Winter plein air
I recently participated in the 10th annual Outdoor Painters of Minnesota winter paintout and retreat at YMCA Camp Menogyn on Bearskin Lake. It’s next to Minnesota’s treasured Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. As it happens, the Polar Vortex of 2019 was in full force, but still, seventeen hearty and courageous souls attended. A couple of hardcore painters braved temps of 30 and 20 below zero. I wussed out and didn’t venture outside until it warmed up to -15.
The first question many people ask is, “Doesn’t the paint freeze when it’s that cold?” I usually say oil paint is like the oil in your car—it may get a little gummy, but it still works. Not so this year. I can attest that at 15 below, it does indeed freeze—as do your eyelashes, the end of your nose, and your fingertips. Linseed oil and turp medium coagulate into a stiff, butter-like goo. I had to set aside my brushes and use a palette knife to shovel paint onto the board. Don’t ask me how the watercolorists and pastel painters managed, but they were out there, too!
Not long ago, I was interviewed by an art magazine about winter plein air painting. The first part of my response was, “It’s hell.” Unfortunately, they must have been a short on space, because they cut out the next part: “...but it’s worth it.”
Thanks to photographer and poet Christopher LaForge for the great shot above.