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