backyard plein air
I was exhausted this Friday afternoon when school let out for the weekend. I talked myself into a workout at the gym, then, with my Jeep loaded with watercolor supplies, I drove across the city to the Japanese Gardens in Fort Worth. After standing outside the admissions gate and reading all the signs with their lists of prohibitions, I approached the window, and started to pay my $4 admission when the attendant saw my watercolor block and asked if it was a sketchpad. “Watercolor block,” I replied. She said, “No paints of any kind are allowed in the Gardens.” After nearly three decades of paying admission so I could read a book or write in my journal inside the Gardens, I determined at that moment that the Japanese Gardens will not receive another dime from me. Ever. I still wonder what kind of ecosystem I was threatening with my palm-sized Winsor & Newton field box and 8 x 10″ watercolor block. But that’s O.K.–they can have it.
Driving home, I decided to chill in my backyard with my two dogs and cat. As I sat in the waning sunlight, I noticed, for the first time, the splendid way the golden light was playing off a pair of trees in the back corner of my yard, next to an old play structure. I sprang up, fetched my French easel, and went to work on this composition. After so many years of looking at Andrew Wyeth renderings of tree bark and scattered leaves, I’ve finally decided I’m going to study this and see if I can develop some kind of technique to render these marvelous forms with their gradations, and wonderful contrasts. After I stopped working on this, and the light evaporated from my back yard, I slumped in a chair, more exhausted than ever, but filled with a satisfaction seldom felt. Even if I turn out a bad painting, I feel a sense of the sublime while I’m painting en plein air. But when I’m happy with the result, it certainly makes the time much sweeter.
This is the first weekend that I can remember where I have no weekend class, no lecture or sermon to prepare, no festival to attend. A free weekend–I think I’m certainly going to pursue some more watercolor activity. But first–I need some quality sleep!
Thank you for reading.