Losing a painting somewhere is never fun, but losing a good
painting can drive one to temporary distraction. While teaching our plein air
painting workshop in Rocky Mountain National Park last September, I was demonstrating
the direct-painting method of painting outdoors. This method requires the
painter to begin work without any preliminary monochromatic sketch, or much of
any sketch at all. The subject was a mountain stream and the demonstration went
well. In fact, I felt that this small study was complete enough to use as reference for
a much larger piece. One of my students was interested in purchasing it, too.
|Teaching our plein air
painting workshop in Rocky
Mountain National Park last September.
the painting session was over, we packed up and I placed the painting against a
tree with the rest of my gear. We broke for lunch, then loaded up our gear and
headed for our afternoon painting location on the other side of the park. It
wasn't until 4:30 that afternoon that I noticed that the morning study was
missing from my wet box. We rushed back to the morning location and searched
everywhere, but the painting was nowhere to be found. No one had seen it. There had been
bears around that morning. Could a bear have smelled the paint and made off
with it?! I had a sudden vision of a bear walking slowly down the trail with my
painting stuck to its rear end.
The more I looked for the lost painting the larger the importance of it grew my mind. Such a loss! In that moment, this was no longer a
simple study of a stream, but was indeed a stand-alone little masterpiece that
I could never replace. Ann even called to report it to the park headquarters,
just in case someone found it and turned it in. When the park service received
the news of a lost painting, the silence on the other end of the phone was
palpable. They were polite about it, but we got the impression that we might as
well have reported a missing chandelier. In the end, I decided that the loss
was a good thing and that someone might be enjoying my painting somewhere else.
This incident started us thinking that perhaps we
should occasionally leave a painting to be discovered in a spot where we have
painted. Recently, we were pleasantly surprised to discover that someone we
know is already doing just that. West Fraser, whom we profiled on The Artist's
has been hiding paintings in outdoor locations for the last few years. He has
elevated the process by setting up some rules for the finder of the art
requesting that the finder "make a donation to a favorite charity, perhaps your
local high school art program, artist organization, local museum or a talented
artist in need."
||The painting I lost during the workshop.
West has publicized this scavenger hunt locally in Charleston,
SC, where he lives, and will give clues to the location of the art, which he
usually places in a tree somewhere near where he originally painted it. He has photos on
his website of some of the paintings and of the folks who have found them,
along with a description of the donations they have made. We think this is a
terrific idea and applaud West for inventing a way to get people involved in
supporting art and art education. What do you think?
--John & Ann
P.S. Visit us on The Artist's Road to see more in-depth articles and demonstrations. See you there!