Tag: en plein air

By the Sea

Snails, we are brought up to think, are slow. I am here to tell you that snails are not slow. Not when you’re using them as models as you perch on a low-tide rock, peering into a tide pool with watercolors balanced beside you and you are in the full grip of an artistic fever to capture this light and shaped-filled moment. Then snails hunker along quite annoyingly rapidly. What was, when you first spied it, a sinuous curve of light and dark, two snails in a perfect sine wave and you catch your breath with the awe of it and quickly, quickly! get your pencil and brush and paper out and, secure in the knowledge that snails are slow and you have plenty of time—all the time in the world, in fact, given that snails are so slow—lay down a line of shape and hue and glance to your models and discover that, oh my gosh, that sine curve is no longer. Now the space between them only speaks of space between them and not a beautiful visual harmony and you shake your head a little wondering if in fact you were mistaken at the beginning and then you realize, HEY, they are moving! Little-thick-antennae-sticking-out-suctioning-along-pulling-the-shell-behind-purposeful-moving.

I don’t pretend to know where snails in a tide pool are going. It’s only a tiny tide pool after all. But they have shown me that slow is relative and that time, tide and snails wait for no man.


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Complete Days

I am sitting on the couch in the really nice and big room that Richie booked for us in a Maryland hotel, three-quarters of the way to Virginia, where we will be for a bike thing. Well, it’s a bike thing for Richie. I take my paints and Maybelle (my sometimes traumatized GPS) and Buddy (the adventure Maltese) and head out to the Blue Ridge Mountains, in search of vistas. And there are vistas a-plenty.

When I find one that gives me that zing, I set up to paint. Despite people coming over to look at what I am doing, which makes me very self-conscious, I persevere until I get a painting done that I like the looks of.


For those of you who paint outdoors, or en plein air as they say, you know that when you look at that picture later, you will smell the air, feel the sun or shadow on your skin again and hear the bird calls—it is that absorbed into you. It becomes more than a memory; it becomes a tangible part of your life.

After completing a satisfying painting, I load everyone back into the car, we head back to the cottage where we are staying and wait for the bicyclists to get back. They are riding a ridiculous amount of miles on back-woods dirt roads, and they feel very manly for doing it. I am satisfied with my day, they are satisfied with their day and when we meet again at the end of the day, we are complete.


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