In Ottawa, Canada, Patrick John Mills is brushing the snow off his equipment and painting in a busy civic center. Part of his success rests on his portable plein air studio. Part of it rests on savvy real estate investments.
Snow is not uncommon in December in Ottawa; Mills brushes it off, literally and figuratively.
Mills has a vehicle with a trailer that he drives to this painting spot, cleans off for work, and uses as an easel on which to paint his plein air pieces. It’s been a long road to this setup. “For a long time I painted in isolation in my studio,” he says. “Then I got a bicycle with a trailer unit. Then I used our family car — but I really messed that up. I got a van, but I really messed that up too, and the transmission died. So I got a new Dodge Caravan, and that got really messy and dirty, and a friend got me a trailer for it. I built a box on it with storage shelves, allowing me to transport several paintings — wet and dry. This way I could show completed works of art and also transport wet works of art. I also have enough space to transport other artists’ artwork, so we can go on painting trips and things.”
Mills painting on location in downtown Ottawa
Mills built a large easel for a 4′-x-5′ painting he envisioned.
Mills working on the large canvas
The Canadian artist enjoys the ups and downs that many artists face. “Last month was a good month — I sold nine paintings, but this month so far, only two sales,” he says. But luckily, he is otherwise good with money — he owns several rental properties. So he continues on, even in Ottawa winter. “I like to have a toilet nearby, and a place to park my car, and a location that inspires me,” he candidly says. “I have a studio … but I’m alone in there. Painting outside is like sharing. I have gotten used to the highs and lows of artist life. I just wish to live and love and paint.”