Friday, April 15, 2011

More notes from the desert

I think I will write a little about desert adaption for the landscape painter. The first warning is that this, like the ocean is a capricious and sometimes threatening environment. Everything here has thorns, teeth or just a lot of attitude. Temperatures in the day here are usually in the high nineties, but this is April, it is often much hotter than that. I have painted outside in 115 degree heat, and that gets real extreme.I like the heat, and it cools way off at night so sleeping is comfortable. I am getting in touch with my inner lizard. Here are some things that I have learned about desert painting. I am sure a local could add to the list, but this is what I have learned.
  • I have a very heavy kit, so I don't go very far from my car. If I have a problem I walk the hundred yards to my car and I'm gone. If I was packing a pochade (pronounced pochade) box I might go further.
  • Their are sudden gusts of high wind here so I am glad for my heavy Gloucester easel, I would surely blow down with anything less.
  • I am wearing high snake proof boots. If I am walking out into the scrub, I have the piece of mind that is well worth what I paid for the boots at Cabellas. I keep my hands out of places I can't see and I look at the ground I walk on, before I walk on it.
  • I carry a half gallon or so of water with me and drink all day, I make a point of consuming at least a gallon a day.
  • When it is hot the paint moves real well. I am using almost no medium and the paint flows beautifully. I got a deal on some Permalba, which I am cutting half and half with flake. I don't usually buy Permalda, but that is what I could get as the Jerrys at which I stopped in Austin was out of Winsor-Newton, Gamblin, and Rembrandt, and doesn't handle Lefranc. Good thing I didn't need Gamsol, they were out of that too. At least they didn't have the riggers I wanted.
  • I don't leave anything behind me. I know that sounds obvious but I have seen "artists" empty their solvent on the ground and fail to chase down a paper towel taken by the wind.
  • Desert painters get great drying times, My pictures are dry every morning, even with almost no medium, although the flake is a dryer in itself. Old time house paint often had some lead in it just to aid drying.
  • I sometimes use sunscreen when part of me gets overdone, but I tolerate sun well and am turning into beef jerky. Bring the spf 50
  • I wear a hat with a brim, if you are sun susceptible you might need a broad brimmed hat like the Mexican cats wear.
  • It hasn't rained since September so everything is as dry as tinder, therefore I don't smoke or build a fire out in the desert. Wildfires are all over Texas right now, so I don't cook.
  • Camping is easy in the desert. Rain is the enemy of camping, if I know it isn't going to rain I can camp happily. Wet sleeping bags in cold weather are one of life's greatest tortures.
Back tomorrow, if I forgot anything and you are an expert desert painter, I welcome your input in the comments.


LandPainter said...

Sounds like an amazing time out there. I can understand the snake thing. I was painting in the everglades with alligators, snakes and other wildlife. A snake slithered right through my feet!!

Brady said...

I live in a high desert which means temperatures over 100 in summer and temperatures below 0 in winter, and every year we hear of 5 to 10 people dying in the wilderness (Some only a couple hundred yards from a road).

Even if you stay close to the car I would recommend a good emergency kit. A backup radio or cell phone (with charger). And most importantly tell someone EXACTLY where you plan to be and how long you will be.

And bug spray. It's probably not kosher but if you spray it on the ground where you are standing it keeps some of the ants and critters away.

But you are right about drying times, even in winter, with such low humidity paintings without medium reliably dry within 2 to 3 days.

Oh, and I forgot, even if it is hot throw a coat or heavy jacket in the trunk, if you are stuck outside at night you can see temps as low as 30 or 40 degrees.

Michael Chesley Johnson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Chesley Johnson said...

Sunglasses. The light can be pretty intense in the desert. (But then, I'm sure you know that from painting the ocean.) Intense light can throw your eyeballs out of whack. And you also know better than to paint with sunglasses on - just use them when setting up. Mirror shades? User preference.

What, no cigars?

Stapeliad said...

Do you have a horse with no name?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Paint with your feet together, mind your form and that kind of thing won't happen.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Good tips. Cell phones don't work here, and it is so dry, there are few bugs, and none that chew.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I guess my eyes are fried. The light doesn't bother me at all. I like the heat and intense light.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Alligator lizards in the airrrrr.

Jo-Ann Sanborn said...

Oops, Im'm reading these backwards, guess no cigar!