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. - Patrick
"Yellow Roses" (oil on panel, 12"x16"

© Patrick & Kimberly Saunders, Plein Air Streaming, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Found the link to your blog through the Plein Air Painter newsletter. Looking forward to following along on your painting journeys! You are living the life I dream of when I retire from my current job! Hope you'll enlighten us on the ups and downs of living tiny as well!

    1. Hey Lisa, we'll keep you posted. It's a learning experience for us!

  2. So excited for you and your journey. You are living the life I dream of also. I will be following your blogs to learn from you. I've already purchased the Kelty backpack you recommended and love it.

    1. Thanks Guy. I hope you enjoy the backpack. I can even bike with all of my gear now.

  3. Hi- I like your paintings on FB, and was surprised you are the Pleinairstreaming artist as well! Love reading about your journey, I daydream of doing that too. What tripod do you use? Thanks!

    1. Hi Judy,

      I use the tripod sold by Artwork Essentials with the EasyL. I tried some others, but the box wasn't secure enough. The Artwork Essential tripod is lightweight and sturdy.

  4. Hi Patrick - I had the pleasure of experiencing your breathtaking artwork this past weekend at the Frederick Plein Air event. I just wanted to thank you for the moments of inspiration that transpired for me through speaking with you and experiencing all the insights your art offered for my journey in becoming an artist. As I read some of your blog posts, it was as though I was hearing myself and the thoughts I've had in my process of believing in myself as an artist. I am so inspired to take many new steps forward to creating artwork that is simply flowing from me other than the artwork I've been forcing to take form. It was a delightful experience, thank you.

    Cherryl Hatfield