Monday, November 9, 2015

Surrounded!!! Knowing When to Quit.

While participating in EnPleinAir Texas, I had the opportunity to paint on some beautiful ranch land. One afternoon, I spotted a group of cows lounging in the afternoon sun. They looked very relaxed, and I though it would be a great opportunity to paint them.

I parked the truck and removed my gear, but within minutes I was surrounded.  Check out the cows sneaking up on me through the brush.

This didn't deter me. I set up my gear and started painting a group that was only a few feet from me. They just stood and stared, all the while drooling.

About 15 minutes into the painting, I realized that the larger cow on the right was a bull, as he decided to start rubbing his head against the back of my truck. Before he could do any serious damage, I clapped my hands, and every single cow fled the scene.

That left me without any models, but I decided I liked the painting anyway. I left the piece in the dashed off state that it was, something I would normally never do. The finished piece sold the moment the show opened.  My thanks to the bull for stopping me from overworking the painting!

"The Spooked Herd" (oil on panel, 12"x16")
by Patrick Saunders

Thursday, October 22, 2015

New Gear, New Ground

I just got back from Sonoma Plein Air, and it was a breakthrough experience for me. Kimberly and I lived in the Bay Area a few years back, and every weekend we would load the dogs into the car and explore locations up and down the coast. I have a lot of great memories from that time and hoped to revisit those places, not as a tourist, but as a painter. The issue I faced was my gear. In July I participated in Telluride Plein Air, and the hikes up and down the mountain just about killed me. I've been using a traditional Julian French Easel ever since I started this plein air journey. It's served me well, but to be honest, it's really heavy and difficult to port around with all of the other necessities.
My Julian setup in Telluride. It worked well (when in place),
but it was heavy and bulky.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

After Telluride, I researched my options and settled on the EasyL Versa. I can fit the EasyL and everything else that I need into the new Kelty Redwing 50 Gallon backpack I purchased. The backpack keeps me hands free and is really well balanced. Now, I can go almost anywhere.
My new setup on the beach in South Padre.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

The first morning of the event, I headed out to Bodega Bay. It's a beautiful waterfront town. You may have seen it in Hitchcock's "The Birds." The problem was the weather - pouring rain and low visibility. Then I remembered our first trip to the lighthouse at Point Reyes. It was beautiful in the fog, and decided that a grey day like this would be perfect, so I headed south on Highway 1.
Point Reyes from our first trip there in 2011. Check out the stairs.
They're steeper than they appear.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
If you've ever been to Point Reyes, then you know how far it is from everything. It's way out there. No cell reception. Once you hit the parking lot, you've still got a mile long hike, and much of that is stairs. There was no way I was getting my old Julian down and back up again. The new backpack made it easy. Now the only question was "where to set up?" There was no way to get a wide view of the lighthouse, the stairs are just too narrow. I had to get right up on the lighthouse. I found a nice corner out of the wind, and just then, the sun broke through the clouds.
The sun shows up just as I start!
I went for the sparkle on the roof as soon as
it appeared. Thought it might go fast.
The sun disappeared and I thought it might be
gone for good, but it did come back.
Good progress...
"The Sun Breaks On Point Reyes" (oil on panel, 12"x16")
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
It was a beautiful moment - the grey of the lighthouse, and just a bit of bright red as the sun hit the roof. It was meant to be, and turned out to be my favorite painting of the week. 

The next day, I hit the redwoods. Muir Woods was another long drive from my host housing, but worth the trip. I arrived before anyone else, so I could park right outside the entrance. I still had a hike to find the perfect spot, but once again my new pack made it easy. I caught the early morning light breaking through the giant sequoias.
A beautiful way to start a morning.
"Muir Woods Morning" (oil on panel, 12"x16")
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
Tuesday evening, the quick draw took place on Sonoma Plaza. I found some beautiful white roses and knocked out a piece in an hour and a half that I was happy with.
Ready for the quick draw.
"White Roses On the Plaza" (oil on panel, 12"x16")
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
I should take some time to mention how lucky I was to stay with a great host family that owned an entire campground of which I was the sole resident of for the week. All day and all night I was visited by the deer that regularly patrolled the camp.

I had a great week, and the final show was fun as well - held in Sonoma Plaza. More than anything I was thrilled with the places I could now go with my new painting gear.
"Yellow Roses" (oil on panel, 12"x16"

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Observations On Our First PleinAirStreaming Road Trip - Missouri To Texas

1) Write hate speech on a tractor trailer in your field; you’re NOT going to convince us of your POV. We ARE convinced that you’re a Duck Dynasty fan and Trump has your vote.

2) Any politician who supports expanded highway funding has our vote. Pay attention Oklahoma.

3) Our have-it-now culture = more stressed out truckers on the road. Screw you Jeff Bezos.

4) The craziest truckers come out at night … mostly.

5) Walmart parking lots are far better than the best Best Western.

6) Boon docking in an Airstream without the stabilizing jacks down is like sleeping in a bouncy house. Cool.

7) Dallas rush hour expands to at least half the size of the entire state. Don’t try to go around. It’s impossible.

8) The more expensive the car the worse the driver. But we’re practically driving a tank, so if we collide, one of us isn’t going home.

9) Mud flaps - hell yeah.

10) Never underestimate what a 10 degree temp change can do for your mood.

11) The wife is a boss wingman in her Smart car.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Ready To Hit The Road!

Patrick and I haven't posted for almost a month now because he's been busy with the Sonoma Plein Air Festival (he'll be posting about that experience soon), and we both have had a number of commercial and photography jobs to wrap up - it has been a crazy month. But now we are almost ready to hit the road. We finished a tight pack of the truck today, because we have cleaned out our storage space and are now completely mobile. Everything we own is in the truck, the Smart, or our Airstream. We are on our way to a tinier life. We still have a long way to go, though, to reduce our consumption, but Airstream life has helped us get a better handle on how much power, water, and gas we are consuming on a daily basis, and how we can minimize waste. It's an adventure in itself, figuring out how to consume/waste as little as possible on a daily basis.

It took us quite a while to clean out this space but we did it.

I have reached a point where letting go of or selling material things doesn't bother me at all. The only twinge of uncertainty I have had in this whole process was right after we put our home up for sale. I worried for a bit about not being a home owner anymore because it's considered to be such a marker of success and stability in life. But then I realized that what I was really worried about was not that I wouldn't be a homeowner anymore, but what others might think of us for not being homeowners, and that's a road to nowhere. A big part of following my bliss means letting go of the fear of judgment. It's really easy to get rid of your extra coffee cups - letting go of foolish pride is much harder.

Even the Smart car has a hitch now - the bikes look pretty funny on the back of my car. 

In the last two weeks we have put a hitch on the Smart for our bikes, and big flaps on the truck to protect the Airstream from rocks. Bambi's don't come standard with segment protectors anymore, just a thin film to protect the front of the Sport from rocks kicked up by the truck. We thought about going to the Airstream factory and having segment protectors attached, but that would mean drilling holes in the shell of the Bambi, and we are leery of puncturing the shell - even when this is done at the factory, for protectors, or a solar panel, or even a bike rack, there is always a chance that chronic moisture leaks could follow. We have a water tight shell, and we are not ready to risk that yet. Moisture leaks and water damage are really the Achilles heel of Airstreams, so we are not in a hurry to risk damage to a good seal.

These Rock Tamers are highly recommended on the Airstream forums - hope they do a good job of protecting the Bambi. At the very least, they make us feel a little badass - like real truckers.

Patrick and I hit the road on Wednesday morning, and we are so excited. We are going to make our way to Texas and spend a few days in Austin before we head south to the Rio Grande Valley, where we will spend the entire winter work camping at a resort very close to the Mexican border. Looking forward to some day trips into Mexico. Patrick will also be off to Texas Plein Air soon, which starts on October 26th in San Angelo, Texas. 

It's very fitting that we will hit the road on October 14th, because it marks the 20th anniversary of the day we first met, and October 15th will be our 17th wedding anniversary. It's a great day to begin our biggest adventure yet! - Kimberly Saunders

Thursday, September 10, 2015

It's Crunch Time For Dealing With Our Stuff!

Patrick Saunders and I spent the day today trying to clear out our storage space. We managed to get rid of about half of everything in this picture, but we still have a lot to figure out. We have three weeks left to find out what will fit in the truck, and what will need a new home. It's amazing how, even after we have sold and given away so much, we still seem to have a lot of stuff!

We rented a storage space for some essentials a few months ago as a kind of security blanket just in case we tried Airstreaming and hated it, but we both knew within 24 hours of living our new life that we loved it and didn't want to look back. So we have to clear out this space completely before we leave town.

We really need to be careful what we acquire going forward, because I don't ever want to have to deal with this much stuff again!

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Art of the Small Town

"Santa Fe 2546" (oil on canvas, 14"x18").
My painting from last year's event that now hangs in the Marceline City Hall.

This past weekend, Marceline hosted an Oil Painters of America paint out and I was fortunate enough to attend for the second year in a row. I had a great time last year (painted my first train, which now hangs in the Marceline City Hall), and I was looking forward to returning.

Marceline is a small town in north, central Missouri. Originally a railway stop between Chicago and Kansas City, it is now known best as the boyhood home of Walt Disney. It actually inspired the design of Main Street U.S.A. in the Disney theme parks, but the town is the real thing when it comes to Americana. The restored Santa Fe Railroad depot serves as the Walt Disney Museum.

Arriving at 8 a.m., the streets were quiet, except for my fellow artists. We all met at the North Missouri Arts Council gallery for check-in with Darrell and Darlene Gardner. Besides being an excellent painter, Darrell is responsible for organizing the event, and he seems to be the driving force behind the growth of art and culture in the community. The Gardners are also great hosts.

The forecast was for overcast skies all day, and I needed to find a location with some nice contrast to offset the flat lighting. I noticed Ma Vic's Corner Cafe buzzing with activity, and decided to set up across the street. I liked the abstract patterns in the cafe window made by everything happening inside and the reflections from the street.

Painting Ma Vic's Corner Cafe. Photo courtesy of Darrell Gardner.
Painting in progress.

As I painted, I had a steady stream of visitors coming and going from the cafe. Everyone was friendly, and I gave a number of impromptu micro lessons on painting to kids.

"Ma Vic's" (Oil on canvas, 12"x16") by Patrick Saunders

That afternoon, activity had really picked up. The street was shut down in preparation for a wine stroll that evening. At this point, we could set up anywhere in the street and not worry about the traffic. I set to work painting another street scene.

Artists painting in the midst of the wine stroll.

As I painted, the wine stroll began, and the town came to life. It wasn't just the wine that brought everyone to the event. There was a genuine interest in the art and its place in capturing the charm of Marceline. Small towns can be taken for granted. We often drive right through them and fail to notice the history that's still right in front of us. An event like this both documents and celebrates their beauty for everyone.

I was honored to win a purchase award from Yocom Jewelry.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

August Plein Air Festival Article In This Month's Plein Air Magazine

If you get a chance, check out this great article in this month's Plein Air Magazine by writer and artist Bob Bahr on the winners of the August Plein Air Festival!

Monday, August 31, 2015

New Truck Shell

We had a Snugtop shell installed on our Ford F-250 Monday morning. Snugtops are custom made upon order, so we had to wait six weeks for it, and it costs more than most shells, but we are glad we spent the extra money. This custom windowless shell is really sturdy, matched to our truck color perfectly, and much more secure than typical shells. Patrick has already set up shelving inside it, and this week we begin the process of figuring out what will and won't fit in the truck. Whatever we can't take with us has to go, so it will be interesting to see how much we can fit into this space. We are only five weeks out from hitting the road, so clearing out our storage space is our top priority right now. We'll let you know what makes the cut and what doesn't. Every time we look at what is still in our storage space, we can't figure out how after letting go of so much, we still somehow have a lot of stuff. But this is the price we are paying for not selling everything when we sold our home - we hedged our bets by getting a 10'x10' storage space for "essentials" - just in case we hated RV life and wanted to go back to a sticks and bricks life. So now it's crunch time - nothing that we don't really use or need can come with us - it's time to let go of our storage space security blanket.

Patrick has been joking that we need to get something cheesy airbrushed on the side of the shell - his vote is for a three wolf moon. No worries though - the shell will remain airbrush art free.

Monday, August 24, 2015

My New Toy - The Breathing Mobile Washer

I discovered this nifty device thanks to a full-time RVer blog - sorry, I can't remember which one, otherwise I'd give you credit for it. Patrick and I are lucky to have so many great RV blogs to follow and learn from.

The Breathing Mobile Washer is inexpensive and easy to use, and actually works quite well. It's kinda fun too - love the sound and churning of the water. Our first campsite is an RV park, where we are learning how our Bambi works, and what our water and power consumption needs are, so we have laundry facilities here, but I decided to order the washer and give it a test run anyway in anticipation of future boon docking. I was thrilled with the results, and am actually going to use this washer as much as I can right away, because, no offense to our current park's laundry facilities, and to laundromats in general, but these places have always kind of skeeved me out. They are almost never as clean as I would like, and the machines are sometimes grimy. Washing machine agitators covered in gray slime and dryers with full lint trays from someone else's load make me crazy, pushing every anal retentive button I have. The man who just bought our townhouse is a lucky guy, because he has the cleanest washer and dryer in town - I actually made Patrick take the washer apart and clean the drum occasionally, and flush out the dryer vent as well. I also vacuumed out my own lint tray and the whole dryer several times a week. You are welcome sir, whoever you are. Enjoy. Yes, I'm a clean freak. And this little mobile washer and a drying rack will keep me out of icky laundromats. Yay.

By the way, most RV parks have rules against doing or drying laundry at your campsite, because they want you to use their facilities, but this park is pretty laid back, so I don't think it will be a problem. And if the park manager calls me out on it, then I'll just have to show him what he'll need to do to bring the laundry room up to my standards of clean so that I can use it more often, and there is no way that's gonna happen. Because I am a Jedi Master Cleaner, people. NO ONE can touch me on this. Just ask my husband. - Kimberly Saunders

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Telluride Plein Air Experience

I'm a month late with this, but it's been one hell of a busy month with the launch of our PleinAirStreaming adventure.

For the week of the Fourth of July, I was honored to have been juried into the 2015 Telluride Plein Air Festival. Kimberly and I packed up the gear and drove from Kansas City to Colorado for a week of painting and photography. The drive itself was a beautiful experience, and driving into Telluride for the first time is almost unbelievable. What other town sports a waterfall at the end of their main drag?
Telluride looking east.
We got up bright and early on Monday morning and headed all the way to the east end of the town where I started on my first painting of the Pandora Mill. We were there before the sun had cleared the mountains, and knowing the background would light up as time passed, I focused on blocking in the mill.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Within a couple of hours, the sun cleared the mountain and the mill was framed nicely by the landscape behind it.

One painting down, time to find the next subject.

We decided to take the gondola up the mountain and check out the view. The view of the town and surrounding area from atop the mountain is amazing, and I came to respect the effects of altitude for the first time in my life.
Telluride from above. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I started plein air painting two years ago, when a friend gave me a Julian French Easel. These are the classic plein air easels that have been around for over a century. It was a great gift, and without it, I might never have pursued plein air. French easels do have one major drawback - weight. We exited the gondola and made our way to a higher point, but by the time we got there, I was beat. Had to take a break and hydrate before I could get started. The French easel has since been retired, but that's another story.
Painting the St. Sophia Nature Center with my soon to be retired French easel.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I focused on the St. Sophia Nature Center framed in by the mountains beyond the town. The light changes fast on a day with this much cloud activity, so I found myself painting and repainting areas as the time passed.
"St. Sophia Nature Center" (oil on canvas, 12"x16").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The next day we had adjusted to the altitude enough that I finally hit my stride. We found a beautiful creek that flowed on the north side of the town. It was midday, but the light through the trees created a beautiful scene. This painting started coming together right away.
Painting Cornet Creek
"Cornet Creek" (oil on board, 12"x16").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Thursday morning was the quick draw, and I decided to focus on some poppies I found near the center of town. While we had two hours, this one came together in only an hour.
"Red Poppies" in progress
"Red Poppies" (oil on board, 9"x12").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Immediately following the quick draw, a live auction was held across from the Sheridan Opera House, and the Poppies painting sold.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The winning bidder. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
That evening was the awards ceremony, and every artist had to choose one painting to submit for judging by their peers. I chose the painting of Cornet Creek, and I'm proud to say my fellow artists awarded me 3rd place.
Artist Choice winners (left to right) - Patrick Saunders (3rd), Carl Bretzke (1st), John Lasater (2nd).
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The sale took place over the next three days, but I continued painting during the show.

"Wild Onions" (oil on canvas, 12"x16"). Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

"Mia" (oil on canvas, 9"x12").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
All in all, it was a great week. I even walked away with a commission based on my winning piece. I didn't have time to paint it during the show, so thankfully, Kimberly was willing to hike back up Cornet Creek and grab plenty of reference photos for me.
"Upper Cornet Creek" (oil on board, 12"x16").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
It wasn't just the opportunity to participate in the event that made the week memorable. The travel, landscape, and the wildlife - deer came by our window every day - all came together to make it a unique experience. We're looking forward to returning to Telluride in the future with the Airstream, of course! - Patrick Saunders
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.