By Stephanie West and Wendy Ahlm
Plein Air painting can be a peaceful endeavor, unless you encounter some of these epic fails common to any outdoor landscape painter!
Teeter, Wobble, Sway and Gone
Some days you have jelly fingers. Our epic fails involve dropping supplies — repeatedly. Including an occasional wet finished piece of work falling directly onto the ground. But the most common fail is having your whole set up blow over, before and during your session. What a mess!
Let Sleeping Insects SLEEP
There are some things we learn the hard way. Unfortunately, insect activity and paying attention to our surroundings seems like it should be a no-brainer. Experience has sadly taught more than one painter a location lesson. It was spring and still chilly in the mornings. I was in Taos and set up at dawn to catch the early morning light near Arroyo Seco. Having set up and started painting in a dirt pull-off, I did not even think to look down where I set up. The sun rose, temps increased, and the ANTS in the ANT HILL I was standing on were NOT happy. Suddenly I felt biting things and crawling all over my legs. There was a bit of screaming involved, followed by having to completely relocate. Lesson learned: make sure to pay attention to your surroundings (including below your feet) when you set up.
Enjoying the view?
You finally found the perfect place to create your vision. You are all set up and your painting is well under way when all of sudden, people show up who see what you are doing. Often, there is plenty of parking all around – to the sides and behind you. However, experience has shown that if there is a spot, even a wee tiny place that a stranger can park that is in front of you and obscures the view, they will park there. We’ve experienced this in huge trail-head parking lots and even on a back road where there were plenty of pull-outs. And yes, the hikers parked on the side of the road, directly in front of us, and proceeded to hike up on the road (not even on one of the many available trails nearby) instead of just parking at the next pullout or behind us. Lesson learned: make sure to leave no space between you and your scene where the view can be obscured (unless you are hoping for an unplanned addition to your painting.)