By W.R. Jones
Another night of below freezing temperature, another forecast of high winds and partly cloudy; do I really want to paint in this? On the way to the grocery store to get something for breakfast I was listening to Frank Sinatra on Sirius. I don’t know why I was listening to him, I don’t like his singing at all. I don’t try to live rationally anymore. He was singing My Way. I felt he had a good world view going there.
So, I asked myself, what and who defines “Plein Air”. I googled it and the most common definition is painting in open air. Well, what is open air? How open does it have to be? Does it need to extend horizon to horizon? I think not. Suppose a fellow is painting in a very narrow, steep walled canyon, would not that still be considered plein air? OK, how about a narrow, steep walled box canyon? Still plein air I believe, even though we have closed off open air from three sides.
Before we get to that 4th and final side how about the sky? We’ve all seen photos of the famous painters under an umbrella. Is there any formal dimensional or material restrictions on the umbrella? No, then why don’t we extend the size of the umbrella to roughly, oh say, the width of a hotel room. No restrictions on material, we can replace those flimsy wire supports with 2×4’s and the cloth with roof tiles.
Now we have that remaining open side to deal with. If we start pulling a curtain down from heaven, how far down does it have to come before we are no longer painting plein air? Again, no formal definitions seem to be available. I say we can pull it down until we have an opening left of, let’s say, the size of a hotel window.
Now I’m comfortably set up in my hotel room with the window open (to keep it a legit plein air piece). What do we paint doing plein air? Flora, fauna, bugs, and natural elements. The potato and beans are certainly flora. There is no fauna in this work. I did learn something here. I looked up the meaning of fauna to see if I was painting any; I always thought it was Mexican for a female Bambi; it is any animal.
The paper on the bean can comes from trees and the can itself comes from natural elements. We are good to go. In keeping with the paint the wild west theme of this trip, I worked in an area with a goodly number of native Americans. They were as plentiful as the buffalo on the prairie. I saw quite a few at the reservation casino the night before. I’m a pretty hard core gambler. I was playing nickel slots but putting two and sometimes three in per pull. I lost my sock full of nickels. Now I have nothing to use to pound sand down a rat hole like mom is always telling me to do. There was also another goup of native Americans running the checkout stands and the grocery. They were pleasant. I was afraid they would be angry about my trying to take over their land. I think word may have circulated not to worry, grandpa has no more nickels.
Like all plein air work you must expect the unexpected (does that make sense?) My wife had taken my old geezer’s easy grip can opener from my camper. I had to open the beans with a rock and that set of car keys someone left in the lobby. I’m sure his car will start again after he wipes off the bean crud and pounds the key straight.
Here is the only bright spot in and otherwise bitter recent birthday. I got nothing even though I campaigned vigrously for months. But Susan, a warm caring woman, took pity on my panicked toss of a favorite brush into a stream and created a new brush for me.
I used this brush to paint the potato, the table cloth, and my toenails. It is a beauty.