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En Plein Air in California

California Burning: Reflections in Solitude, 2018.
Oil on canvas board, 23×30.5cms.

Oh the dream of being out in nature, painting beautiful scenery everyday! The reality is often complicated by so many challenges and obstacles that it is more an occasional treat rather than a regular meal.

At the start, all I required was reasonable weather, a sketchbook and some pencils and watercolours. I added to this setup a thin blowup pad to sit on and a flask full of sweet tea. When the cooler weather began to show more challenges, I added to my list thick hiking socks and a wooden throw. With this setup, I frequented the urban parks around London, happily drawing trees and statues for 2-3 hour stretches. Snacks and toilets were easy to come by.

But soon I began to itch for my oil paints and wilder environments.

The first issue was acquiring equipment that I would be able to carry. Having been a photographer for more than a decade, I had plenty of experience of carrying more weight than I could manage. Being of fairly slight stature (163cms and 52kgs) means that I have to be extremely selective of what I take with me on any given outing – and we’re not just talking about the painting equipment but also the supplies to see me through a day of painting. There have been many attempts thwarted and cut short due to being unprepared.

Over the years I slowly researched possible solutions and acquired various tools and bits of gear. In 2018, I decided to return to my California stomping grounds to do a camper van painting trip. Having the camper van meant that I could travel further into ‘the wild’ with my equipment easily. I could take as much of my art supplies as I desired in addition to having hot tea and snacks to hand. It was two weeks of my kind of painting bliss!

Reflections on Solitude, 2018 was painted in the Ojai mountains in California, and is available on my website.