I went out and painted two full days this past week with my friend Myrrh. It is spring in Texas and the landscape is beautiful. The wildflowers are starting to bloom and if you look carefully, among the bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, yellow daisy-like flowers, violet flowers, and white flowers, you will see even the long grassy plants have taken on a beautiful pinkish color to celebrate spring. It is amazing how many colors are out there, and all the colors work together so beautifully. Um, no accident there.
I was thinking about the past two days of painting plein air and my first though was, well, nothing that unusual happened. Usually every time we are out painting we have some kind of interaction with someone (usually a friendly farmer), this time we were mistaken by a railroad employee for the new female railroad managers. We had parked and were sizing up a big beautiful orange train engine, wondering if it was going to be there long enough to paint, when a railroad employee approached us. (I had on a white shirt and was wearing a cap, we credited this to the mistaken identity!) Those funny kinds of interactions always happen.
But when I thought about it a little more, something very unusual DID happen these past two days. I learned more about seeing.
Let me explain. On the first morning we left Houston and the weather looked good, a lovely yellow sunrise and scattered clouds. But as we drove west towards our usual painting haunts, the weather turned foggy. (Hence me using the word “haunts”!) We knew the fog would lift so we found a place to set up overlooking a pond with distant trees behind it. We really thought the fog would have lifted by now. It was close to 10:00 a.m. and still foggy, so we painted anyway. For me, water is a good thing to paint in overcast or foggy weather, the reflections become mirrors of the sky so it really didn’t bother us that the fog lingered.
We set up and painted the scene before us. You can see the 22 second stop-action movie above. And the unexpected, unusual, wonderful thing that happened: right before our eyes the landscape transformed. It was poetry in motion. Fog lifted, clouds traveled across the sky, the color of everything changed from minute to minute! It was glorious to see (but not easy to paint). There was beauty all around us, even the atmosphere seemed to hold particles that affected the colors. Myrrh called this field the “pink field” and when you looked closely you could see how many of the weeds and grasses and brush had taken on a pinkish hue. By standing there for 2 hours and staring at the scene, I witnessed such beauty. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a scene change so much so fast and that taught me to see even more! Such abundant beauty.
After we finished this first painting I said to Myrrh, “That was worth the trip out here, I could go home happy now.” But of course we didn’t, we painted another 6 hours. And then came back the next day.