Sante Fe, New Mexico
The last plein air workshop at the Glen holds fresh in my memory. No longer in the dry heat of desert Sante Fe, I am tracing scenes from the first few days of August.
On Friday, Stephen and I partnered up and hiked for half an hours up the Atalaya Trail, with our canvas cases pinching nerve endings in our shoulders–ouch; the occupational hazard of plein air painters. The morning sun of 7:45am illuminates the land–with the heat already in the mid 20°c. Stephen, wearing an intense pink tee, refreshing to see on a 40+ gentleman, adds a foreign electric colour to the landscape. He kindly shared good painting tips and names of indigenous plants as we follow minutes-old footprints from Daniel and Joel (our instructor) leading ahead. When we finally caught up, breathing felt a little asthmatic and I became surprisingly nostalgic–I will miss life 7000ft above sea level.
Looking down on the Rio Grande valley and the city and St. John's college below, I begin a sketch on a 10"x 20" board. I started a habit of painting behind Joel because I appreciated the additional view of his in-process canvas. Joel has the discipline down–time well managed from initial sketch, colour mixing, general plane filling, and detail touchup. Never appearing to be in a hurry, Joel exudes a calm “chi” which inadvertently affects us on. He frames with patience; Paints with insistence; Speaks softly.
Good conversation flow as our brushes move persistently. In spurts, we chattered on about what we’re seeing, about other painters, about life. Then there are periods of flat silence that comfortably take place. Each of us focused, racing to secure an impression on canvas as light shifts dynamically over us.
We bitched about ants. Whether it bit us, itched us or walked up our bare limbs, the topic of ants became our collective “blah-blah” in battling the annoyances of the wild outdoors. Yet another occupational hazard of a plein air painter. Not to mention the coyotes and irritating hikers–passing by, each one repeats the same one-liner as the hiker before, “hey more of you painters, all spread out on the trail.” Joel and Daniel are kind, they say hi. Not me, I just roll my eyes.
At around 11am, we all eventually flocked back to the studio room. Our sweaty bodies lounge in a half circle. The fruit of our labor, ripe and vibrant, rest side by side on the wall. Our style or “voice”, hyper contrast each other. So unique.
Joel begins our discussion with sharing a quote by Robert Hughes. The theme of “Fully Human” of this year’s Glen Workshop reenters my mind after hearing these lines:
“Everywhere, and at all times, there is a world to be re-formed by the darting subtlety and persistent slowness of the painter's eye. We are never loose from our bodies and the re-embodiment of our experience of that world.” –Robert Hughes from Lucian Frued, Paintings.
As the last workshops draws to an end, each of us shared about our personal “re-formations” as painters. I recall Lynette (icon painter), Lisa (painter/teacher) and Liz (pastor) shared memorable reflections about the intrinsic integration of art and faith. In a group of primarily mature female painters (along with three gentlemen) I, 26, felt privileged to be a witness and be witnessed, to listen and be heard.