Hi LA friends! Come check out my plein air paintings in person at the Chocolate and Art show in LA – and a bunch of other awesome artists, musicians, body painters, grab some food and drink and free chocolate 🙂
Being alone on the trail is a soothing, grounding experience. It forces a level of comfort with the self and the here-and-now that the distraction of company doesn’t offer. Getting comfortable with that is, however, a whole different matter.
Inspiration strikes everywhere on the trail – on the summit of a mountain or in the depths of a canyon, in the middle of the day or when the sun is quickly setting. A painting kit that’s light enough to carry, tough enough to endure the trail and quick enough to deploy on snack breaks or when the light is fading is essential for plein air painting on the trail! Here is my set-up:
The expanse of Death Valley seems unfathomable as our two-jeep party enters the park via long highways and high, winding roads. The desert stretches into the distance and is framed by the rugged ridgelines of mountains and stricken through by the blinding white of salt flats. Two coyotes pose by the one lonesome National Park sign as we hit the park boundary proper, and out of nowhere: Stovepipe Wells, a small, rustic town with amenities such as a restaurant and gas station. We stop to fill up on gas and give our rigs a last-minute check, then hit the dirt road past the claustrophobic campground and empty airstrip.
The washboarded road leads us through flat expanses of sand, volcanic rock and brush, the mountains growing ever-closer, imposing as twilight casts them into stark relief. We quickly leave the noise and buzzing energy of Stovepipe Wells behind and silence welcomes us.
We don’t see much of anything when we arrive at Moab, UT. A half day’s drive stretched into the wee hours of the morning. Such is life when on the road with a three-month old baby. After a few hour’s sleep the morning sun reveals the powerful Colorado and beautifully bizarre red rock formations characteristic of the land – just steps away from our camp site. Despite my apprehension for the day’s plan, I stop and paint.
The baby is left in his grandma’s good hands. I am new to this. I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m putting my faith in my wonderful friend and skilled river-rafter to get me from point A to point B still breathing. We load up the agile two-person raft and set off along the Colorado.
Still and quiet is not something familiar to a person who battles anxiety, depression and PTSD daily. Half of my mind is running on the toxic nitro fuel of fight-or-flight fear. The other half enduring the contortions of a mind that wants to die in a body that fights to live. It was spring break, my companions and I standing at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, our pent up road trip energy quieted at the edge of such splendor. Just one day ago I was a stressed out, lapsed ex-artist, over-achieving college student, an abuse survivor, an alcoholic, dependent on a dangerous combination of pills and booze for three or four hours of sleep, and tediously suicidal.
There, staring down through layers of strata and time, following the blue-green ribbon of the Colorado River, I was only human. The chaos of my mind stilled for a moment and allowed me to be a person instead of an illness. I think that was my first time really knowing peace.