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…
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