When I was a little girl, we often got a foot or so of snow here in Middle-Tennessee during January and February. That is no longer the case. Every year my artist friends and I long to paint the white fluffy stuff, and if we are very lucky we may get all of a half of an inch. To those of you who are buried under the stuff, this probably seems ridiculous.
: Me, Sandra Murzyn, and Dawn Whitelaw on Lake Michigan.
Timing is everything on a trip like this. You need to be ready to jump in the car with a day's notice; arrive to the snowy area to paint with no travel problems; get a few fresh inches so it's perfectly white and lovely; and be able to drive out again to go home. I had my ski pants, thermotech underlayer, wool socks, painting mittens, hand-warmers, foot-warmers, scarf, hat, and warm fuzzy boots and paint gear ready to hit the road. Luckily Dawn and I both have such a sense of adventure, that when we saw the opportunity, we took it. Naturally, on the morning we were to leave, I awoke with a sore throat and crazy head cold. Still, determined to paint this stuff or die trying, I pretended to be just fine.
At 9 hours into the drive, Dawn and I had yet to see any snow. Sandra kept reassuring us that she had plenty, but we were beginning to think we might be disappointed.
Stopped at the Tracks, 11x14, plein air oil
Because we left home at 5:30 in the morning, we arrived in Manitowoc before dark. It was so gorgeous, we were definitely NOT disappointed.
I felt like a little kid on Christmas eve when I went to bed that night, and didn't sleep at all due to the excitement of getting out and experimenting with this strange, new subject matter and light.
As a traveling artist, painting new places and different types of lighting is how I grow. I don't go in to a new setting expecting to paint my best work. Each location has its own set of challenges, and it typically takes a day or two and dozens of canvases to adjust to it all. Because we only had 3 painting days before we had to head home, we had no time to "acclimate." First day, out at 6:30 a.m., ready to tackle whatever came our way.
Painting at Two Rivers
I have to say that the first painting was not so hot :) Being the determined sort that I am, I painted in the exact same spot for the second one, trying to learn from what might have gone wrong the first time. Part of the problem was design, but a bigger problem was adjusting to the snow-blindness. Painting in such bright glare can really throw off value and color. Since I paint often on the white sands of the Gulf of Mexico, I am totally aware that this can happen. The second attempt was some better, Winter Warmth(below) was the result. There is so much yellow-gold from the trees in this area, which makes painting the otherwise cold, neutral landscape delightful.
Winter Warmth, 8x10, plein air oil
At the end of the first day, and many canvases later, all I could think was how exciting the second day would be.
As I lay in bed that night, still not able to sleep, my head, ears, and sinuses throbbing, I repainted every painting in my mind... what worked here and what didn't work there and how I should try this and what to do next and where will we go tomorrow and on and on.
Days two and three were much the same. There is an endless amount of subject matter there. We painted more barns and farms, boats in the harbor, quaint streets, and nocturnal subjects. In three days time I learned so much about what seemed like another world to me. Yes, I have much more work to do to even begin to understand painting this area.
The cold air I stood in for 3 days seemed to kill all my nasty germs, and I was mostly well by the time we got back home. Exhausted but happy, I had almost 20 studies and 2000 photos.
Hopefully there will be an opportunity to take many more trips to Manitowoc, as well as to other areas, such as Colorado and Idaho, where the snow is deep but the light is completely different. That's what my life is. It's one big learning adventure. What a blessing.
This week, I'm in sunny southern California. Here I go again!
Red Current, 9x12, plein air oil