Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Place Holds a Memory - Penn Valley Plein Air Festival

"The Sun Rises On Barney's Tree" (oil on panel, 16"x20"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

One of the things I love about experiencing new places is the personal connection that we establish with each and every place we spend time in. When we revisit those places, memories can sometimes come flooding back. This was the case with our recent visit to Kansas City for the Penn Valley Plein Air Festival.

When we lived in Kansas City, we spent almost every waking moment with our two dogs, Barney and Betty. Every morning, rain or shine, snow or ice, we would head across Main Street and visit Penn Valley Park for our morning walks. As we headed up the hill toward the Pioneer Mother Statue, there was one tree that stood out. For me, it was the way the sunrise lit up its upper branches while the trunk still remained in the cool shadow cast by the Federal Reserve Building behind us. For Barney, that tree was his first stop every morning. He marked it every day.

Betty at sunrise on the hill in Penn Valley Park

I had always intended to paint this scene before we sold our home and left Kansas City, but then both Barney and Betty passed away a week apart from each other. They had lived long and happy lives, but age and disease caught up to them. Losing our constant companions of 15 years made it too painful to return to the areas of Penn Valley Park that we had shared together. Last year's plein air festival took place only a month after their passing, and I avoided our morning spot the entire time.

Barney rolling in leaves at Penn Valley Park.

This year, before we even arrived in Kansas City, I had committed myself to painting this spot. I knew what the light would be like. I knew the composition that I wanted. I didn't know how I would feel about the experience.

Thursday morning was cold for early May, but we rose before dawn and headed for the park. As we walked up the hill like we had so many times before, I remembered all the times the dogs had charged forward ahead of us. And there it was - the tree. The light was just beginning to touch its topmost branches, and I quickly set up.

Two crazy dogs patrolling their dog park

As I painted, everything around me brought back memories of the dogs running back and forth, tongues hanging out, sliding through snow in the winter, or rolling through leaves in the fall. This was our place. This scene holds memories for us all, and always will. - Patrick

© Patrick & Kimberly Saunders, Plein Air Streaming, 2016. 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 Saunders Fine Arts for photographs, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. What a touching story, Patrick. I can well imagine how difficult it must have been to go back to the park and paint. Your painting of the tree has made something beautiful out of the pain.

    I grew up in KC and will be painting with you in "Easels in Frederick" in June. Look forward to meeting you then. BTW, the woman who is arranging our housing in Frederick is also a Missouri native.

    David Finnell

    1. Thank you David. Looking forward to meeting you in Frederick. Best, Patrick.

  2. ... and now this tree was marked by you:-) thank your for sharing - stories and paintings!