I recently had the fine luck to return to the fabulous Joe Creek Artist Retreat in Roberts Creek, BC for a week of plein air painting. The place is magic. It’s run by my friends; the equally magical Kendra Fanconi (playwright and human being extraordinaaire) and her hubbie Eric Rhys Miller, founders of place-based theatre company, The Only Animal Theatre Company. You must go! (Tell them I sent you!)
This was my second visit to the Magic Cabin at Joe Creek. Two years ago, following treatment and surgery, I got out there with family to work on some pieces for my first intensive plein air experience since being Gwaii Haanas National Park Artist In Residence and being diagnosed with cancer. A spell was cast over me, and I was instantly in love with everything about Joe Creek, Roberts Creek, Gibsons and the Sunshine Coast. I’ve been waiting two years to return, and this March was time!
I was able to produce 11 pieces during the time that I was there. I had a goal of 14 finished pieces but I had a bad chest cough and cut my painting thumb, necessitating a quick visit to the hospital in Sechelt. Two weeks later, the thumb is well on the mend, with no nerve damage and just a bit of extra sensitivity!
My purpose in getting out of doors to paint is always to learn. I find that being in the place, dialling in the shapes, colour and quick light one of the best things that a painter can do to learn about the world around them. It’s a lot of work, lugging gear, setting up and working quickly to capture the light…but the results are well worth it. Upon returning to the studio, I feel fresh, loosened up, less fearful of my mark-making and empowered!
Painting Sunsets En Plein Air
The sunset pieces are a new thing for me. With only 3-4 minutes to really watch and see what unfolds in the sky and water, a good sunset plein air painting can be one of the greatest challenges for a painter. I didn’t attempt it until later in the week. My son and daughter were with me, and we went out in the evenings to enjoy the view. I realized, just watching one night – that this could be one of the best learning opportunities I could get, and so the next night I set up, premixed from memory what I thought I had seen in the landscape and nervously awaited the fireworks. It was one of the biggest painting rushes of my life, and I am thrilled with the results. In the future, I’m going to make a practice of capturing every coastal sunset that I can. It’s my new drug! Tell me what you think!