Lately, due to social distancing, my plein air paint time has been close to home and solo. Fortunately for me, painting and solitude are compatible, allowing a timeless contemplative concentration of my surroundings. Yet outdoor painters are seldom alone, are we?
After the initial bustle of easel set up, my movements are rhythmic and my gaze in a fairly constant direction from subject to substrate and back. Neighborhood birds, after the first clamor of alarm, return to their varied songs. Time drifts.
I am no threat and this is quickly understood. Insects crawl across the painted scene, leaving with multicolored legs. Mosquitoes arrive. Last week, a Giant or Eastern Eyed Click Beetle crash-landed onto my palette. (I had to stop and identify that one!) Birds pose, scrutinizing with one-eyed profiles, and leave.
Chipmunks, shrews and wild turkeys, grow tired of waiting and forage anyway, often within reach, ignoring me.
I too am absorbed with my task. Recently, while painting a cotton field, something startled me. In turn, my sudden movement disturbed a trio of deer who had arrived, unseen. They bounded away across the cotton leaving an indelible image of beauty and movement.
And as I return home, lugging my too-many supplies and possibly a painting that insults the eyes, I carry too, a profound sense of belonging, of acceptance.
Artists are often accused of living in their own world. Maybe, but we are not without company.