We all have our plein air painting war stories. California artist Robin Purcell seems to have more than her fair share. One of the more interesting ones involved a helicopter.
Yes, a helicopter. Luckily, Purcell has painted outdoors enough to be ready for just about anything. And so, in the end, she got her painting.
“During my first day of painting in the Kern County Plein Air Painting Festival, I set up in the parking lot of a wildflower trail at Wind Wolves Preserve,” Purcell recalls. “This was a relatively flat area out of the road and traffic, and it had a great view of the hills with quickly moving shadows. Thirty minutes into the painting, the ranger arrived to tell me a helicopter would be landing where I was standing and would take approximately an hour to ferry supplies to the mountain top.
“Because it was a morning scene with fast-moving light, I had generally indicated where the shadows on the hills should fall. I spent the next 20 minutes carefully drawing all the shapes and analyzing them to make sure I was happy with them. Then I relocated about a tenth of a mile back, where I could still see the colors and values, and used that view and my drawing to finish the painting successfully.
“Understanding time limits and how to work within them saved this painting.”