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Painting in the “Studio”

July 21, 2013

On Penobscot Bay, at a campground near Rockport, Maine

Most artists don’t need a photo to know what it looks like to paint outdoors.  But we do take a lot of them, probably because they’re just fun to look at.  But, since we live fulltime in a motorhome, a Facebook friend asked what I meant when I mentioned “studio painting”.

My toolbox these days is the Easyl Lite paint box, along with the tripod, that were Christmas gifts from Nell.  The tripod has its own little zippered canvas bag, and the paint box and various supplies fit snugly into a canvas backpack.

Living fulltime in an RV requires some adjustments.  It’s not a house with a garage and spare rooms with extra closets.  It’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 square feet.  It’s just simply not possible to have everything put away out of sight all the time.  The key is to not have things underfoot or otherwise in the way all the time.  I try my best to be as neat as possible, but… I’m an artist.   ‘Nuff said.

There is no permanent studio, so the artist in the family can’t just suddenly decide to go pick up a brush, mix paint on a palette and resume work on a painting that’s sitting on an easel ready to be worked on.  It requires an obvious intent to spend some time.  When we are on the move, traveling down the highway, the tripod and backpack with the Easyl Lite sit on the floor between the bed and the closet in the back of the motorhome.  When we stop, whether for the night or for an extended stay, the copilot’s captain’s chair is turned around, and the paint box and tripod get moved to the space behind the chair, under the dash.  Paintings in progress and blank boards are stored in an overhead cabinet in the bedroom.


The “indoor” studio.

When it’s time to paint indoors, the paint box is set up on the dining table.  The watercolor palette stays inside the paint box along with several tubes of most-used paints.  Brushes, water can and more paint tubes are stored in the backpack.  (There are additional tubes of paint, and a few brushes, stored in boxes in cabinets, or in a large tackle box that’s kept on the floor in the closet.)  The kitchen is just to the left, and there is a paper towel holder mounted under the cabinet.  I try to keep at least one layer of towel or paper towel on the table to make cleanup easier.

The table sits right next to a window, so there is natural light during the day, although one can forget about North Light.  (I can just hear myself asking for an RV site where the right side of the rig is facing north.  Besides, on good days with little wind, the awning goes out to block the sun anyway.)  There is a light over my right shoulder, another behind my left shoulder, and an overhead light directly over the easel.  I’ll admit they’re not color-correcting lights, but I have never claimed to be a perfectionist.  It all seems to get the job done.

There is a downside to all this, of course.  At the end of each painting session, except on rare occasions, everything must be put away.

at megunticook in rockport me

The “outdoor” studio.

Painting in the “outdoor” studio requires slightly less preparation.  In theory, I just grab the tripod and the backpack from under the passenger side dash, step out the door and set up as if I were painting “on location”.  Invariably, however, I don’t have everything ready, and have to go in and out the door multiple times.  On nice days, this is a wonderful place to paint.  As long as I have the awning over my head, I can even handle the heat in most cases.

We have a printer that allows me to print out 8×10 or 4×6 images to use as references.  The printer, by the way, isn’t an art luxury.  We use it to print out bills, insurance documents, and campground confirmations.

Once again, painting in the “outdoor” studio requires a complete breakdown of equipment at the end of each painting session.  It doesn’t really take long to set up and break down, but there is a psychological effect which can sometimes make the difference between touching up a painting or just waiting until later.  It might also be that I’m just getting lazy in my old age.

A lot of things continue to be in flux this year as far as my art is concerned.  I had convinced myself that I would focus on small paintings and studies because they would be easier to sell at festivals and fairs along the way.  Now that we are not quite so focused on festivals and fairs, the need for small paintings isn’t so important.  At the moment, I’m working on an 11×14.  Except for one commission, I haven’t done anything over 9×12 in at least a year.  For most painters, 11×14 is still almost miniature, but to me it’s larger than normal, and it feels good to work a bit larger for a change.

For now, it doesn’t matter how large I work, as long as I can find a place to store the paintings.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 21, 2013 12:07 pm

    this is so great! surely there will be many people who wish they could simplify their lives like you have, and still have a rewarding life!

    great post! thank you so much for letting us peer over your shoulder!

  2. Myah permalink
    July 21, 2013 3:54 pm

    I always enjoy your posts, Ralph.

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