Desert, dreaming


I woke up from a dream of the desert. It felt like my subconscious came to some profound understanding about the places of strange beauty and the places of strange mystery.

This photo came from a tour book of sites for the plein air artists.

I don’t know if I can express it in words, but I’ll try.

The time I spent at the Ghost Ranch and the time I spent on the road must have had an effect on me. I was glad I took the time to sit there and stare at it.  One thing about the plein air week was that the artists are expected to make lasting friendships and go to another plein air event to feel part of the plein air family, but I didn’t do that, alas. The group was rushing around to as many beautiful places and whipping out as many oil or watercolor sketches as they could every day and I, with my weak social skills and slow way of working, still kept to myself too much. I didn’t want to try to go fast with it like they did. I wanted to sit there in the beautiful spots and commune with nature every day as I worked on my painting.

How can an artist get the most out of it if they hurry through it? How can they pick up the vibe of the desert if they’re socializing with so many people?  Can they see the mystery in the empty spaces if they fly over it?  When I woke up I felt like out of all the 100 or so artists at the event, I was definitely the slowest, but something else. I have my doubts that any of the others felt it like  I did. Could I ever give up painting the way I do so that I could fit in better socially? Should I change my style? Should I do unfinished paintings that are sketchy and have no depth or detail? No. I remember it well, at least for now. It’s not a fast food hamburger, it’s a piece of prime rib to be savored. Do you know what I mean?

15 thoughts on “Desert, dreaming”

  1. I sure do – I feel much the same way, but I’m not a plein air artist. When I was in school (Shepherd U), I struggled to get my professors to “like” my photos, as I preferred nature over studio. But, after a year or so I finally felt accepted.
    Be yourself!!

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  2. Such an excellent written expression.

    You are doing creative work and such work has to conform to the rhythm and pace of our human/body mind. All this rushing around in our lives began only recently in our history. With mechanization (Industrial revolution), I suppose. Rushing has become necessary only for that part of our lives in which we have to co-operate with the economy because we have to earn a living.

    Can any other human activity be accomplished well when we are rushing around? Raising a child? Reading a book? Gardening? Makes no sense. And certainly not for a creative activity like drawing, painting. Would anyone have told Picasso to rush?! Einstein?

    It raised my blood pressure to read that you were expected to make friends and attend more such plein air meets. That is a marketing technique on the part of the organizers of this plein air exercise. Has nothing to do with the purpose of your participation.

    I am glad you got to participate in this venture the way you wanted to because you got the maximum benefit out of it for your life and art. That is what counts.. You weren’t there to fulfill goals devised by someone else…………………

    I believe the entire earth is a place of strange and wondrous beauty and mystery. Given into our care. So I agree with you……….Sarah

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    1. Thanks for your understanding and words. One reason I went to this plein air event was because they advertised no drama, several times, and there was none. It’s not like that usually in the art world. I was thinking of trying to find a dude ranch to paint and when I saw the ad for the Ghost Ranch I knew I’d love it.

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  3. I soooo totally get you Chris! I agree 100%. I’ve said it before, Fine Art, takes time to create. That’s why it’s called FINE art. In fact I see so many plein air pieces that look unfinished. They look thrown together and made in haste, with just a thinned out wash and it’s then sold as a finished piece!

    I have a note pinned in my studio that reminds me of what you are saying. It reads:

    “Creative work needs solitude.
    It needs concentration, without interruptions.
    It needs the whole sky to fly in, and no eye watching until it comes to that certainty which it aspires to, but does not necessarily have at once.
    Privacy, then.
    A place apart – to pace, to chew pencils, to scribble and erase and scribble again.”
    By Mary Oliver

    Not only that, most artists are introverts (I’m one of them) and they need solitude to create work. So don’t feel like you missed out because your contact list wasn’t filled up with “new friends”. It’s about the experience, the journey, and the knowledge you gained to create work. 👍🏻👩🏻‍🎨

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    1. Thanks! That quote makes sense! I’m not sure I’m an introvert because I do enjoy the company of other people, but I’m ok alone. I appreciate your take on it, and observations on plein air paintings.


  4. Chris, I empathise with your views on your recent experience. I, as a slow worker, would rather look around, absorb the true essence of a place. Go home, reflect and then start painting. You have the tools, you paint well, you don’t go to a course to show who’s best. What you have inside yourself, which from my faraway perspective, is a true love of the environment, your daughter and your art. Those are the precious things that others could learn from. Go well, Vivienne

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  5. A very astute description of the current plein air scene. It’s a trend. Lots of marketing and people who enjoy being in clubs. Although I occasionally go out painting with a friend, I really enjoy just being by myself with my own thoughts. It’s not a race. Just take the time YOU need and don’t feel obliged to conform to what others want you to be. You’re doing great as you are.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. Painting is ultimately a solo journey. That guy who organized it, Eric Rhodes, is a real genius at marketing. He has Streamline publishing which puts out Plein Air magazine and books and DVDs about how to paint. Funny, and kind of ironic, he called my name in the morning raffle and I won a DVD about how to paint in that style, but I was skipping the morning announcements every day to get to my morning painting spot before the light drenched it. They told him I left and he broke his own rule about not giving the prizes to people who weren’t there and gave the DVD to my roomie to give to me. I think he knew who I am and wanted me to have the DVD. I can’t watch it. hahahahah and my roomie wasn’t interested either because she does watercolor.


  6. I COMPLETELY know what You mean!!! And I say You are perfect the way that You are!!! How beautiful that You allowed Your process to be what it is even though 100 others around You were in a different flow/vibe. What a GREAT gift You gave Yourself to just allow Yourself to be and to respect Your art’s journey!!! I’m exceedingly lone-wolfish in my art, myself. Not that I declared it and so there. Love people but am not very social. And like You, my art has its own time schedule….it comes as it comes and I respect that. Also, a lot of artists I meet want to talk about the process; to discuss art intellectually. I spent years feeling pretty stupid because I’m not good at that. I have no intellect behind my work and no desire to dissect the process of others. It’s completely experiential for me each and every time. Art is a sacred space both in the observing and in the allowing pieces to unfold. Nothing wrong with them and the way they move through their art and the world, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with You!!! Cheers and Rock on!!! ❤️❤️❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We’re all on our own paths. I loved it out there. And no none bugged me the whole time. It was worth the money and I’d go to another event like that if it’s somewhere else I want to paint. (with no teachers that you have to follow, no competition and no drama)
      I kept my council instead of advising the others to take their time because they didn’t try to rush me. You should never feel stupid. You’re very talented! Intellectual discussions about art are 99% bull—t anyway!
      Thanks for your understanding and encouragement! Rock on, Katie!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. NICE and cool beans!!! That’s wonderful that it was a live and let live thing. I’m so glad You had such a great time and would go to another!!! Cheers and Thank You for Your encouragement as well! 🤗❤️😊

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