Advice to Help You Make the Most of Changing Painting Locations

When you travel, the scenery isn’t the only different thing you’ll encounter. Being in a new locale means dealing with unfamiliar painting conditions. For example, the climate may be dramatically different, forcing you to deal with an array of issues you might not expect. You may find that you must work more slowly and contemplatively in a moist environment like the coast of Maine, which demands that you allow for a longer drying time. But there’s a fun side to this “problem”: it’s much easier to paint wet-in-wet in these conditions. Though you aren’t as likely to get hard edges, you’ll be able to create mysterious, atmospheric passages, which may have eluded you elsewhere.

At the other end of the spectrum from the Maine coast or my Midwestern home is the desert Southwest. Not only are the colors different—much warmer, brighter and stronger than I’m used to—but the very air is different. Here, paint dries rapidly, almost as quickly as I can slap it on the paper. You’ll find you’re forced to make exciting, rapid brushstrokes by the hot dry wind. Hard, crisp edges are easy to achieve, but soft, wet-in-wet effects, especially if painting on the spot, are more difficult to pull off. If you’ve always worked sitting down, with tightly controlled effects, try standing up to let yourself respond more rapidly. Use a larger brush than usual. Make bigger, juicier washes. Splash the paint on!

If you simply must maintain softer passages of wet-in-wet work in order to feel comfortable with what you produce, remember that rough paper takes to that technique much more readily than hot- or cold-pressed, even in the dry air of the desert. But if you’re willing to try something new, you may find this is a good place to concentrate on the sharp planes of the bony sandstone landscape and the rich, deep shadows cast in that intense desert sunlight.

The bottom line is: you can choose to be stymied by the fact that your usual technique doesn’t quite work as it normally does or you can work with what is, and delight in the unexpected in this new place. My advice is to let an unfamiliar environment challenge you to find new ways to express what you see or feel. Rejoice in the dance; interact with the landscape in creative ways you may never have attempted before— because you never needed to.

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