survived a day. On my way home from painting this on a bush walk it rained and not having any sort of wet panel carrier the painting was ruined. But it encourages me to go again and again after that elusive beauty, Nature.

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