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Sunday, July 12, 2015

What Happens When You Paint in Sacred Places

"Glacial Tarn - the Bugaboos" oil on linen - 8x10 (sold)

I used to think the goal of plein air painting was to come home with a successful painting. This misdirected intention has messed with my joy more times than I can say. Fortunately I've gotten a bit smarter about joy, and how to create more of it in my world.

I've discovered that being 'present moment' rather than outcome focused is what sets the stage for fun instead of angst.

Now I like to think of painting outdoors as a quest to gather colour and value notes that are a reflection of what's in front of me, and let the energy of the place I'm standing fill me up so that it too informs my painting.

When you paint in sacred places with an openness to receive from them, they speak to you in their own language, and they change your perceptions as a painter.

The Magic of Leaving Your Studio Comfort Zone

There are countless reasons why studio painting supports your work as an artist. But something unique happens when you get yourself outdoors in the right frame of mind.

Interestingly, the value seems to be exponential the farther away you get from the house, the car, your phone and other immediate creature comforts. Add to that some days of it linked together, and real magic starts to happen.

If you allow yourself to sink into a place, all that you "know" about painting becomes secondary, and you begin to paint more instinctively. As you're painting, your intuition is taking in all of the changing elements that are happening around you.

It's noticing the elusive things that are emerging, captivating you and then disappearing - perhaps to return, perhaps not. Either way, through your intuitive perception of them, they are becoming a part of you and your experience.

The landscape is also informing you. "Hey" it says, "notice this rhythm that's dancing from the foreground through to the sky. Don't get caught up in all the detail, squint down and notice what truth is here under the "busy-ness". It whispers to you: "a little more violet here, play up the light in this spot, let a shadow fall over the foreground in exactly this place...."

There's a dance in plein air painting that calls forth a part of your artistic soul to engage with the environment you're standing in. And there is an understanding of place when you go out repeatedly over several days that has it become a conversation about an experience.

The more you let go and receive, the more your paintings become a clear reflection of that experience, and a gift to others who view them.

Heli-Painting in the Bugaboos

This fall Stephen Quiller and I will once again be carrying on the tradition that Robert Genn and I started 6 years ago. We'll be taking a group of spirited painters into the Bugaboos for some unforgettable painting adventures, learning opportunities, wining and dining over art talk and hot tubbing under the stars.

The dates of the trip are August 31st to September 4th.

Here are some things to consider if you have a toe in the water but aren't sure if you're ready to dive on in:
  • the Bugaboos is truly one of the most beautiful places on earth
  • there is a special bond that's created when a group of artists get together for this kind of experience - it's more than a workshop, it's a captivating adventure and a fabulous shared learning opportunity
  • being lifted by a helicopter into stunning mountain places is a unique and super cool 'once in a lifetime' kind of adventure
  • Stephen and I are committed to helping you get the very most from yourself and your art. You'll go home with new tools and approaches to painting the natural world through immersing yourself completely in it, as well as raised awareness about where you will most benefit from focusing your attention in your quest to continue building your skill as a painter
  • if you are a professional artist, the trip will provide you with a wealth of valuable reference material - and of course it's a business write off
If you're ready to leap, we'd love to have you join us for a truly remarkable experience. Come and explore what shows up in your work when you surround yourself with like-minded souls and put yourself in the space for magic to happen.

More info

PS: If you have a partner who loves the mountains, bring them along. They can have a fabulous adventure heli-hiking while you're painting with us!


  1. Your first paragraphs filled me with relief and offered ways to look at the difficulties of plein air painting with a new consciousness.. The following paragraphs were less comforting...felt more airy fairy. I honestly hope those feelings and a sense of the sacred can overcome the angst I feel en plein air. Being outside also means contending with bugs, glare, fast changing light, storms, cactus thorns and wind.

    1. Thanks for your comment Carol. Yes! to your final sentence, so agree. You might enjoy an earlier post I wrote that speaks to these things:

      As for "airy fairy" - I so hear you. It can be a stretch to consider there is more informing our painting than what we perceive with our eyes - but I have found this to be true time and again. Sometimes if you sit still in a place for 5-10 minutes you can start to feel it - but it's super difficult to perceive it when we are rushing to get on with things.

  2. Glacial Tarn - the Bugaboos" - takes the viewer on a visual feast of a journey.

  3. This work is very spiritual and enlightening. There is something very special and sacred in this piece.