People often ask me how I can love living in Northern New Mexico's high desert when I grew up near the sea. I tell them that there is a sense of space and peace here that equals the ocean's horizon. I am still drawn to water, however. Even in this dry Southwest land, all I need to do is go to the river. There is always something there to paint. Shadows from low-hanging tree branches, sky reflections, reeds along a river bend. Soon geese will be sheltering there, as will heron and cranes.
I love those precious hours of end-of-day light for painting. Forget about having a preconceived notion of my subject. Pack my easel, paints, brushes, medium, and a few blank canvases into my old Jeep, and go. My willingness is usually met with magic. I often see ten paintings for every one I complete.
Or start. A favorite lesson from Scott Christensen during a painting class was to go out and paint "starts". The freedom of just painting to capture a mood, values, some special color quality is tremendous. All of these "starts" can expand in the studio to a more finished painting, bringing the best of two worlds together. I seldom come up with the coloring, values, and composition for a painting in the studio that I can capture painting outdoors, despite fighting light shifts, bugs, chilly fingers, or the panel flying right off the easel in the wind.
The vibrancy of painting outdoors mixed with the quieter pace of working in the studio is a great blend for me, and for my work. Here's to you and yours,