One summer, years ago, I lived in a tiny ramshackle house in Colorado. That summer, I set up my easel under the shade of the trees along the border of this wild yard. I brought my brushes and paints outside and gave in to the beauty. Each afternoon I was there, recording and rejoicing in the wildness, the heat of afternoon. The smells of deep summer. Sometimes thunder storms would roll through and I would hastily throw plastic over my supplies and run with my sketchbook to the shelter of my porch to watch the event. Recording the smells and textures of it all with pen and ink. Storing it deep in my psyche.
I have since moved to a tamer landscape, but still find a creative connection to my art making and being outside. Most summers I find a way to spend time in the early evenings in nature. I love to meander the alleys of my neighborhood finding inspiration and beauty in the broken and discarded items that are obscured by the magenta sweet peas or opulent blackberries, ready to be picked. Weeds overlooked by the casual walker, Queen Anne's lace and thistle - beautiful in their own way. Observing the movements of the season. I love summer for this, for the way we can enter it so easily, just open the door and we are there....no extra sweaters or boots and socks. No fuss.
I am not a plein air painter, a landscape painter or a realist per-se. What I Iove about being outside and making art is being so close to nature. I like to record this through my art making, to "feel" into the season deeply. I love to spend time with singular flowers or feathers or grasses, to commune with their ephemeral nature. This can be by drawing or painting it but it can also be as simple as observing, taking a picture of it, arranging it in some pleasing manner such as the nature mandala to the left or writing to it or about it.
I also love the practice of the Field Journal, as then I can take my studio with me on my hikes and walks through the terrain of the Pacific North West where I now live. This practice is an extension of this idea of an outside studio/ art-making practice. It is about recording the season, bringing ourselves into the present and practicing deep gratitude and amazement at what beauty we are surrounded by. For more about creating a Field Journal practice click here.
Here are some of my favorite ways to work outside and to set up spaces to create in. Please use your imagination and find new ways to work, I'd love to know what has inspired you or see art that you are creating this summer!!
Setting up your studio in nature/ in the garden:
To do this you will want to have a table and chairs and a semi-sheltered place on a porch or patio area in your garden.
I like to create a space that is easy to put up and take down but that can be out for a few days if the weather stays nice. I usually put a paper down under the space I work and have my favorite art making tools at hand. These days they often include, watercolors and watercolor pencils, pens, papers that inspire me, a bouquet of flowers from the garden, glues and gold paint for embellishment.
I also like to have a box or basket nearby so that if the weather turns I can quickly bring these things inside so they don't get wet or ruined.
To the right is an image of my current outdoor art making space.
Field Journal kit for hikes:
Please visit the Summer Art Making area of my website for more inspiration around creating a Field Journal.
To create a kit of materials for taking with your Field Journal on a hike, a trip or wherever your summer takes you, here are some of my favorite "to go" art supplies:
A journal, handmade or otherwise, a watercolor brush with a built in water chamber, a travel size watercolor palate, a box of 12 watercolor pencils, a variety of sizes of micron pens, a pencil sharpener, scissors and a glue stick. I put this all in a waterproof zipper bag or large ziploc so I can tuck it in my backpack readily.