Hazards of Plein Air Painting: #2, Sloth

The dictionary defines sloth as: “reluctance to work or make an effort; laziness.” That would define my reluctance to paint en plein air these past few weeks. I’ve been working fast and furious in the studio but going outside has met the brakes. Something about going outside to paint when the view is as it is below that intimidates me.

Bad weather out west!

Bad weather out west!

Of course, there are breaks in the weather but lately its been just an hour or two in the afternoon. And then I clean up and saddle the mule and head out for a fast ride. I still get soaked and high tail it for home when the lightening and thunder start up. Our PAAC paint out at Needle Rock in Crawford was canceled because it had snowed/sleeted over night and had turned to rain that day. Funny how cold winter weather, with snow on the ground does not keep me indoors, but the rain, hail, thunder and lightening will!

Foley and Mary mowing the lawn.

Foley and Mary mowing the lawn.

I do have a couple of great models in my yard to do some sketches of and I can watch them out the window without encouraging them to come nibble on my sketch pad.

But en Plein Air will have to wait for less cold and damp weather.

Trees in a desert environment

I love trees, there is no doubt about it. I am a tree hug-er, literally! I must admit I do get a lot of sap and needles on me but that goes well with the oil paint, horse snot and dog fur already on my clothes. I am always impressed when I see trees growing in the desert. Its a tough environment and the trees are equally tough to live there. Their adaptations are laudable.

Utah piñon tree

Utah piñon tree

When I was camping in Utah last weekend, there were lots of trees around us. Piñon and Juniper were the main species. Juniper are one of my favorite trees with Piñon coming in second, so I was content. I painted a couple of really informative plein air paintings of one juniper. The first one I did in an hour, the second one I did in 20 minutes. The short times were to get me to glean the important information I wanted and put it on the canvas fast. I didn’t think about any side details or worry about minutia. Just getting the impression of the moment was the goal of these paintings.

Piñon at 10 a.m. plein air oil painting, 8" x 6"

Piñon at 10 a.m. plein air oil painting, 8″ x 6″

Pinon At Noon, plein air oil painting, 8" x 6"

Pinon At Noon, plein air oil painting, 8″ x 6″

With the information I got outside, I came home this week and painted another tree. I did it from a photo and in the studio but I still felt like I was out on the flats. I referred to the 2 tree paintings to get information I included in the bigger studio painting. I believe it worked. I call it McKay Flats Juniper.

McKay Flats Juniper, 14" x 18" oil painting

McKay Flats Juniper, 14″ x 18″ oil painting

You can view and bid on these 3 paintings on my Daily Paintworks gallery. More work is at my FASO website, cedarkeshet.com.

Wild areas help me recharge my battery.

I just returned from a long weekend of camping in Utah with dogs and friends. My mountain rescue team I belong to held a training in the slot canyons of the San Rafael Swell. I opted to paint and hike rather than rappel and squeeze.

The break was great, I enjoyed the relaxed pace. The plein air sketches and exercises I did are going to provide ideas and inspiration for studio paintings for a long time.  Little road trips like this to wild areas are a balm for my spirit. My internal battery needed the recharge.

Looking north from the campsite.

Looking north from the campsite.

It was a fun drive (translation = rough) on 4WD roads to our meeting point, but the Tacoma was a champ. Our training leader provided us with a highway map pdf, some directions off a website and GPS coordinates. The destination was about 5 hours from home.

The road into our campsite. The left side road is behind and the right side road is in front.

The road into our campsite. The left side road is behind and the right side road is in front.

We had a view of an area called Sinbad country from out campsite.

UTView1

The view from the campsite.

It was very remote but that was fine with us! We are a hardy group.

I hiked with my friend and our dogs before she set out on an explore of the canyons, with all the required gear and knowledge. I painted all day. She returned mid afternoon and joined the plein air fun with her watercolors.

Shade is at a premium in the San Rafael Swell, McKay Flat, UT.

Shade is at a premium in the San Rafael Swell, McKay Flat, UT.

The wind was pretty strong and even with extra tent stakes and lots of big rocks, the umbrella was not an option, so standing in the meager shade of a juniper was my plan. Seems like the dogs had the same idea. The rest of the team returned early evening after 18 miles or so of canyoneering and hiking.

Just a small portion of the pictoglyphs in San Rafael Swell, UT

Just a small portion of the pictoglyphs in San Rafael Swell, UT

The next day we drove around in the swell, which is an ancient reef and uplifted seabed, and caught some glyphs and hiked around Goblin Valley State park. We then traveled to Erby canyon and started a hike up it but the weather with rain clouds threatening a flash flood changed our minds for us. We drove out of the very sketchy road just in time for the downpour.

Me & my climbing dog at Goblin Valley State Park, UT

Me & my climbing dog at Goblin Valley State Park, UT

We ended our weekend at a whitewater rafters’ hang out in Green River UT for burgers and fries and headed back to cooler Colorado.