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Outside the Realm-hiking the Inca Trail

September 13, 2018 by admin

I am still baffled by the fact that when I climb a flight of stairs, or walk up a steep hill that I am winded and my heart is going “boom-boom-boom” in my head, and yet it was only a month ago that I somehow coerced this old body all the way to the edge… and then just a little bit farther, to hike the Inca Trail.

I went into the “Camino Inka-Inka trail” hike with the attitude of no problem, I can do it, probably not from being physically fit, because I’m not, but more from that arrogant air that others did it, so can I!  Even after I read and heard stories of people turning back after the first day, and not able to continue, I thought that “well, it’s just a hike”.

To ever think that trekking the Inca Trail is “just a hike”, it is akin to saying that John Singer Sargent was “just another artist”… and he wasn’t!

But I still had that attitude, even after some failed attempts to prepare for my trip. First,  a hike up Mount Wrightson in Southern Arizona, where almost to the summit, I could not continue because I was cramping up in both legs. Then, there were two days of strenuous hiking in the front range of the Colorado Rockies. Lastly, a few day hikes in and around home, when just the weekend before Peru, I ended up with my first blisters on my toes after just a 2-hour hike on a well-used “chip” trail.

Still I had no idea!

I chose this “cover” painting for all that it says to me. Here, we look across the ancient Inca city of Ollantaytambo in the heart of the Sacred Valley. The day before we were to start our trek, our guide suggested  a “little climb” to the ruins on the east side of town called Pinkuylluna.  This is where the Incas had their storage facilities, high above, where the cooler winds and temps would help to preserve the grains for later use.

Our entire group of 16 were more than game for this little hike, and after grabbing daypacks, water and cameras off we went, winding through the narrow streets and alleys created over 500 years ago.

Somehow, and I don’t know how we did it, we totally missed the sign warning hikers against this trail up the mountain, and its dangers. And I still to this day think that Nick, our lead guide for the Inca Trail, was taking us here as a test to evaluate each of us and how we handled ourselves in an actual “live” situation.

It was NOT the easy hike that I had expected, and it didn’t take long, as I climbed the narrow switchbacks up the side of the mountain, before I realized I needed to rethink what I was about to do. This was “1/2 hour up”, said Nick. Well maybe for him, but my pace quickly diminished, and I needed constant stops to catch my breath, and my wits…

…but we kept on.

When we finally made it, I looked out across the Sacred Valley. The sun was creeping down slowly behind the Western mountains, and what a sight it was. Just across on the near mountains were the ever-incessant terraces of the Inca temple of Araqhama, and what is referred to as “The Fortress” which is quite wrong being more of a sacred area than a defensive structure.

The place was breathtaking, and here I felt ever inspired from what lay before me, and then all that lay behind. The people and civilizations that had come and gone as they too looked out on the fading light through their sacred valley. Here with the pilgrimage of the Inca’s ahead of me, across “Warmiwanusca” or “Dead Woman’s Pass” at 13,780′ all the way to Machu Picchu. I began to see that before me was not a hike like any I had done before. This was to be something I had to dig down deep into myself just to put another foot in front of the other.

This was a search of what I was really made of.

Later that evening, back at the last night of lodging in a bed for this journey, I quickly reassessed everything that I was putting into my backpack and if it was not essential for the trip, it was not coming with me. Out went the extra pair of pants, extra shoes, deodorant, wet paint carriers, (I went from 3 with 24 canvas papers, to 1 with 8) everything that we thought might be considered “non-essential”. My personal pack went from 14 kilos to 9.6 kilos (21.2 pounds). Much better, though still twice as heavy as the average pack that the rest of the group was carrying, but I needed my painting gear…

…or so I thought.

Besides my preparations for my journey with physical training, I was going to paint! But I needed to revamp my gear; it was entirely too heavy for an actual trek across mountains. My backpack I normally use with my Soltek easel weighed in at 37lbs (16.8 kilos) this was NOT going to work, and if you read my previous blog (Pleins 2 Peru) you’ll see how I slimmed it down. It wasn’t easy, but before I left for Peru it was half what I normally carried, which made me think it would be a cake walk.

We began this trip in the dead of winter, winter south of the equator, at least. As we waited in the lobby of our hotel, we heard from guides and hikers who had been turned back from their Lares Trek to Machu Picchu because of snows and impassible trail. Not what I was wanting to hear, because “surprise, surprise”, I had tossed out some of my warmer gear for some lighter layering. The predictions for the next four days on the trail were lows below 0 to 1-15 above (centigrade) This, I was expecting, and thought doable, but the threat of snow was not good news. However, the day the 16 of us began, the sun was out, no winds and about 4 degrees.

I want to mention the group of fellow hikers on this journey. There were 16 total, along with Nick and Miguel, the two guides from G Adventures. We flew down to Peru with good friend Phyllis and Gary from Nebraska, and there in Lima Peru we met the rest of the clan. 12 others from around the globe, mostly from Europe, but one fellow American, a Megan Summers who was no relation… at least not to my knowledge. There was Olly and Emily from England, along with Kieran and Steph. Also, from Great Britain was Ruth, who like Megan, was traveling alone. Then from Norway) were Christian and  Christina, and slightly closer to the Atlantic were the four Irish girls, Yani, Jane, Helen and Maggie.

What I noticed about the 12 other hikers we met up with was that everyone was young, or younger at least. Ruth was the youngest at 22, and then the oldest was in their early 30’s. Phyllis, Gary, Susie and myself were the seniors of the group in our early 60’s.

To tell the truth I had thought originally that traveling with such a large group of strangers was going to be odd, then all of them so young, there was going to be this big gap in generations. But what I found was what had to be some of the best hiking partners I could have asked for. I would have been hard pressed to pick a better group of people, all with the common goal of Machu Picchu via the Inka Trail. They were there cheering us on, ready with a helping hand, or steaming cup of coca tea when needed.

You never know what or who you are going to get when a tour group throws this many together for an adventure such as this. But no complainers, no whiners, all the drama was saved for the landscape.

What stuck with me most about the Inca civilization was all their terraces. They put them everywhere, and it didn’t matter if the land was too steep to even set a foot on, they would just spend a few years in building terraces up the side of the mountain. I realize if you need to grow food, and don’t have an inch of flat land available, it was necessary. But the amount of work put into these things, and they were everywhere! I know there will be some paintings to follow that feature some of their terraces.

As we set out on the first day, the sun was warming us from the mid-winter chill. We crossed the Urubamba river, which runs through the Sacred Valley, on a suspension bridge, and then began a slow rise up the valley side. The procession of porters with our equipment and the group of 16 really seemed like an expedition heading out on an adventure. I suppose it’s not so different than those before heading out from this exact spot. For whatever reason for this journey, for spiritual enlightenment, soul cleansing, or just some good old south of the border adventure, we were on our way.

Day one of the hike had been billed as a “warm up” for the rest of the trail. For the most part it is flat, or as I learned “Inca Flat”, which is more like up, down, up, level, up, down, up. Or something like that, you get the drift. We began that day at about 8,000 feet, and towards the end of the day I was literally thinking, “there is no way”. The terrain was steadily increasing, and my steps becoming slower and shorter. My 10 kilos back pack was feeling more like someone was dragging on it.

The landscape was beautiful, and if it weren’t for Nick our ever-present guide telling us to go at our own pace, there is no hurry, and to stop frequently and enjoy the scenery, “take pictures”, I would have never made it. This came to be one of my favorite and anticipated things, the “rest stops”. They came much more frequently on the following days, but the last couple hours of the first day made me doubt that day 2 would be possible.

We finally made camp about 5:00 that afternoon. Susie and I were the last ones in and I did not mind. This would be a pattern we did not break the entire trip. It gave me a chance to visit with the guide at the end of our gang. which was usually Nick, and I would hear about some of the history, and geography of the area, along with tales of the locals, and his adventures.

We camped that night just above Wayllabamba, and as I drug myself into camp and saw the row of tents all neatly lined up in a row, and the smell of dinner in the air, I thought to myself… I must paint something! So quickly I pulled out my painting gear from my pack. I was using the nice lightweight “Fly on the Wall” easel for this trip. The thing only weighs about 1 kilo, then of course the tripod, which was double that. But despite my weariness, I wanted to paint, so I set up at the end of the campsite and began throwing something on the canvas. Here in the southern hemisphere things are a little different. Sure, the sun still sets in the west, but it’s winter time, and it sets about 5:30pm. Another thing, the arc of the sun takes it around so that it’s to the north of where you are, the moss is on the southern side of the trees. But no matter what it did, I had to do something before the sun was gone. Happy Hour began at 5:30, then after that was supper, and I could miss the happy hour, but I needed that food.

I don’t know if it was my being beat and tired, or hungry and disoriented, but I know the painting that I made had to have been the worst thing I had ever painted in my life, and of course I was doing it for an audience of porters who carried our tents and food to the camp. I think they probably wanted to not transport my gear after they saw that, but at least I got something going. It’s good to get that bad painting out of the way so the next one can be a winner.

Dinner was great. Seriously, the G Adventures people who outfitted us had some of the best chefs who made wonderful meals out of thin air. It was something I grew to look forward to. Okay, that’s a stretch.  I look forward to every meal, no matter where I am, but they did some amazing things along that rock trail there in the Andes.

After dinner it was what, about 7:30? I think this could have been the earliest I had ever gone to bed in my life, but it was needed, and everyone was retiring, knowing what was coming tomorrow… Dead Woman’s Pass.

The night was cold, getting down below 0, but I was quite cozy in my sleeping bag. Most were awakened in the night from the festivities in the local town of Wayllabamba. It was the Fiestas Patrias peruanas, their Independence Day from Spain. Music and fireworks were heard well into the wee hours of the night. I only heard the fireworks about 9pm and went right back to sleep, but along the trail, I spoke to other hikers who camped closer to town, and they told of music going to 3-4 o’clock in the morning. This is when I did not mind hiking a little further past the town to our campsite. Small miracles!

The morning came with porters knocking on our tent flaps saying ‘Up-Up’ and handing us steaming hot cups of coca tea to help us along. This was a godsend, I tell you. The coca was an amazing resource, with that quick picker-upper, and helpful against altitude sickness… and it was passed out like candy, and who was going to turn down candy?

Not me.

Today was the day we all had circled on our calendar. Today was up, uP, UP! Up to Warmiwañusqa, or “Dead Woman’s Pass”. This was the highest point of the Inca Trail at 13,800 feet, and did I ever mention STAIRS? You would not believe it without seeing it. The trail up these mountains are made up of cut stone, or steps cut into the stone. For each and every step, I found myself looking for the smaller step up, but there were times the steps were almost to my knee and there was no way to avoid pulling oneself up to that next level. I found my trekking poles extremely helpful in doing this. Putting my poles on the step above helped to lift myself and my backpack up to the next ridge.

Stairs are handy, but this, like the terraces, was overkill. I found myself stopping and looking up and saying to Susie,” okay we’ll go another 20 yards and then rest”. We saw the porters doing these things like they were nothing, and they were carrying triple the weight as us.  We noticed that they did little switchbacks on the stairs, which seemed like a good idea. I would go up the smallest step, then walk a couple steps on the same level before I went up. It seemed like a lot of extra steps, but it seemed to help… and any little thing that made this easier was a blessing.

Like Nick had said earlier, “go at your own pace, stop, rest, take pictures”, and that I did. I took over 2,500 photos along the way, I’m not sure how many are going to be tossed, but on Facebook I posted about 200.  The scenery along the way was amazing. I just loved the cloud forests. I would gaze deep into the jungle, where at times it was pitch black, absolutely no light getting through the forest canopy, and listen to rushing water somewhere buried inside, and the brilliant snow on the mountain tops across the deep blue sky. It was otherworldly.

There was not a single place where I would not have liked to have stopped and set up my easel to paint. It was beautiful all around, but the trail was narrow, and time did not allow. Photographs for the moment would have to suffice.

There were many group resting points along the trail, where we gathered together, and Nick would give us a little history of the area, show off some Inca ruins, and tell of the people before. It still amazed me that people would build cities at this elevation, with no   modern technology to cut the stone and set the foundations. But in some of the most remote places we would find this the “perfect place for an Incan village” or “Temple”.

Lunch was an oasis with llamas and alpacas grazing in a meadow, and “Dead Woman’s Pass” looming overhead in the distance. It is not named this because of any tragedies that happened here, but for its shape, like a woman in repose. These are the same folks who see bunnies in cloud formations I think, but I sort of saw it. At least the large breast that we had to travel under, that was evident, and my new landmark for the next couple hours.

This was a hike to the lost Inca civilization at Machu Picchu, but for most of us traveling this trail, Warmiwañusqa was our “Rubicon”. And getting to that pass was no easy feat. One of our team was suffering from the altitude and Nick took her backpack and carried it up to the top. We kept our slow pace, and maybe even slower. Never before had I put so much thought into each step I took. Never before had I taken so much time between each step. I began questioning my choice of bringing all the painting gear, especially after seeing yesterday’s painting, but I brought it… so I’m carrying it. Nick came back when we were maybe 500 yards from our goal and offered to carry my pack. I would not have it, I was the one who packed it, I would be the one to suffer with it. Susie was not so stubborn, so gladly gave her pack to Nick.

We tread on.

The great thing I found about being the last, everyone was already there waiting for you, and as you came in to sight they began cheering you on, and when you finally made it, a rousing round of applause greeted you. This, I’m afraid, didn’t happen for those who arrived first, and I loved it.

I’m not sure if I was on my knees when I finally made the top, but as I arrived, Gary, my friend and traveling partner from Nebraska came up and took my pack from me.  I fell to the ground to rest!

There is a bad thing about being the last to a rest stop. By the time you get there, everyone else is ready to go already. This is the way of the world, but we did do group pictures here, and a little pep talk from Nick. Now as we crested the pass and looked at what was before us,  we could see was stairs winding around the mountains as they went off into the distance, as far as the eye could see. But down for me was so much easier, but even so, going down steps for hours on end was wearing on the feet and knees.

Still the land spreading out before us was an amazing sight. And as we traveled on, we took an occasional look, back at where we had come from, and that monumental pass between the peaks.

Descending seem as long as ascending the mountain side, only gravity on your side now, but as time wore on the camp for the night seemed further and further away. The twists and turns were often and I thought, or it could have said loud that “surely we did not go up that far”.

Camp on this day was a welcome sight, set along on the terraces built hundreds of years ago by the Incas. What might they have thought, if they knew of the travelers and use of their structures still to this day.

It was much colder this night as our camp here at Pacaymayo was at almost 12,000 feet. Each day they woke us earlier and earlier, and this morning was at 5am. We had to get an early start because today’s hike was to be our longest day of hiking. They say about 11 hours, but by the time we made it to camp this night we had were using our lights to see the way, because at our somewhat slower pace, it took 12.

Yesterday we had our highest climb, tomorrow we make it to Machu Picchu, but today was, I’d have to say the most beautiful, and well, maybe the most treacherous. We had a nice combination of up and down, stairs and paths, cloud forests, and Inca ruins. The scenes that surrounded us were right out of a postcard.

Of course, we began the day with coca tea, and maybe an extra dose, because we had another pass to conquer, but this one a mere 13,000 feet, before we head down to some sweet Inca ruins of an old fortress built to protect those along the trail.

The Peruvian government has limited the number of people who can hike the Inca Trail, and I am so grateful for this. It is a pristine trail seemingly untouched by modern man. The people you meet along the trail are few and far between, and though some facilities are very very primitive, I would have been somewhat disappointed had we had running water and flush toilets. There are rangers who come daily to clean the trails and pick up any litter. I cannot imagine what condition these people must be in.

The porters along the way came in all shapes and sizes, all of them carrying the food and sleeping gear of the trekkers along the way. There were other groups from G Adventures, and similar outfitters, and private guides. One had to have a guide to be allowed on the trail, another requirement by the government. I know, more restrictions, but I believe they are doing well at preserving its ancient heritage and culture.

The third day’s hike took us on some precarious ridges, with narrow paths and steep drop offs, with me, as frightened as I am of heights, always hugging the inside of the trail, constantly warning Susie to do the same. Then, after hitting her head on a tree root while doing as I suggested, she went back to her own way of hiking.

What works for one, does not always work for others.

As the light of the sky grew dimmer we came upon the Inca ruins of Wiñay Wayna, a very steeply terraced Inca village overlooking the Urubamba River. The entire trip had been filled with amazingly picturesque locations but few more than this location. The well-preserved terraces of the temple near the top, and the cascading spring to the bath levels, all this with the Urubamba thousands of feet below. Of course, we did the group pics, and then Maggie was not going to leave without climbing down a couple of terraces to feed or pet one of the llamas.

The descent down from the top of Wiñay Wayna was as steep as anything we had done before, only straight down, and by the time we were too the bottom the light had complety left and we still had a little way to go.

I never really saw this campsite in the light, and I wish I had. I hear it has wonderful surroundings, but after hiking for 12 hours, all I could think of was food, shoes off, and bed. This was the last time we would see our porters, and chefs, so as tradition has it, they all came into our small dinner tent and we thanked them, with Megan translating to Spanish, and we gave them their tips. By far these men earned much more than what they get. We all tipped on the generous side. These folks worked their tails off trying to make our stay and experience the best it could be. They were always cheerful, with a smile or a friendly word. They earned every solas, and then some!

We had been warned when we began that the 4th day of the trail would begin early, and they meant it. Just after 3 am there came the familiar greeting at the tent flap.  This time they would not leave until they saw our smiling face peek out and confirm we were up. We had to have breakfast, break camp and be at the Inti Punku (Sun Gate) by 5:30.

It is the pinnacle of this trip, the watching the sun come up on the lost city of the Inca’s, and there are few who actually get to do so anymore with the regulations the way they are. One can stay at the hotel just outside the city of Machu Picchu, or you can hike the Inca Trail. We went the long way around, and I would not have done it any other way now that it’s all said and done. (I would like to say that before the actual trip it was all about going to Machu Picchu and seeing it, but as I look back, it was the Inca Trail and its challenges that I will remember most fondly.)

Hiking the trail in the dark was a bit treacherous, but if you stay on the trail, no problem. Do not step off the side, that first step is a doozy! We all hiked along the last few miles with occasional chatter, but myself I was mostly deep in my own thoughts of what was behind us, and the sacred Machu Picchu just a few minutes away. One big subject was taken from my shoulders, and that was painting at Machu Picchu. I had found out just the night before that they were not allowing me to bring my paints into the lost city. Nick had been in contact with the authorities on my behalf to paint there, but there were many restrictions about what you can and can’t bring in, along with what you can and cannot do once inside.

I was disappointed and bummed out at first, but it wasn’t long that I brushed this aside because there was nothing I could do about it.

I think one of the things that has saved me many a time is something I have heard all my life, but never really applied it to myself till 2002, and that is the old “Serenity Prayer” from Alcoholics Anonymous… “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”.

Here I needed it as much as ever. I did not let this spoil the rest of my journey, nor let my disappointment affect any of my party.  We go on.

This place, heralded as one of the 7 Wonders of the Modern World was amazing. It really was, and to me, just totally unbelievable at what such an ancient culture could have done. Most of the structures were still standing as they were hundreds of years ago, surviving countless earthquakes and time and Spaniards.

We wandered through this beautiful ruin of the Inca’s as Nick told of its history and purpose. I clicked my camera over and over here, taking the pics that I would now hope to paint in studio, taking notes on color, and light. But as we look around it was the crowds of people that one really takes over some of the scenery.

It was packed! There were guided groups, and individuals galore, looking, talking, gawking and panning for photos. No selfie-sticks though, that’s another thing that is not allowed. I was actually looking forward to getting on the bus to head down the mountain. I knew it was going to be very touristy, and that’s what we were, exactly that. Tourists coming to see this amazing place. But a different kind of tourist we were. We were part of an elite group of travelers who came the old way, the “Classic Inka Trail”, the Pilgrimage… and we looked it. Unwashed and unkept with all of our hiking gear strapped on to our packs, I’m know we did not smell as fresh as those “LBR’s” who just arrived from below. We received looks from some of the crowd, giving us the “once over”, but so what, we earned every one of those stares.

It was an enjoyable trip down the mountain on the bus, feeling the comfort of a real padded chair after only a few days seemed like a luxury fit for a king… and maybe it was, “back in the day”.

We enjoyed a wonderful meal all together for the last time at an upstairs restaurant in Aguas Caliente, then on to the train for a leisurely journey along the Urubamba River through the Sacred Valley, back to Ollantaytambo to our motel. Here we would gather the things we discarded before we bus it back to Cusco. We were in dining cars on the train with an observation roof where we could look up and see the peaks of the Andes Mountains as we rode by. Up there, somewhere, is an ancient trail made by ancient people, where we were granted the chance to follow in their footsteps, to see and feel some of the most awe-inspiring landscape I have ever encountered.

It was a trip of a lifetime, and I am so glad I did it.

Would I do it again?  Not a chance, I’m too old now 😉

But I will travel it again with paint. I have begun my Inca Trail paintings and hope to finish in the “off season”. I hiked the Inca Trail and made it to Machu Picchu. If I can capture some of that feel in the paintings that follow, I will be pleased.

I do plan more hiking adventures, maybe the Appalachian Trail, or the Pyrenees? Who knows, but I’ve got the gear, and the knowledge that “I can do it”.

Now all I need is the compass to stop spinning.

Ollantaytambo the Sacred Valley

From Pleins to Peru, gearing up

July 23, 2018 by admin

An agregious spelling error on my part or a not so veiled freudian slip?

If you know me at all, you know that I travel quite extensively to paint, though if you ask me, and I’m a big proponent of this, “just look outside your door” if you want to find something to paint. I strongly feel that it’s not what you paint, but how you paint it, this makes a good artist.

But that said, when the opportunity knocks to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru… JUMP ON I

Which is how this artist from the plains of Kansas is heading to the heart of the ancient Inca civilization to to a little plein air painting… hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.

Is this strictly a painting trip? Not on your life.

Sitting around the table back in January of this year with some old friends of Susie’s, some how the topic of Machu Picchu came up and that it was on someones bucket list of things to do.  Sure it’s on mine too, and maybe yours, but somehow before the week’s end we already had our permits (needed months in advance) to hike the trail and entry into one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

I guess we were going.

Unlike our trip to New Zealand and Australia a couple of years back, I am bringing my paints. “Down Under” I was left to the kind folks in Australia to bring me paints, easel, and all. Good fun, but still left to the mercy of others. This time I have stripped all my gear to Zero and have built it back up specifically for the purpose of painting along the Inca Trail.

Out went my 5 giant tubes of M. Graham paints, and in comes the smaller Cobra water misable oil paints. My Dad is still puzzled just at the concept of being able to mix oil and water, but then so am I… so I don’t think about it. My trusty Soltek Easel has been swapped out for a feather weight “Fly on the Wall” easel made by the Prolific Painter himself, Joshua Been. Weighing less than 2 1/2 lbs, it is exactly what I was looking for to help lighten my load. The Inca Trail is not an easy hike carrying only water, let alone a backpack full of gear, but by switching out my gear I have knocked off almost 20 pounds. With enough rest stops along the way, I feel I can do this.

Now just timing our rest stops with amazing places to set up to paint, that I am hoping will happen automatically.

I have 3- 9×12″ panel paks for carrying wet paintings, each one has 2 pieces of Canson 136lb oil paper, or Arches 140lb paper taped to each panel giving me 12 paintings in my pack at a time, and when needed I will switch out with new paper, placing the studies in sturdy envelopes with wax paper between. (once dry enough, if not dry, I will use some of the Canson Paper between)

For storing the paint, I picked up the “Palette Garage” from Best Brella and cut it down to size to fit the new Fly on the Wall easel.

Also included is the SLIK Lite tripod, bug spray, sunscreen, trekking poles, hat, and a 3 liter Camel Pak water bladder.

What is not shown are some warm clothes because it’s winter right now in Peru, and hiking up to elevations of up to 13,828 feet, I’m going to take something to keep me warm. I am not a fan of cold, or heights or water. I don’t think I’ll need to worry about water, so this is a good thing, but cold and heights, we’ll just have to deal with that when it comes up.

It’s an adventure of a lifetime, and I’m heading down there with some great friends and the most wonderful wife anyone could ask for. She is actually the one who encouraged me to bring my paints, though I did not need a lot of persuading.

I look to paint every chance I get, and post when I can. Internet and cell service is probably not going to happen often, but when it does I’ll make sure you hear from me, and see if I’ve been using all this new gear I picked up.

Well, Machu Picchu by way of the ancients… or bust.

Let’s do it!

What’s it all About

November 3, 2016 by admin

“Well it’s about this long, and about this wide, and about this country, about which we are singing about…” to paraphrase Firesign Theater

If you are looking to me for what it’s all about, whatever “it” might be, you are looking in the wrong place. I have no idea. I think you have to take this question on an individual basis, and then don’t hold them to it. What is it all about for me? I don’t know that either, and I’m NOT one out here searching the world for answers to life’s questions. I just happen to be enjoying life and all the riddles that come before me, and take them as they come.

Just back from “En Plein Air Texas” and packing my bags for the “Zion Invitational” and thought to expound on my little demo at Fort Concho last Saturday.

If you didn’t see my little post on Facebook, here’s basically the scene…

After all the painting for the competition and sales event had been done, the folks there at “En Plein Air Texas” asked for artists to speak in schools, and do demos and the likes. I had volunteered on Friday to speak to Lamar Elementary School to 100+ 5th grade students, and do a little “plein air” demo. On Saturday, Lon Brauer and myself were dressing up in period clothing from the 1800’s and painting around the old chuck wagon at the Fort.

Lon & I circa 1860

Lon decked me out in some pretty sweet early 1800’s, circa 1810, while he wore the more styling 1860’s gear.

Lon set up to paint the fiddler that was part of a trio on the porch, I was painting more of the entire scene. After nigh on an hour or so, well into the 2pm-4pm gig, I turned to see this little girl watching me paint with big curious eyes. There was who might have been her grandparents with her. I asked her if she would like to try to paint, and she looked at her grandmother who nodded yes, and the rest was pure magic!

She took the brush and carefully dipped it into the paints and placed it precisely on the canvas and burst into a smile of delight. She spent the next half hour mixing and putting paint to canvas, with thought and concentration, and the delight that we don’t normally see in you and I.

img_3264The “little girls” name was Avery, and she was 17 years old. Avery has down syndrome, and with that maybe she doesn’t let some of what I get caught up in to fill my head. I don’t know enough about it to say, but when she mixed the color green from my limited pallet and placed it on the painting, the look and way she said “green” was to die for.

She painted bright beautiful color with perfect precision, and I just watched and learned, and let the joy fill my heart.

I’ve had others paint on my paintings before, young and old alike and usually it’s only a stroke or two, which is kind of what I had intended when I asked this young lady, but when seeing the delight in her eyes as she painted, I was not going to be the one to stop her, no matter what she did to the painting. If it were someone who was scribbling, and acting a bit out of sorts, I would have put an end to it immediately (politely of course), but Avery was different.

I have no idea if letting her paint will turn her into the newest “Picasso” , or if she will ever pick up a brush again. That’s not really important, but for that one little piece of time it was everything, not just for her, but for me seeing what can be done with just a little offer of encouragement.img_3262-3

I don’t wear shirts that have a list of things on the back discouraging interaction. I don’t put headphones on to keep folks from stopping and asking questions. I’m out here painting the best I can and trying to learn from what I see. But sometimes that learning experience isn’t before me or what I put onto the canvas, sometimes it’s what behind me, and the painting is merely secondary prop.

I don’t profess to be any better than anyone else, I tell you I was a “hellion” growing up, just ask my sisters. Okay, don’t ask… I’d rather you not know. But I’ve learned a lot through the years, and hope I’ve passed this on to my children, and my students. When I do workshops, my goal is not to create a pretty picture for all, or for them to do the same, (okay, maybe just a little 😉 it is to teach the tools, and values of plein air, and get them to enjoy the experience no matter what befalls them, so that they will get out and do it again and again.

And yes, it does include being kind to others. I’ve had that drilled into me as a youth, was it scouts, 4H, or the FFA? Maybe it was just Mom & Dad saying to be nice to your little sister.

It doesn’t matter.

It’s been exactly 4 years to the day since my mentor and friend Rick Howell passed away unexpectedly. He believed in me unlike no one else, and he also spoke of “giving back” to others. He was an amazing artist and a superb human, what more can you ask for?

So, “what’s it all about”?

I still have no idea, it just depends on the situation. But lower your expectations, and drop the egos and get out and paint. It does makes a world of difference.

It’s not easy, but the results are incredible!

Thanks,

Greg

img_3266

“Meow” means “Woof” in cat.

June 30, 2016 by admin

Let me digress.

Sure I’m an artist, and I paint a lot around the land, see a lot, and hear quite a bit too. Doesn’t take being an artist to see and observe. This world is a fascinating place, and I’m happy to be here, but sometimes you’ve just got to shake your head.

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

The Italian Gardens, Maymont

Just back from a painting competition in Richmond Virginia, the “Plein Air Richmond 2016”. A wonderful event, in an amazing part of this country, beautiful, & historic, with great people all around… and cats.

Actually, not just cats, there were dogs, squirrels, birds, marmots, you name it, the regular crowd of critters scurrying about the city, picking up where humans leave off… or leave behind rather. Anyway, as I was painting in the Italian Gardens of the Maymont Mansion up came this cute little cat, friendly as can be wanting a little attention. I talked to it some, asked him how he was and all that. I was nice to it, but I was there to paint so I didn’t sit down and try to share life stories with it.

The cat did not look homeless, it was well groomed, healthy, very outgoing, but without the collar that us humans tend to put on these things to ensure folks know that it’s “claimed” by another. Well I set up my easel in the shade and began painting. As time went by, more artists began to join me in the gardens, finding beautiful subjects to paint and setting up to get to work. Our little cat friend was quite elated about this, more attention! A few well placed meows, a rubbing against a leg or two, and an onslaught of distressed artists fell upon this little animal like Liberace in a sequin factory.

“The poor kitty”, “It must be starving”.  “We’ve got to help it”. (just a few of the things that I was overhearing as I painted the rose bush by the stairs.

Well, I don’t doubt it was hungry, I know I was. But it did not look like it was lacking in anything except a collar. Well this was the cat’s lucky day, or maybe unlucky depending on how you look at it. The event just happened to be sponsored by the Richmond SPCA (Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) A wonderful organization, and something I’m totally happy to help out, donate to, promote. I am very much against being cruel to animals, but then our perception of “cruelty” might differ a bit. I think sticking a dog in a sweater vest is a bit on the “inhumane” side, right Bobby Knight?

Just about everyone in sight was finding things for the kitty cat to eat, one went to their car and brought back a can of cat food, another shared some delicious looking sandwich that I would have given one of my paint brushes for, and then up comes someone with an animal carrier. A little cardboard box with a handle and holes on the side to breath. I mean some people are prepared for everything.

Obviously a former Scout, or Brownie I bet.

"Rupert" AKA "Cat"

“Rupert” AKA “Cat”

Well off they carted the well fed kitty to the shelter at the RSPCA, where of course they named it, photographed it and posted all over the social media, maybe to be the next surprise for your little girl’s 7th birthday party?

“But I asked for a horse!”

I watched from my vantage point in the shade underneath an old American Elm tree, just wondering, just thinking about what we’ve come to in this land. The past couple nights, well actually since I took up painting outdoors, I’ve come across people on the street corners with signs and a cup. Under bridges, sleeping on benches, and for the most part, people turn their back on them, or shrug them off, while others shout out, “get a job.”

Now why didn’t they think of that?

I was painting with a half dozen artists under the bridges at the train station the other evening. A very active area with people from all walks of life, and a “homeless” woman came up asking for help. I reached into my pocket and gave her a dollar, making sure I kept enough for the toll getting back to my hosts’ house. The artist next to me said “they’re just going to keep coming back if you do that”.

I knew that, and you probably did too.

I’m big on helping those who help themselves, I love the lyrics of a song by Bob Walkenhorst of the Rainmakers,

“Give a man free food and he’ll figure out a way
To steal more than he can eat ’cause he doesn’t have to pay”

I have no idea how that’s related, but any time I can plug Bob it’s a good thing. The point is, I don’t normally give out food or money, but depending on the situation I’ve no problem with it.

But animals?

Just in the United States alone last year we spent over $56 billion dollars on pets. BILLION! Holy Toledo Batman! Then in comparison we spent a “Historic” $4.5 billion on helping the homeless.

It’s just strange, okay I’ll go so far as to say, it’s a bit sad. It’s estimated that this year it will be $60 billion Americans spend on their furry little friends, something they can stroke to lower their blood pressure.

Am I an animal hater, no way! I love animals, I love pets, I grew up with dogs and cats, rabbits and peacocks. I’m a friend to all. I even have myself a little policy that I won’t step on a bug that would squish out beyond the edges of my shoe. (sorry bug lovers)

It was just something that I observed while painting out there among ya’ll. You see a bit of everything out there, traveling the country, painting in all sorts of different environments, parks, big cities, small towns, you see what the world is really like, outside the sheltered walls of your humble abode.  It’s like you’re a “fly on the wall” out here sometimes. The things people say and do, one could write a book. Actually 1,000’s HAVE written books, and it’s like crazy daddio!

Life is stranger than fiction, they say.

I’ll shush up now, go back to painting, and maybe I’ll write something about art next time around, but then what do I know?

In the meantime, “Meow” mean “Woof” in Cat…   quote by the late George Carlin.

 1937 – 2008

1937 – 2008

 

 

A Fly Over World

April 28, 2016 by admin

I was very fortunate this year to have made my first journey South of the Equator and visited New Zealand and Australia, and as I flew I continually wondered just how much I was missing out on.

Crazy to think that I would travel any other way to the land down under, other than flying given a limited time, but that did not stop me from thinking about all the world below, with their beautiful lands and people, and all I was missing.

Since my trip to the Southern Hemisphere, I have driven to South Florida for the Lighthouse Arts Festival, numerous trips to the plain states, and then just returned from the Plein Air Convention in Tucson, traveling of course not in a straight line because that would be too practical, I stopped in Texas and New Mexico along the way turning a 2,600 mile trip into a 3,708 mile adventure.

Flying never entered my mind.

The area between the Appalachian’s and the Rocky Mountains is known to many as “Fly over Country”. Then to even more it’s the the land between the megalopolis’s on the East coast, and their counter parts on the West. It’s the area that gets in the way of an easy commute from LA to NY.

There was a time I was bothered when I heard someone speak of this great area in such a manner, but then I used to get riled up when I saw the toilet paper on the roll backwards.

No more!

Call it what you want, it’s got to be some of the most beautiful country with a world of people to go with it. Sure there are those wide open places where you swear you can see the other side of the continent, and those folks who would just rather not have a crazy artist looking twice at their backyard. But that’s what is so darn great about this world. I am not a fan of “sameness” BORING! It’s variety that feeds this soul. Why in the world would one want the same thing all the time, I have no idea. Sure you may have the most beautiful view ever, but get out and see what else is there to help reinforce that utopia that you call home.

Maybe it’s the artist in me, but I’m not always looking “out” for the beauty, sometimes it’s looking down and around you. Traveling through the wide open lands across West Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, sure sometimes flat as a pancake, but it was those things that are right there under your nose that were so fascinating. I would see something, look for a turnaround spot, drive back and photograph when I didn’t have time to paint. The light hitting a draw, the curve of the wheat, an always curious cow.

Maybe it’s a good thing “flyoverstates” is just what it is. A mysterious place where people live outside the major cities, people working, people living, people creating. Let us bring this land to you in painting or in song.

You wait right there, we’ll be right back with it…

It is slowly deteriorating with time and then the careless. I don’t know if it could really handle the “progress of mankind.” Less and less considerate for those who came before, and then who might be coming after.

Ah, but we reap what we sow do we not? That is a whole new ballgame.

For now let’s enjoy what we can. Enjoy who we are. Stop looking out there for that perfect scene because it’s right there around you just waiting to be noticed. Give me an open road, the windows down and a song in the air.

A “Fly over Land”? Maybe, but that’s cool!

Oh Mama, No Drama

October 1, 2015 by admin

You know what one of the things I like most about painting in plein air events around the country?

You, and people like you.

I love meeting other artists and people. (not always interchangeable) Visiting with them, painting, just hanging with other like minded people. I think it helps me grow in my art. I try to listen to what works for others, exchange ideas and stories. There is a lot of comradery going on at these things and I find it a blast.

I took part in a week long plein air event recently where I did just the opposite.

I’ve seen others do it, check in at the beginning and then not see them again till it was time to take home their awards and left over art. It was like they were never there, or were they? Why take part in an event with other artists if you are not going to hang out and socialize with the rest? Well, besides the awards, prize money, and glory?

Sure I know everyone is not sociable, and pretty much artists on the majority are recluses, hiding in their studios doing what they do best.

Kind of naive on my part to think that everyone should be out interacting and sharing their secrets with each other. Like art, there are all kinds, and that’s what it takes to make up this great world we live in.

I headed into this event just as happy as a lark, (bird, not cigarette) looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. I signed up to take part in every single event I could, paint-outs, concerts, luncheons, it’s just what I do.

Then in pops a little “DRAMA“!

It made me rethink…

Road Trip NY Day 7 053crop

Eric & Walter at Paint Camp

 

Eric Rhodes is the Publisher of Plein Air, and Fine Arts Connoisseur Magazines, and also puts on an annual event in the Adirondacks called the “Publisher’s Invitational”. Affectionately known as “Paint Camp“. This takes place in a beautiful setting in upstate New York with no workshops, no demos, no competitions. It’s just 100 artists from across the nation getting together to paint and hang with others. It’s what I think Woodstock in 1969 was originally created for, but this for artists.

…and there is only one (1) rule: “NO DRAMA”! (save the drama for your paintings!)

What a great rule it is in my opinion. We come there to paint and visit with others, we don’t really need distractions from this. Don’t want it, don’t create it, don’t encourage it. They’ve even created a little song for this, and you can listen and see a bit about “paint camp” here, Click Here

What I did when this happened was reevaluate my “situation” and I said to myself, “self”, “let’s just hang out here at the ranch and paint”. I’ve never just gone to an event and “just painted”, but if I did this I would avoid any sort of “drama”. Would I get lonely, would I be able to paint as well as before? Who knows, but I really was not in any sort of mood for another confrontation from other “unlike” minded artists, so I hid out on the old Pilgrim Ranch in the heart of Chase County.

Well I must say it was quite different. I missed the interaction with others, actually an artist friend Mike Flora was staying at the ranch for another day or two, and then Louanne Hein, another friend came back to the ranch to paint one afternoon, but other than that I stayed pretty focused on looking for things to paint right where I was, knowing there were dozens of artists just minutes away painting beautiful scenery and munching on catered meals.

It was dawn to dusk painting for me, which is just the way I like it. Up before the sun with my easel hoping to catch some “dramatic” light,  paint through out the day, and ending as the sun runs it’s circuit across the big Kansas sky.

If you have a routine that you do when you travel, or even at the studio. Set up things the same way, put your paints in a certain order, wear your lucky hat. Anyway, what happens when that routine is disturbed? Can you still produce your best?

Moving On

Moving On

I’ve won “Best of” from the studio, and then out plein air with folks bending my ear, and now in the solitude of the land.

You cannot always avoid drama in your life, but if you find you can go around a puddle without getting wet, why not? There are times you don’t see that puddle ahead, but you can still be prepared, mentally and physically.

Then what about the good drama versus the bad drama. Surely you don’t want your life so stress free that you grow into a sedentary bump on a log. You need that balance as within everything else. Balanced diet, balanced exercise, balance in your paintings. Recognizing and acting to things as they come along and acting accordingly.

Can you do it? Can I do it? Why not?

Well it’s back to business as usual for me, as if I really know what that is.

It’s good to know that if I need to hold up and paint I can do it, and I will if and when it is the best solution for the situation, but it’s important I feel to be able to interact with others in order to be successful in this crazy world. There are a few artists who can hide from all and send their paintings out via secret courier to the galleries and don’t have to deal with the human or inhuman public…

Hold on to your hat

…but I’m a quirky plein air artist who likes people like you.

You make the world a much more interesting place to live in.

“Paint on!”

 

 

 

 

What does your T-Shirt say?

March 18, 2015 by admin

Or better yet, what do you say?

Augusta Day 3 143What do you say to those people who come up to you while you are painting outdoors in a park, or a city sidewalk and they stop to ask you a question?

Do you pretend like those headphones you have on, is actually playing music and you can’t hear anything? Maybe you pretend like you don’t speak the language?

I’ve seen some artists painting outdoors that have shirts on that have a long list written on the back to help guide and direct the viewer. Some of the sayings are, “yes, my aunt paints too”, or “yes, I have seen that guy on TV”. Whatever the saying it’s all pretty much geared in one general direction. “Don’t Bother Me”, or better yet, “Don’t bother me with your stupid questions”.

This is something that a studio artist doesn’t really have to worry about except on those “open studio” Fridays. You are in your studio, no one there to ask questions about what and why you are doing. Not only do plein air artists have to deal with weather, insects, the changing light, but all the time they have that “other” element coming into play… the people.

How you deal with this other plein air element reflects on the entire genre, whether you want it  to or not.

In my artists statement, well one of them at least, it states something like… “it is the love of the art, the land and the people that has moved this indoor painter outside…” You see, I am a people person, I love people. People of all sorts with all their little eccentricities RG in Tennesseeand the likes. It’s one of those things that helps make this life of mine interesting, (along with this the beautiful world we live in, It’s really much nicer than the indoors. Maybe not always as comfortable, okay rarely in my area, but still.)

No one asked if we wanted to be the ambassadors for all artists in the world, but getting out there amongst the public, we are kind of setting ourselves up for this, and as you know, one bad apple does spoil the whole bunch… or so their perception. Like it or not you are the rep that carries the entire plein air nation in your hands. Don’t blow it for the rest of us.

No, I’m not saying you need to be a goof ball and let them paint on your painting, giving them your brush and taking a picture of them with your canvas, or sit down and have a 20 minute chat about the arts and how it effects healthcare. Just a little common courtesy with a friendly nod and thank you. Most times this would suffice, and if that doesn’t work maybe a “would love to talk more, but I’ve got to catch the light before it goes away”, or hand them your card and let them know you are “on the clock” but can visit later.

An artist is in a strange and awkward occupation. It is a rare soul that actually realizes that you are actually working. Most think that studio and plein air artists are playing or just having fun. We are hit up for more fundraising donations than any occupation I know of. Isn’t it also a wonder that people think they can come up to you in the middle of work and just start chatting. Try doing that to a Tennessee 086-001policeman while they are hard at work. (I know, this I have tried and they really don’t think it’s funny) Almost any other occupation interaction during office hours is just not done.

But it’s not their fault, it’s our occupation, it’s like the athlete who gets booed or heckled, or musicians who sometimes have to play behind chicken wire for safety’s sake, it goes with the territory. It’s like most people with a talent, that talent is undervalued and taken for granted. This my dear friend is in fact a subject in itself for another day, but just keep this in mind… we are different! So put on your goofy beret, and polish up your “Sriracha” sandles, we have a reputation to uphold, but don’t cast us as arrogant snobs who are too good to talk to the common man’

If you paint outdoors, and I hope you do, at least once. When you are out there,  keep the public in mind, and do unto others as you RG at Augustawould have them do unto you.  I don’t throw out a welcome mat for them, that would be just another thing to carry, but I don’t try to cut myself off from the crowd. Sure it sometimes gets in the way of painting, but then so does insects, the sun, and rain. Putting up an umbrella or spraying insect repellent will not ruin things for other artists.

What about me? Well  sometimes I don’t have time to visit with passerby’s, but I’m never rude, sometimes quirky, okay always quirky and I make the best of it.

We do have that image to uphold.

What would my T-shirt say? How about “Fruit of the Loom”?

 

Note: originally published by R. Gregory Summers Oct 25, 2013

 

Need a Push

February 5, 2015 by admin

It’s been a while since I’ve written here, but it’s not because I’m not thinking about it. When I began writing that first blog I knew there was no way I could do this daily, even trying to commit to weekly was pushing my limits.New Orleans Day 5 123

This is more about pushing yourself out of that little comfortable place you’ve found, going past what you know you can do and try to improve.

As many know I paint landscapes, big giant chunks of earth that just sits there holding still waiting for you to paint it.  I’m not perfect at it, but I’m practicing. Well I had an opportunity come along that took my comfortable little niche of landscape painting and pushed it to the other extreme… to paint the battles at the 2015 Bicentennial of the War of 1812, more specifically the Battle of New Orleans which ended up being the deciding battle in the war and we have enjoyed peace with Great Britain ever since.

New Orleans Day 7 081My sister and brother-in-law (Kathy & Ron) has a place on Burgundy in the French Quarter and had sent me contact info to some of the organizers of this event. After months of back and forth as these things sometimes go, I was working with the Louisiana Living History Society who were the instigators in much of the reenactments happening to celebrate 200 years.

I was going to be allowed on the battlefield amidst almost 1,500 reenactors as they recreated the infamous battles.

I don’t think I ever really thought it out, but while packing my gear and ensuring I had clothing that would pass as “period” attire, it came to me what I was about to do.

What in the world was I thinking?

I do pride myself in being somewhat adept at painting quickly. I usually spend no longer than 2 hours on a piece out on location, with the initial block-in done in the first 30 minutes. The clouds move across the sky, the water cascades across the rocks, and the sun is forever changing the light all around us, and I’ve grown used to this occurring while I paint.

…but troops running in formation across a battle field, guns blazing, cannons roaring. What was I getting into? I had no idea, and I was a bit frightened to tell the truth.

Excited, yet scared of the unknown that was about to come down.New Orleans Day 5 112

There was not a lot of preparation for me ahead of time. I had to be in position 30 minutes before the start of the battle, and once in place I had no real idea where on the battle field the fighting was going to take place. I’m not sure how large of an area was that was cleared out for the reenactment, but there had to have been at least 10 acres in front of me and the action could be anywhere, so little was done to prep the canvases ahead of time save toning them, and then putting in a horizon line.

Conveniently there was a PA system that had a master of ceremonies announcing and narrating some of the battles, but the speakers were facing the audience, and once the gunfire began I heard nothing again till the battles had concluded. So with this I was made aware that things were about to begin.

My knees were shaking now!

But once I began looking, composing and throwing down a little paint, things began to recede around me. I was focused in what I needed to do. I still was not sure how, but it is really just notes of color next to each other and how they compare to those around it. It doesn’t matter the subject, or how long they are there. Put it down as you see it, or as you feel it.

“Luke, use the Force”

Do I think of it as notes of color when I’m out there? No, I don’t think so, in fact these battles took place and were totally over in from 39 minutes to 50 minutes. There was no real time to think, only to act or maybe “react” would be a better word. And while this was going on, I would occasionally grab my camera and take photos for reference material for other paintings done from these studies.

New Orleans Day 5 087Different battles had different things going on of course, the night battle there were the Choctaw Indians scurrying through the woods around me, another battle had friendly fire going over my head as troops were falling all around. I was told I should have earplugs on because of all the explosions and gunfire, but it all fell away as one enters that “zone” to create.

I deemed it a success, I created a total of 12 paintings on the trip, 1 of each of the 4 battles, and then other supporting studies from around the campsite and original Chalmette Battlefield.

I am a far cry from an expert in the field of plein air painting, but there are some things that one grows comfortable at. I guess it’s essential in order for us to grow as an artist to push oneself. I don’t feel the need for me to become an expert at portraits, or painting still life’s. I think one can grow without the necessity to learn every medium there is.

There is so much work to be done here learning oil painting the land, it would take several lifetimes to even come close.

I would be be remiss if I did not mention the article that Bob Bahr from Outdoor Painter Magazine wrote on my little adventure. It’s a short little article that won’t take much time at all, and has a few nice photos, plus Bob is a much better writer than me.

Check it out here: CLICK

I’d better get going, I’m wasting precious time, and so are you 😉

Dec 28, 1814 Battle of New Orleans - SOLD

Dec 23, 1814 Battle of New Orleans

 

thanks

Greg

 

What’s it going to take?

September 8, 2014 by admin

Do you have something that is so near and dear to you that no matter what the circumstances you are not going to get rid of it?

I do, but it is definitely NOT my minivan. So why keep fixing it?

IMAG0382What I sometimes refer to as my “Paint-Mobile” is a 2003 Ford Windstar Minivan. The perfect vehicle for any soccer Mom across the country, and I find it the perfect vehicle to travel the country loaded with paint gear and living supplies.

I’ve been kind of negligent on my posting my blogs as of late, and I’m going to blame it in part to my Paint Mobile. As those who have been following me  probably know I’ve been on the road lately. And what’s more dangerous than texting and driving? Yes! you guessed it, typing out your weekly blog while driving. Being the safety conscious guy I am, I “curbed” my desire to “blog & drive”.

I’ve been painting in the Ozark mountains these past few weeks, working on a project with 3 other artists for Big Cedar Lodge, painting plein air pieces on some of their properties. This day I’m speaking in particular of, I was painting in Dogwood Canyon, had just finished up a painting of the Long Pine Bridge and was getting ready to head back home for a time.

Long Pine Fishing

Long Pine Fishing

If you don’t know the Ozark Mountains well, there are some wonderful windy roads through hills and valleys. Perfect for cruising on your motorcycle… but I was in the minivan. I pulled out of the canyon and less than a mile away I was rounding a narrow curve heading uphill when all of a sudden my trusty steed decided not to go forward any longer.

There was no curb to speak of, but I did manage to roll my vehicle backwards so that at least the right side tires were off the road. This was not good. The engine was working fine, because it had to… I had just replaced it two years ago, what could this be? I put it in “Drive”… nothing! “Reverse”… nothing still! I was getting a sick feeling that it might be the transmission. NOOO! Oh well,  I mean I have only 185,000 miles on the car…

…so far.

My phone was getting sporadic cell service in the  canyon areas, and I had my fingers crossed as I dialed my “Emergency Roadside Assistance” number. Hooray, I somehow managed to have my car fizzle out in an area where the phone worked.

It took about 2 hours waiting on the side of the road being the obstacle in the road that cars from both directions had to slow down for, but the tow truck finally arrived, and took me to nice service place in a town that I totally forgot where it was when I tried to get back to it, but that’s another story. Jeannie, Rhonda, EVERYONE at Big Cedar Lodge was a big help in getting me and my van going again.

I’m stopping there because I think I’ve gone a bit “off topic”. But you get the idea, my van crapped out… AGAIN!

Paint Mobile

Paint Mobile

My engine died 2 years ago on my, replaced my front end last year, and just now my transmission.

Susie had a pretty good question for me…

“What’s it going to take to make you replace this old thing?” I told her, “when the radio goes out!”

But that’s not true. There is the same CD that’s been stuck in there for over a year and I can’t get it out. My tape player won’t play tapes, but I put this converter in it, and plug my Ipod into it so I have my tunes. I need my tunes for driving.

I have no special bonds with my “paint mobile”. I don’t have a name for it like my sisters. They seem to name all of their vehicles, me I name my children, and title my paintings, and try not to get them confused.

It’s probably just convenient to keep the same car. I don’t have payments on it any longer, though repairs are really adding up. I was hoping to get ahead of the game, maybe going 5 years or so without the cumbersome burden of car payments. So I’ve got to start the timer over with this newest investment in my paint-mobile.

What’s it going to take? Realistically? Probably when I my sales of 5 digit paintings become a bit more prevalent. I believe I might be better situated to replace my “green machine”… and those old tennis shoes that are worn in just right, and my red t-shirt I always use to…

Road Trip

Road Trip

4995.6 miles

July 23, 2014 by admin

Does it seem like a lot to you? Before I left I could not really wrap my fuzzy little brain around what I was about to do.

Maybe you are the type of artist that travels extensively across the country in search of your holy grail. There are a good number of you out there, but the majority of artists travel less than 25 yards to their studio. Count the steps next time you go, is it upstairs, or in the basement? Maybe your studio is not in your home, rather you are one of a minority that needs to hop in their car and travel a few miles or across town to where your studio lies.

Even still a smaller number of artists call the great outdoors their studio, though for tax purposes my accountant will not do the square footage on this. I am pleased to be one of these outdoor landscape painters. Taking my art from the inside out, putting a life into it and into myself that the studio just wasn’t doing. Many of you have found this same thing, and have taken up the call of the “plein air” artist. Buen Trabajo!

I just returned from a painting trip that involved my traveling to the Adirondacks of upstate New York for Eric Rhodes “Publisher’s Invitational”. Immediately following this I took part in the “Plein Air Richmond” in Richmond Virginia which I was juried into, and the last 2 weeks was spent as Excursion Guide and Participating Artist at the “Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational” in Colorado. (somewhere in the middle of that I hung a solo show of my Southern Colorado paintings in Evergreen.

It is not something I do regularly, though I am finding out that there are many who do on a day in, day out basis. I am envious of those artists, and at the same time I feel for them.

It is not easy for one thing, the best light for painting is early and late, and every minute in between is filled with trying to capture this illusive thing. Little sleep, always on your feet in whatever conditions Mother Nature decides on for that moment. Coating every exposed piece of skin first with sunscreen, and then with insect repellent. Doing this day in, and day out in strange beds, strange dinners, it takes it’s toll.

But I loved every minute of it!

I could or should just be content to paint here in my own back yard. It shouldn’t matter where you are, whether in the plains of the Midwest like me, the coastal lands on either end, or the mountains somewhere in between. There are a lifetime of things to paint right where we lay. It’s not necessary to go in search of that beauty elsewhere, in fact the chances of you selling where you are increases if you use paintings of where you are. It’s much harder to sell the Philadelphia skyline in Denver than one might think.

So why do it?

Well like everything else, I’m either going to blame it on my sisters, or my parents. This time Mom & Dad, maybe Dad in particular. See R. E. Summers was a cowboy from the word go. Born in the Flint Hills of Kansas, he worked the Konza Prairie back when it was called the “A Ranch”, and he continued to play cowhand in Gunnison Colorado till he had too many kids that he had to get serious about life and raising a family. What does a cowboy do when he needs money? I have no idea, but Dad hit the road as a truck driver.

I was not a fan of my Dad being on the road so much, and as I travel to different art events across the country I was reminded of this. Was he following his dream as I am? I hope so.

What are we trying to accomplish in all this, is it to be a better artist? That is not a dream, but one of my goals, to become the best artist that I can be. Will it be the best out there? I doubt it, there is always one better, one faster, one stronger. Maybe 100, or 1,000’s better, faster, cooler, it doesn’t matter. My Mom was always chiding me about this, why I’m helping and teaching others to do something that might one day push me out to pasture. I never got her to understand the “helping others is a good way to help yourself”. Mom being from never having wealth was always hoping that I would have, and was concerned with my prosperity.

” Artists should not be paid for their art.  Getting paid corrupts the creative process.” Who in the world said this? Whoever it was probably did not have a family to support or paints to buy. We could and should get into a whole new line of discussion on this one, but focus for a second.

I travel across the country taking part in exhibits and competitions because I believe it is the fastest way to where I want to be. Paul Dorrell who wrote a fine book “Living the Artists Life” mentioned in it that you don’t have to be able to make it in New York City before you make it in your home town. (those of you whose home town is New York have a little quandary going there). Maybe Paul is right, I’m sure he is, but I think to do so you must have a gimic in your art, or be a really quirky artist, or just be darned good at what you do, and since I fall short in most of these areas… I need help, plus I’m trying to make it as an impressionistic landscape artist like everyone else, so we’ve got to work harder and we’ve got to work everywhere else before we are even noticed in “Home town USA”

That’s my take on it, so far.

I began writing a “travel log” on my trip when I left for New York, and did well untill I ran into a snag with the lack of internet connection in Richmond. Not that they didn’t have it, they didn’t know the password so I could log in… so I didn’t and I focused on painting instead.

The Publishers Invitational in New York was just what the doctor ordered. It was relaxing, everyone was friendly and outgoing. Sharing thoughts, ideas, and insights with no giant egos to deal with. Professional and amatuer status was thrown away, it was all “artists making art”

Then it was on to Plein Air Richmond in Virginia for a week. Not as relaxing at all, dawn to dusk painting with a bustling city in the early days of summer. It was crazy, congested, fun and frenzied. Painting in a week long competition with the final show on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Then without a moments rest I had gone from sea level in the East to almost 10,000 feet to the Crested Butte Plein Air Invitational. Here I had been invited to be an excursion leader for the artists and a participating artist in the Grand Exhibit.

I want to bring this to a close soon. It was long days for the entire month, if I wasn’t hiking the mountains with my gear, it was dodging traffic with the same stuff on my back, searching for the car that you know you parked… hmmm, I know I parked it near here. Darn, lost again! Then when I wasn’t on my feet hiking or painting then I was driving to the next location. There were many days where that’s all it was from morning to night, driving… with my windows down and my tunes carrying in the wind.

Let me equate the artistic journey to something like… like…

Baseball!

It’s something that one has to work at very hard, though it’s a job that many look at as “Just for Fun”. Maybe it is fun, but to be successful at it, you have to go to the next level, and that’s getting out of the recreational league and hitting the pros.

Are you going to be satisfied playing for the local club, or do you think you are ready for Triple A ball? Get out there and go for it, then once your successful at this, then jump in with the big dogs in the Majors. Did you get embarrassed at the plate and sent back to Boise with your gear falling out behind you, or did you take a swing and get on base?

For me and my goals I’ve got to play the majors. There are  not too many things that feel as satisfying as taking a full swing and hearing that CRACK as bat meets ball and you see it fly. It doesn’t have to be out of the park, a line drive down the 3rd base line is still rewarding. It’s knowing that you can hit the fast ball and the curve when they come your way.

Put me in Coach, I’m ready to play today

Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm

 

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