By Donald Neff

The story starts with a demo I did for the Society of Western Artists in San Bruno, California, last Saturday. I never thought that in a few hours I would discover a new painting technique not heard of before.

Four years ago, I did a demo for the society of a snow scene along the Truckee River, and they wanted me to do another snow scene. I had recently been doing a number of miniature paintings for the holiday season, and a number of “misty minis” of moody, misty seascape, landscape, and Sierra scenes, so decided to do a larger, 16 x 20-inch “Misty Yosemite” scene of Sentinel Rock in Yosemite Valley, California. It was a great two hours of demoing, technique, and jokes, with a lively crowd constantly peppering me with questions.

I am usually not crazy about my demo paintings, but this one was turning out well, even though it was only half done, so I was anxious to complete it back in the studio.

Original painting near end of the demo (courtesy John Barrow)

After loading up, and heading out for the hour drive home, as soon as I entered the freeway, I realized I had left the wet demo painting on top of the car! I pulled over, and it was gone! So I turned around, went back, and found the painting face down in the middle of El Camino Real, the busy main boulevard. It was in the middle of the lane and didn’t look run over, but one corner was damaged. Here is a re-creation of the scene with the painting in the road.

Recreation of my painting face down on El Camino Real

…and the painting now looked like this:

My demo painting was now a snowstorm!

The asphalt had gouged out spots all over the surface, and my misty Yosemite painting had turned into a snowstorm! I just accidentally discovered a new way to paint snowstorms! What a great new technique — just do your painting, then go out and rub it on the road! Asphalt probably works best, but maybe I can try cement streets also!

To top it off, a copy of a Neff original, even though half done, is now in the asphalt of San Bruno, albeit a reverse image. Maybe I should charge them?!?

All tongue-in-cheek, of course, and I actually don’t recommend you transport paintings this way!

So now, the decision is: 1) pick out a few pieces of asphalt, trim the bad corner off, leave it as is and finish it; 2) paint back over it; or 3) start a new painting. The corner was damaged enough that I started a new painting since at most a couple of hours painting time was lost during the demo.

The new painting at about the same completion as the demo

I spent the next few days finishing the painting —

“Misty Sentinel,” oil on board, 16 x 20 inches

So now, what do I do with the original snowstorm painting? Any suggestions?

This article was featured in PleinAir Today, a weekly e-newsletter from PleinAir magazine. To start receiving PleinAir Today for free, click here.

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