– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –
When Southern California painter Bob Francis shifted his emphasis from surfing to plein air painting, he didn’t have to modify his vehicle too much to make it a great base of operations.
Lead Image: Bob Francis painting at Borrego Springs, CA
Francis already had two comfy, upholstered bunks fastened to the sides of the van’s interior — three layers of foam and batting, soft enough for his sons to sleep well after or during a strenuous day of surfing. He also had two Coleman coolers installed — one filled with jugs of water for a portable shower. There was a portable potty, too.
What Francis needed to add was boxes for panels. He added two — one for small studies and another that can handle paintings as large as 20” x 24”. Color charts and spectrums were attached to their sides for easy reference.
The back doors of the van were prepared so a long bamboo stick could be fastened to the corners, allowing a section of rattan fencing to rest on top of the stick and the roof of the van. Instant shade. Francis opens the sliding side door for ventilation. “When it’s hot, it can be pretty cool inside,” he says.
Francis says he can spend a week living out of the van, although he much prefers sleeping in his own bed at home. Still, when he participates in an event, there is no need to pay for lodging unless he wants to. Francis says that he has long since perfected the art of keeping busy with some activity during the day (surfing, bicycling, hiking, painting), cooking dinner in a park, driving toward his next destination, and finding a quiet residential street on which to park and sleep from midnight to dawn. Does the local constabulary tell him to move along?
“I have no impact, make no noise,” says Francis. “Just be polite, that’s the rule. If somebody asked me to leave, I’d say I’m happy to, but that has never happened.”
Francis still surfs some on painting days, and paints a bit on surfing days. He recently planned an outing to Borrego Springs, California, and gathered 10 painters to join him. The inaugural Borrego Springs Plein Air Rendezvous was born. And Francis slept in the van.