For our 29th wedding anniversary we decided to do something a bit quirky. We went camping. Now before you chortle, this was only the third time in recorded history we’ve ever gone into the wilderness (ok, a state park) and set up a campsite. The first time we set up in the rain, sat in a damp tent while it rained all weekend and came home wet and miserable. So this was a huge step outside for us. But all my wife had to say was, “You know you could paint” and I was ready to go.
Our camper (https://www.theflyingham.com) was perfect. Off we went to paint on the trail that ran along the Duck River. Unfortunately there weren’t many vantage points to paint along the actual river itself so I found a really nice split/fork in the trail and set up to paint. My ever so lovely wife set up across the trail from me to work on her needlework. We make a good hippy couple, eh?
Before long a gaggle of girls came along. I think there were about 5 of them and I’m guessing in the 6th-8th grade age. (If any of you read this, my apologies for not remembering your ages or names even though we all introduced ourselves.) We had a teaching moment which is always fun for me to talk about my plein air painting passion.
I always ask if there’s a painter in the group. With adults, it’s rare anyone will admit to being a painter. Not so with this group. I asked and everyone pointed at one girl. Since I can’t remember her name we’ll call her “Betty”. “Betty” was very confident of herself and I like that in a painter. I handed her a loaded brush and told her to go ahead and paint on my painting. Like I always say, you can’t wreck a bad painting.
At this point, I have yet to have an adult take me up on my painting offer. But “Betty” stepped up and began painting. The look in her eyes was this side of magical. All of her friends and cousins began encouraging her. It was the coolest moment in my painting history. When she was done, she handed me the brush back – beaming.
“Betty” if you read this, I want you to know I never changed that spot on the painting. Thank you for your willingness to jump in and try something new. I hope you never lose that excitement for painting. May you have many years of plein air painting. When you are famous, please remember me.
That’s really the moral of this story.
What kind of memories are we providing the public? As a plein air artist we are constantly engaging with the public that surrounds us. People always want to see what the painter is working on.
Are we the surly painter who can’t be bothered? Or are we able to pass along our passion for our art? I hope the experience I provided “Betty” absolutely changes her direction and she becomes the next Mary Cassatt or Dulah Evans.
To think that I got to be a part of her art story. Now that was worth a weekend of camping in the wilderness even if I had to cook my dinner on an open fire.