By Benny Sanders
In May of 2018 I loosely planned a six-week plein air painting trip through the northern US and the Southwest. I started telling people about the trip, and they were quick to let me know that was a foolish time to paint outside as temperatures would be very high. The truth is that I had ended a long-term relationship and was ready to just get the hell out of town. I listened to my friends’ warnings and postponed the trip till September.
I funded the trip by pre-selling the paintings at half of retail cost through Indiegogo. I set a $5,000 goal that was reached in about three hours. By the time I hit the road, my goal had reached 200 percent of its funding. I gave my backers an itinerary of places I would be painting. They were to choose their top three locations, and they would receive a painting of my choosing from one of those sites.
The weather was perfect the entire trip. I camped, stayed in hotels when I was filthy, and with friends on the road. I had one major car repair, but that was to be expected.
The only rough patch I hit on the trip was in Albuquerque, NM, when I fell onto a cactus. I was painting in the Sandia Mountains and could see storms forming in the distance. Once the storms shifted toward me and lightning was coming closer, I decided to hike back to my car. I was halfway through my first painting when I packed up, turned to leave, and slipped on a loose rock. I fell in a comedic fashion as hard as I conceivably could onto a large prickly pear cactus.
As I was trying to process what had just happened, the storm fell hard on top of me. I stripped naked on top of this mountain and attempted to remove the needles and hairs from my arms, legs, and backside. After an hour, I decided I should get a hotel and take this show indoors. On the way to the hotel, I stopped at a Walmart to purchase gorilla tape and pantyhose (I read online you could run the pantyhose against the hairs and they would come right out. Not true at all). I spent an hour in a Walmart bathroom stall with my makeshift kidnapping kit, trying to remove more hairs.
At the hotel, I spent three more hours attempting to remove the cactus from my body. I have an ex-girlfriend in New Mexico and she graciously cooked dinner for me and her new boyfriend. After meeting this guy for the first time, I had somehow convinced him to remove the remaining needles from my rear with tweezers. As we were heading to a bedroom to perform the operation, I told him I was joking and that he was a great sport.
The trip was a success — 7,000 miles, 72 paintings (35 good ones), and a huge fancy private party when I got back for my crowdfunding backers.
Where My Plein Air Adventure Took Me:
Gary, IN (National Lakeshore Dunes)
Somewhere in the middle of Minnesota?
Jackson Hole, WY
Salt Lake City, UT
Grand Canyon (North Rim)
Las Vegas, NV
San Diego, CA
Laguna Beach, CA
Grand Canyon (South Rim)
Santa Fe, NM
Kansas City, MO
Advice for Those Planning an Extended Painting Trip
Ask people for help.
• Ask your collectors and friends where you should go, where you should eat, where you should stay, what you should see, etc. This will involve them in your travels and may result in a sale.
• Plan your trip according to where your friends and family are living around the country. Ask if you can stay with them for a few days to offset the cost of camping/hotels and repay them with a small painting.
• Use social media and consider crowdfunding. I’ve seen a few other artists use crowdfunding platforms to successfully fund their projects. I really enjoyed the Indiegogo platform and will use it again in the future.
Here are two tips on crowdfunding:
• Don’t seem desperate. Turn your product into a service for the customer. Offer a discount on your product to ensure that the customer is getting a great deal.
• Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Make sure the amount of paintings and their sizes are realistically going to get finished and maintain integrity.
Improve your art and join hundreds of other artists in one of our upcoming plein air painting events!