Several times a year, my husband and I travel Interstate 80 across Wyoming, a seven-hour trip by car. The beautiful scenery we pass along the way is inspiring, but we never have time to stop. That’s why I started packing a few painting supplies: a small palette, a few tubes of paint, a medium-size brush and a 10 x 7-inch watercolor pad. I also keep a styrofoam cup full of water in my cup holder and an old towel across the center of the front seat.
When the mood strikes, I paint a landscape as fast and furious as I can for about three minutes. I’m trying to capture the feeling the scene evokes rather than the details. Sometimes I’ll add calligraphic marks or small details when I get home, but usually I just leave them alone. Whenever I find myself getting too caught up in the details in my studio work, I pull out the three-minute paintings and find one that’s similar to the piece I’m working on. Reminding myself of the feelings I had for the place almost always helps me loosen up.
If you’re going to try painting during a road trip, I just have one other piece of advice: Be sure to warn the driver that you may inadvertently dip your brush in his/her coffee cup if you get caught up in the moment!
Jane M. Mason is the incoming president of the Saint Louis Watercolor Society and the former president of the Greater St. Louis Art Association. She teaches locally and exhibits in galleries across the country. More of her work can be seen on her Web site: www.watchingpaintdry.com.