Artist Retreat: Out of My Comfort Zone, Into Plein Air

Last week I went on an artist's retreat near Marshville, North Carolina.  I was invited by artist and friend, Joan Vienot.  (See her art here.)  The plan: a handful of artists staying on 40 acres owned by another artist.  Woods, ponds, a huge studio, and a horse pasture.  We would create art all day, probably outside amongst nature, then take turns cooking dinner and critique each other's work after.  Little did I know until on the way there that my solo residency served as inspiration for the idea!


The video above includes tons of shots of the experience.  The other artist beside myself in the video is Joan Vienot.  Images of art created during the week to come in a future post.


The other artists were Brenda Pinnick and Brenda Osborne.  Every artist there was talented, intelligent, funny, and positive.  I knew the other artists had all done some, if not primarily plein air painting.  (Definition: En plein air, or plein air painting, is the act of painting outdoors. This method contrasts with studio painting or academic rules that might create a predetermined look.)


I had done a painting program in college for 2 weeks in Canada, but that was mostly my only plein air painting experience, and that was in oil.  So I decided with the opportunity to try some watercolor plein air.


Whew, it was humbling.  Watercolor is way more challenging than oil for plein air for a multitude of reasons.  Plus I had barely done any plein air.  But I looked at the experience as just that: an experience.  I wouldn't worry about coming out with finished pieces.  I would enjoy my week of ignoring emails and the other boring sides of running an art business.  I would immerse myself in a healthy natural environment (something that Panama City lacks since the hurricane) and take inspiration from the land and my process.


Every day we'd each layer up and head outdoors, often with frost crunching on the leaves under our feet.  I would hike through the woods or into the horse pasture and pick a place to paint.  I made friends with the horses and especially the goat, Sally.  I didn't expect to be interacting with animals so much, but it really added to it all.


Our dinners were amazing- delicious, healthy, mostly vegan, and so filling.  Wine, laughter, and deep conversations on art and life surrounded the table.  Our critiques were full of positive and constructive feedback.


The whole retreat fed my soul and my art.  I am incredibly grateful to have been invited and so fortunate that I was able to say yes.


Thanks for watching and reading,

-Heather

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