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Emilie Lee, featured in the PleinAir Magazine article “The Art of Leaving” (February/March issue).

“As cover artist Aaron Schuerr reminds us, winter doesn’t have to signal the end of the “plein air season.” Preview the newest issue of PleinAir Magazine with Kelly Kane’s Editor’s Letter.

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The cover of our February/March issue of Plein Air Magazine; art by Aaron Schuerr (Click here to buy the digital version now)

To give the family a break after a hectic holiday season, my husband booked a weekend away at Carter Caves State Resort Park. Although it sounded like a wonderful retreat when I first learned of the surprise getaway, as the weekend grew closer, my excitement steadily diminished. There were decorations to put away, preparations to be made for our oldest to go back to college, not to mention a looming printer deadline for this issue. Frankly, I felt a quiet weekend at home would be a better way to spend my time and get things done.

Still, we went. We barely had time to drop our bags at the lodge and don our hiking boots before it was time to meet the guide who would be showing us around one of the park’s many caves. Not at all the leisurely weekend I’d been promised. But as we began our tour, the worry about all I had to do back at home faded away. Invigorated by our reconnection to nature, we went on to hike several miles around the area, exploring natural bridges, crossing creeks full from the early winter rain, and spotting a family of white-tailed deer doing their best to blend into their surroundings.

That afternoon, while the rest of the group went off to make their own adventures, I took the new sketchbook I’d received for Christmas and found a spot near a stream to make some plein air sketches. I thought about how close I’d come to cancelling the weekend, how tired I’d felt only the day before.

But after hours of hiking and sketching that day, and even more on the following one, I left the park feeling relaxed and rejuvenated. The family had created some wonderful memories; I had a few sketches I felt pretty happy about; and I’d come home ready to tackle the projects waiting for me with more energy and enthusiasm than I could have mustered before I left.

I’m not one for making grand new year’s resolutions, but that weekend I did make a few promises to myself for 2020. I will say yes more often — to new challenges, new opportunities, new experiences — even when I feel scared or busy or just plain tired. I will get out that sketchbook on a regular basis — even on days when my only chance to sketch is when I’m waiting in the school pickup line. I will take every chance I get to enjoy the natural beauty that exists in my state and beyond, because it will be by tapping into the restorative power of nature that I’ll feel energized and confident to do the rest.

If you share any of those goals for the new year, I know you’ll find plenty to inspire you in this issue. Because, as cover artist Aaron Schuerr reminds us, winter doesn’t have to signal the end of the “plein air season.” In fact, the challenge of painting snow or the unique quality of light this time of year can be the key to unlocking new skills or a new series of work.

Related > Listen to Eric Rhoads interview Aaron Schuerr on the PleinAir Podcast

Whatever goals or painting challenges you’ve set for yourself this year, I wish you all the best. Be sure to let me know how you fare.

PleinAir Magazine, February/March Table of Contents:

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