Painters must first just continue being painters.
There is a great deal of discussion every day about varying perspectives and beliefs of the changes or modifications to our behavior necessary to carry on with our lives. I’m not here to debate any of those stands but only to share my thoughts on myself as an artist …out in public.
This year, any work I had done had been done in the studio. First it was seasonal, but when this all started to impact us in March I also began working from home as a library director/administrator during the stay in place orders. That made it very difficult to separate my 2 “jobs” let alone keep appropriate proportions but I managed. Now we’re in late summer and since I returned to the workplace in mid June, I have found that I’ve done even less painting because my focus has been on returning students and finding some kind of new working normality.
I am acutely aware at this point that I need to rebuild the foundational part of my emotional well being, my art. It has suffered even more since I went back to the office. Since all of my camping/historical reenactments have been canceled I haven’t foraged out much for anything but to campus. Fears can almost foster an agorophobia that needs addressing before it gets a hold. This week we’ve had beautiful weather, and it made me reminiscent of being out and about capturing in the real time, and not from a photo.
Sunday I decided to run away and Monday morning I found myself in a state park, having camped in the van, and smiling as I listened to birdsong and waited for morning coffee to be ready.
I did a few modifications of my field kit over the Winter assuming I would be launching early Spring with it, and taking our big road trip in May like we usually do. Some of the changes made it lighter, easier to carry, and compact and I was excited about testing it. It had yet to come out into the world until this weekend.
My bag separated out brushes in a better way, and I added more small clips that I could reach for at a moments notice. I found a small palette that fit the new pochade box that we cobbled together. We self destructed one of my small easels and use the sliders to hold a small painting. There were some other changes that I needed to make too. One of them was that I needed to find a way to keep my turpentine hanging up closer for the quick dip to my palate. I also needed to make sure that I always had my blast jacket and hat with me because I now sunburn easier than I ever did before, and this weather had had a little chill in the air. [I’m loving it by the way.]
But here’s where the other piece comes in. Artists in the field painting plein aire attract attention. Unlike joggers, walkers, or bikers, artists are stationary for several hours at minimum. People come up to us while we’re painting. It’s part of the fun. People want to watch and engage, they get excited, and they get close. So whether you believe in masks or not, in my opinion everyone needs to respect others and wear them.
I do believe in them. I must wear one and believe that I have to keep safe if I’m going to keep painting. I cannot afford to hide in my house because someone else doesn’t believe in the science, so I have embraced my responsibility for protection. When I’m in the field I will have a mask in my pocket and when I see someone coming up to watch me paint I will donn my mask.
I am enjoying the fresh air. I am enjoying the beautiful scenery. I am enjoying capturing that scenery with oil on canvas. And when I have the opportunity to talk to the public who have just approached me and my painting, I can talk art! It is part of the joy of the public process. When I do, I will do so with less angst, wearing my mask that is fashionable and perhaps reminiscent of Monet.
Please be respectful and civil to each other. Just relax and let others do what they need to do to feel safe and enjoy the same outdoor fun that you enjoy without ridicule.
Stay safe. Find your balance. Seek your peace.
This painting is a 5″x 7″ oil on canvas board painted at Lake Shabbona.