For the past fifteen years or so, on the last day of summer vacation I compiled a list of everything I did. There is something about making a list. It’s easy to understand, and somewhat satisfying when it’s long. This year, the last day of summer vacation was on a Wednesday, so I could not do it.
Several years ago I joined a group of women who wanted to paint together once a week. It was decided the day would be Wednesday. We started in June of that year and worked at each other’s homes. I changed a few appointments so I could make the Wednesday painting meeting. Sadly, I had to stop attending when school started and was a little jealous seeing the work my friends were producing while I taught. Occasionally I joined them during the holidays.
The next summer we added another friend and took a painting trip together, which was a great experience. I was excited about getting back to the routine of Wednesday painting for another summer.
The best thing about the Wednesday painting group is the schedule. Paint on Wednesday morning. It’s what you do, no excuses. There were plenty of times when I would much rather not pack all my gear, get in the intense Louisiana heat, and stay home, but knowing I had someplace to be and people to meet was a huge motivator.
This summer a few of the original members of the group, as well as some new friends, continued to paint regularly on Wednesdays. I missed one day when I was on vacation (but I did a painting by myself) and took photos on another.
Someone said, “I see your paintings on Facebook. You have gotten so much better!” That’s what happens with consistent practice. On Wednesday mornings. And that’s what I did on my summer vacation.
Since I began working in plein air several years ago, most locations I have painted have been near enough that I only had to pack my gear in the GMC and drive to my destination. Even when I head for northeast Mississippi from Louisiana, it’s not a big deal, as long as I remember to bring something to protect my wet paintings from ruining the interior of the vehicle. So when one of our Paintin’ Posse (we finally have a name) suggested a painting trip to Lake Gaston on the North Carolina/Virginia border, I only hesitated a few minutes before committing to flying there on Memorial Day weekend.
Packing for travel is one thing, but packing for both painting and vacation is something else. I researched online, asked my art colleagues how they managed, and tried to minimize what I put in my two suitcases. I have several easels for outdoor painting. I tried each and finally decided on the Soltek. The tubes of oil were carefully placed in the paint boxes I saved (I’m a box hoarder) and the number of brushes limited. The Best Brella took some room, but I knew I would need it at some point. Since we were going to a lake house I took a very limited wardrobe that included the hat I always wear when painting outdoors. It all fit and came in under the weight limit. Just learning to pack to paint was huge.
The house was situated on an inlet of the lake. The weather was perfect every day except the day we left. We were able to paint several different areas and even took a trip to a winery. Our host family provided us with refrigerators full of food and beverages, prepared several meals for us, and
took us on boat tours around the lake.
I quickly acclimated myself to the artists’ retreat concept. I began five paintings, scrubbed one away, and pushed myself to paint more quickly in order to keep the light.
Now that I have learned to pack and paint, I think I am ready to head for new places, like Tuscany and Provence. After I finish the five paintings (and quite a few others) I have in my “to be completed” stack.