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Handling the Heat en Plein Air

daily sketching ink and watercolor life as an artist plein air painting sketchbook travel sketching watercolor Jul 27, 2020

There are advantages to being at home in New Jersey during the hot and humid summer months. I can work in my Perpetual Plant Journal or on a painting, en plein air, over a period of several days without having to complete the illustration in one sitting or complete the illustration in my studio working from a series of photographs or from memory.  There have been times when I'm traveling when I'm not able to return to the same spot the next day, or even later that same morning or afternoon.  

The horrid heat of this past week reminded me of an experience painting en plein air  during a record breaking heat wave along the coast on the outskirts of Marseille. Not only was it unusually hot, it was unusually humid. Never before, nor since, have I experienced anything like it. Still ... I was determined to see the beautiful white cliffs I'd dreamt of climbing since the late 70's.  This time I would explore them with pen and brush rather than ropes and carabiners. By the end of the day I felt the risk of dying from the heat hiking was far greater than the risk of climbing the rock face during normally warm temperatures.

Here's my account of the trip to Calanque de Sugiton, taken from Searching for Structure ...

Though I regret not having plunged into the gorgeous water of the Mediterranean, I would have regretted not having made these two little sketches even more.  I would do it all again ... and carry three more bottles of water next time.

That same stool that I carried slung over my shoulder that day.  That same stool upon which I sat crouched beneath the dry, prickly needles of the tree, out of reach of the sun's rays (but not the heat) is the same stool I sat upon this past week while adding my border of dwarf Delphinium to my Perpetual Plant Journal.  Though I was within a minute's walk of the kitchen sink, I still had my water bottle beside me. Too often, I forget to drink water as I'm dehydrating in the sun, lost in concentration while sketching or painting.  I still wore a brimmed hat to protect my eyes from the glare.  I still wore a long-sleeved (very light-weight) shirt to protect my skin.  The difference was that when my brain became foggy from the humid heat, I closed the book, put my tools back in my pockets, grabbed the stool and water bottle and retreated to my studio.  I drank more water and when my brain fog cleared I started throwing paint onto the large canvas I'm currently working on.  It took three days to complete the Delphinium border ... but it didn't matter.  The Delphinium wasn't going anywhere and neither was I.  We just had short sketch dates together for a few days.

Perpetual Plant Journal July 22nd through July 28 2019 & 2020

I have left room on the double spread page for the entry in 2021.  That's when I'll tie it all together and make it work well on the page.  I try to build toward a successful design and composition as I add elements each year, not really knowing what the following year will offer me in the way of plants during that week.

Calanques - pencil, ink and watercolor

Thank you for reading my blog.  Stay cool. Continue sketching and painting and


Chris Carter


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