By Sharon Bamber, a signature member of the Artists for Conservation and of the Federation of Canadian Artists and an associate member of the Society of Animal Artists.
This September, I’ll be setting out to walk and paint the Way of Saint James (also known as the Camino de Santiago de Compostela). I’ll be walking 1,000 miles through France and Spain alongside my donkey, Midas, and will be stopping to do a plein air painting every five miles along the entire route.
The journey will take four months of walking and painting, crossing over the Pyrenees at the onset of winter. By the end of the journey, I’ll have created a series of 200 plein air paintings that tell the story of this ancient and powerful route as it is today, seen through the eyes of a contemporary artist.
I’m attempting to raise the entire budget for this adventure by pre-selling the plein air paintings from the journey through my Kickstarter campaign along with other paintings and rewards, and I’ve also received sponsorship from the wonderful Terry Ludwig pastels.
Why? This is the question I get asked the most, and my answer is all to do with connection. For over 25 years I’ve been fascinated by the concept of “sense of place” and how it arises from the intertwining of culture and nature, connecting us to the land. This route has been connecting humans with the landscape for centuries.
Combining plein air painting with walking will slow down today’s hectic pace of life. It will let the story of the landscape gradually unfold, allowing me to really engage with all the elements that create a sense of place.
Plein air forces me to live in the moment, frees me to leave the studio and fully experience nature; to really see, feel, and connect. Painting from life, responding directly to the subject, is an addictive and exhilarating way of working, and I really think this emotion and connection is reflected in the art.
People have felt the pull of this journey for thousands of years. Religious pilgrims have been drawn to it since 950 AD and before that, my ancestors the Celts. Among them have been painters, writers, and poets. I’ll be walking in places where ancient man painted on the walls of caves, where Sorolla painted some of his great works, and where Robert Louis Stevenson walked with his donkey, Modestine. Donkeys have been walking this route alongside pilgrims since the beginning, so Midas is a perfect companion.
By translating what I see into a visual pathway, I can share my conversation with the landscape and let viewers make their own connection, joining us all with the pilgrims, artists, and people that have walked this route before me.
To watch a video about Sharon Bamber’s “Every 5 Miles” Kickstarter project or to make a donation, please click here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1835573385/every-5-miles-painting-the-way-of-saint-james