Yesterday I painted at Celilo Park, along the Columbia River. Celilo has the feel of an oasis in the summer with all of the trees set against the windy, dry, hot basalt cliff’s lining the gorge. Celilo means, "echo of falling water" or "sound of water upon the rocks," in native languages. I felt the history of this location when two teenage Native Americans came by to critique my work. The first time they came by, they said very little. The second time they spent more time and informed me that my painting now looks better than it did before. Then they looked even closer and told me that from a distance it looked like a photo. High praise indeed!
Often the results of plein air painting are less than anticipated, however, the ones that turn out create the same satisfaction one finds upon getting to the top of a mountain, stop and enjoy the view, have a snack, and then head back.
When going up a mountain you want to hurry and then become winded and this weakens your resolve. You climb the mountain between restlessness and exhaustion. When you are not thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event. This leaf has jagged edges; this rock looks loose, look at that beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees……
When painting I need to be in the moment and see what is before me. In plein air the distractions are many depending on location and the environment. Either to hot or to cold, loose dogs, bugs, are a few of the many things that can cause me to think about anything but painting. So the practice of plein air painting is a battle of being in the present moment and the ability to sink into the surroundings.
PS: "He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, is unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be here. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around hem. Every step’s an effort both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant." (Robert M. Pirsig)