Perils of painting alone

Philippa Robert, acrylic

Long hot walk is a painting of Semaphore done on two excursions with the outdoor painting group.

The day was boiling hot (about 33 degrees in the shade), the flies were hanging around and I chose a very exposed spot. I remember the reason. This was an occasion when composition took priority over comfort. The expanse of sand and its framing by the jetty and the fence drew me in. This is a very long beach at low tide and the sand is the dominant feature, not only of the painting but also in reality.

Many people walked past during those hours, most of them mothers and children as it was school holiday time. If it was a hot walk down, it was an even hotter walk back. Checking out the painting coming and going, they might not have seen much progress. Some stopped for a chat. One person was offering a reward for some money she had lost. All sorts of things were going on for them (and me).

The main challenge in this painting was all that sand – the bit I had loved so much at first! Although there were many footprints, painting them in made the picture very busy. With brushstroke texture and (later) some subtle colour variations the composition maintained its simplicity but held some visual interest. Looking back at the photo I took on the first day brings it back. I think I prefer the photo!

Philppa Robert, South Australia

On one of mornings I was harassed from the jetty by a very angry man. He came down onto the sand, walked straight up to me and continued his unsettling tirade. It was clear that he was not at the top of his game but I was cornered with all my gear so I waited it out. Why didn’t I just leave it? Eventually he gave up the non-argument. Lucky, as by then the passers by had thinned right out and my colleagues were nowhere to be seen – in the shade somewhere no doubt. When I packed up for lunch a bit later I saw the same fellow nailing someone else to the spot.  One of our group had intervened to liberate his next victim.

This reminds me why I don’t often set out alone to paint anymore. Nothing really to be afraid of I suppose, but something else that has to be dealt with. As if painting isn’t difficult enough!

One of my blogging colleagues Kelly Medford is currently painting outdoors every day in Rome (for 120 days). Is it different there I wonder?

How many people go out to paint alone these days? Do you?

14 thoughts on “Perils of painting alone

  1. I never paint out of my studio and admire all who do so. It’s a kind of performance art and those who choose to paint out of doors, I guess, must accept the interaction of the public…

    1. You are right clinock. An interesting concept – performance art. We do it knowingly. Even on the balcony. It feels even more exposed up there. As a walker I know that most local balconies show no signs of life.

  2. I’ve not really thought about it, but no, I’ve never gone out alone to paint. One reason for that is transportation. Another would be incentive. It’s like an exercise program–you need someone else to partner with you or it’s too easy to goof off. I think your painting is excellent. It feels hot. Not sure what 33 celsius translates into fahrenheit, but it looks as if you were baking yourself out there. I hope you wore a wide brimmed hat and had an umbrella shielding your workspace.

      1. I would be (have been) miserable without an umbrella. I have been known to turn my back on my subject matter in order to keep the sun from shining on my painting and my palette. I learned the hard way that I can’t judge color in the super light of direct sunshine. I guess if my painting were destined to live outside in a tropical clime, there is some argument in favor of painting it in full sun. My umbrella is a Shade Buddy, large enough to cover me and the pochade box (which as you might have noticed, I was still using with the Gloucester-style easel). Shade Buddy is not helpful in rocky soil or sand, however, since it spikes into the ground. Clayey soil is best.

  3. Sounds like heaven Aline! I will investigate that before I re-launch my outdoor career. I was probably wearing sunglasses that day. Something that goes into the ground should be preferable to a tie-on solution – I can imagine the whole thing taking off in that case. Have you seen how the Dutch painter Roos Schuring ties her kit down on the beach? She fills bags with sand on site. Thanks for your suggestions.

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