Plein air artists, there is one certain fact about painting outdoors: You should expect the unexpected. Dana Zier explains.
“Plane” Air Painting: An Adventure From Painting Outdoors
By Dana Zier
There is one certain fact about painting en plein air: You should expect the unexpected.
Three years ago, Diane Greenwood started the private Wild Wilderness Women Artists group of plein air painters. Each year we head out to the Beartooth Mountains and traverse over hill and dale to paint breathtaking Rocky Mountain views. One year we all had to buy face mosquito nets to be able to paint outside, and another year our friend Connie got stuck in a canoe. We have seen moose, deer, bear, bald eagles, and all sorts of other wildlife while painting outdoors. The altitude is so high — between 10,000 and 11,000 feet — that some “low-landers” have issues dealing with it. But the air is crisp, clean, and clear, and the views of mountains and stars are unobstructed by dust or pollution. It’s the perfect place to paint!
The painting excursion of 2019 took the cake for the most surprising painting experience so far. The Wild Wilderness Women Artists were painting again in the Beartooth Mountains — on the edge of south-central Montana and northern Wyoming. Artist Connie Herberg had arranged for our site that day, including some old western buildings and a vast expanse of mountain range and stone cliffs.
Connie, Diane Greenwood, and Louise Payovich were painting near a pond over the hill from the rest, while Deb Zimbelman, Laura Marie Anderson, and I were painting by a historic sod-roof cabin that had been a stage coach station as well as a homestead.
Connie was scouting around for her subject, and Diane and Louise were painting sagebrush, rabbitbrush, and rocks, when the little plane appeared.
Diane, Connie, and Louise saw the little single-engine plane circle around, come in, and land way down across the other side of the valley. Connie expected that it would land and then come up the road far below them, and taxi to the airstrip — also far below them. But the airplane went out of their sight, and they waited and waited to see him. Diane said, “How is he going to get through there?” There were a couple of men and a back-hoe working on that road. The plane never came through.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the hill, off in the distance, we could hear some equipment moving. A loud noise, sounding like a tractor, came closer and closer. I turned to find an airplane taxiing down the gravel road by which we were painting. I shouted to Deb and Laura, “We need to move our vehicles!” There was a scramble to back up vehicles, move easels, and get out of the way. Laura went running down the grassland to her car, looking like the Laura on Little House on the Prairie.
Deb hurriedly backed her pickup and filmed the wing of the plane as it cleared her windshield, and I grabbed my wet painting and moved it out of the cloud of dust from the propeller, as Laura quickly drove her car out of harm’s way, further down the road. The other three ladies, painting away, were oblivious to what was happening to us three Wild Wilderness Women.
“Well, that’s a first in plein air painting!” Deb Zimbelman exclaimed.
What unexpected adventures have you had while painting outdoors? Share it with us in the comments below!
Upcoming travel and art events with Streamline Publishing:
- November 10-13, 2019: Figurative Art Convention & Expo
- May 2-6, 2020: The 9th Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo
- June 7-14, 2020:Publisher’s Invitational: Paint Adirondacks