Proceed with Caution
3 weeks ago
I can hear John Denver singing in my head. “Well, life on the farm is kinda’ laid back.” I disagree. Every day calls for a lot of mindfulness for a city girl to stay out of trouble. Driving in my Honda Fit on the long, straight gravel roads nearby, I need to stay out of the way of combines who rush from field to field harvesting soybeans and from the trailer trucks speeding the crop to grain elevators. On foot, signage reminds me to treat every fence as an electric fence and to stay out of fields where bison graze. My skin requires sunscreen, bug spray and a choice of hats. On the John Deere Gator that I drive, the dashboard includes graphics describing how one might die or be injured. I also have to yield to horses using the same trails that I enjoy.
Less dangerous but still requiring caution is art-making. The questions that always percolate when I am painting or drawing are: When is this painting done? How much detail do I need to include to tell this story?
Yesterday I painted both plein air and, when it got too hot, in the studio from photos. Along the Redrock Spur, I found a beautiful view of the Middle Raccoon River surrounded by autumn trees and grasses. A year and a half of drought makes the landscape crispy and muted, lit up by sky and reflection in the low water.
Editing detail was affected by:
- my energy after an hour of hiking
- type of paper; this one can’t absorb as much water so painting faster is necessary
- decision to focus on land shapes and colors more than specific plants
- …then the Growling Stomach Timer goes off
Back in the studio, I finished up my sketch of 805 River Cabin. The name refers to its previous address in Coon Rapids, 805 Main, before it was moved to a scenic and secluded riverside location. It was fun to draw a sturdy but slightly wonky building with so much character. The editing questions are: do I really need to spell out every shingle and knothole for my viewer? Absolutely not. I like photos and I like drawing. But for me, they are cousins and not identical twins.