I recently returned from a plein air workshop in mid-coast Maine. The experience turned out to be much more than just painting in a beautiful place. It matured me as an artist and gave me a new confidence that had some to do with painting but more to do with logistics. Let me explain.
Upon taking the sage advice of an artist colleague about stepping out of one's comfort zone, I began growing from the moment I made the decision to attend the workshop five months prior. Mind you, I could have taken a plein air workshop with the same instructor locally. But I had never been to Maine. Logistical questions immediately came up. Do I drive or fly? Do I need to upgrade my field equipment? Where will I stay?
Since I was traveling alone, the first decision was to fly rather than drive. Although an artist can pack a studio into their car, I did not relish the thought of extending my travel by a day on either side of the workshop for a stopover. And I was not driving to Maine from Virginia in one shot by myself.
So after paying for the deposit on the workshop, I secured the airline tickets and rental car, then the bed and breakfast. Whew! Sounds easy but not so fast. I went through several rental car companies before landing a reservation at Portland's Jetport. I had heard horror stories from friends about a scarcity due to fleets being sold off during the pandemic. The basics were handled.
Now for the packing. I like to travel light because I am average height and weight and dare I reveal my age? The less stress on my body the more I would be able to enjoy the workshop. My main suitcase is carry on size. My plein air rolling bag is carry on size. Gotta keep it all lightweight. How does it all fit together? And what about the oil paints and Gamsol? My folding chair? Tripod?
The studio offering the workshop was wonderful to interface with. Lyn Donovan of Coastal Maine Art Workshops answered all my questions and shared my excitement about flying for the first time with my plein air gear. She suggested that I ship my supplies to her studio, offered to loan me a folding chair and walked me through sending my supplies back home on the last day of class. Totally awesome!
I opted to travel with a Plein Air Pro plastic palette. My tripod luckily folded up to under eighteen inches. Both fit neatly into my small suitcase that I checked. I purchased a tablet mount rather than the typical plein air mast style easel which would not fit into any of my baggage.
In talking to my daughter after the trip, she reminded me that "two is one and one is nothing". Those of you who work in logistics totally get that. What happens when equipment fails? One needs to think outside the box and improvise. The tablet mount refused to tighten down on my linen panels on the third day of painting. The workaround was to slip the panel into the track behind the palette and tape or clamp or bungee it to the tripod. We were fortunate to have stellar weather with little wind. And so it worked! I also opted to paint on my lap. That worked, too.
I loved being outdoors for seven hours a day for four days. It reminded me of equestrian days and the dawn to dusk horse show marathons. Speaking of which, I always use my old winter waterproof Ariat riding boots to help tick proof myself, even in hot weather. In addition I purchased Insect Shield leggings and a zip hoodie. Although ticks are a problem in Maine as well, we painted in locations that kept us safe and were not allowed to venture into tall grass.
The painting was a pleasure. My horizons expanded. Since I mostly paint landscapes, every time I viewed a possible scene to paint I asked myself, " Can I find this in Virginia?" As a result I embraced the water- harbors, waterfalls, shoreline. Bethanne Kinsella Cople from Alexandria, VA was our instructor. Her energy is seemingly boundless. She addressed sixteen of us who painted at all levels from novice to professional. I came back to my studio with some pearls of information regarding process that I will likely incorporate into my way of creating.
I would have stayed for the last day of the workshop but was at the mercy of my airline. Four weeks before the workshop I received notice from United that my flight times to and from Portland, Maine were changed. Argh! Bend like the willow. I didn't dwell on it. Instead, on the morning of the last day, I did not attend the workshop but rather took a slower morning and visited the Farnsworth Museum in Rockland before heading to the airport.
We created two paintings per day. How did I get all the wet linen sheets and panels home? I used silicone release paper between the wet pieces. Logistics dictated that I ship the paintings from the first two days because they were the driest. These were packed up with my paints and Gamsol and shipped together with the palette back home via UPS. Maine to Virginia only cost around $17 for a thirteen pound package. Sweet! Then the wettest panels were carried onto the plane in a Raymar wet canvas case. Also sweet!
By the time I got home I felt like I had matured as an artist. No paintings were damaged in transit. No luggage was lost. I navigated the journey with ease. The locals in Maine were welcoming and friendly. I learned about myself beyond painting. I look forward to doing this again, maybe across the pond next time.
Thank you for sharing my experience!
Always make time to follow your dreams,
-Please share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section.