Painting outdoors -
The Wild Wilderness Women Artists members are: Diane, Karen, and Megan Greenwood, Laura Marie Anderson, Connie Herberg, Mary Knapp, Louise Payovich, and Dana Zier. Artists come from Bridger, Laurel, Billings, Shepherd, and Park City, Montana.

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.
Around 2016, 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, bears, 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!

Painting art outdoors -
Deb painting at the lake

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.

Plein air art adventures
Laura painting, pre-airplane

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 stagecoach 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.

Plein air art adventures
Laura runs to save her car

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.

Plein air art adventures
Deb’s truck and the oncoming airplane
Painting outdoors -
Dana’s empty easel
Plein air art adventures
Deb’s windshield view

“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!

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  1. Painting out on a hill side I heard gun shots zinging over my head as hunters on the back of the hill were rousing up pheasants then flying above me, the hunters stopped shooting once spotted me as they got to the hill top, but they didn’t offer to buy my painting.

  2. This is great! My plein air group was painting on a farm across the road from an airstrip. There were roosters wandering around us as well as the farm dog. Very busy farm. Then it got more interesting when the time skydivers started jumping from the planes that were using the airstrip. A few skydivers dropped within a few feet of our painting area. I think we were more entertained than we accomplished painting that evening. Good memories!

  3. My husband has many tales as a kid being chased out of fields by black angus cattle. I was recently painting in a field of black angus cattle. Nothing happened! Very Unusual! haha

  4. When I was just learning to plein air, I was just learning how it was a good thing to step back a few steps and look at your study, and the scene you are trying to capture. As an AZ native, knowing that it was always important to always watch where you step and watch out for those scary rattlesnakes, but evidently was so excited to be doing plein air, I just stepped back without looking….This one time, I happened to look back and a big rattlesnake had crawled up behind me probably around 8 feet away…!! Boy what a learning experience, I have never stepped back again, without looking first at what’s behind me….scary lesson.


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