First of all, we've all seen the devastation that the horrendous storm, Sandy, created last month. Here's a photo that someone posted on FaceBook, showing that the storm took the form of the classic Fibonacci spiral. There's beauty everywhere, apparently, even in disaster.
Since it's now November, we know that winter is coming, which, here in New England, means cold and snow. This year, I’m even more eager to get out into the snow to paint after seeing the Rockport Art Association’s exhibition of Aldro Hibbard’s work. The artist, who died in 1972, lived in Rockport, MA in the summer and in Jamaica, VT in the winter. He moved north in the winter because Vermont was a great place to paint snow, the subject for which he’s most known, especially in plein air circles. That's Hibbard above, getting ready to sock it to a good-sized canvas (image from the RAA website).
There are a couple of heavily-illustrated books out about Hibbard and his work (available from the RAA at www.rockportartassn.org), but the reproductions don’t quite capture the vibrant color that the “live” paintings give off. The show is up until November 11, 2012 if you want to see it in person. Above is Farmhouse in Winter.
Of course, what’s needed most to paint outdoors in a New England winter is a way to keep warm. I do this by staying out of the wind as much as possible and by wearing many layers of clothing, head to toe. Wool and silk are great insulators, so I use both, starting with silk: long-john tops and bottoms, sock liners and glove liners. Over this go wool socks that I knit myself (no seams to chafe), my usual painting pants, a cotton turtleneck and a wool sweater, hat and gloves. The outside layer consists of a down jacket (with a hood) and a wool scarf. My feet go into another, huge, pair of wool socks, then into snowmobile boots rated for 70o below zero.
For really cold situations, I add a ski mask, a wool neck cowl and insulated snowpants, plus gigantic green mittens that I knit big enough to go over the gloves. I can stick a paintbrush right through the outer mitten, which provides more control and prevents the brush from slipping out of my hand into a snowbank. The snowpants are not the kind with a bib. That may be OK for guys, who, let’s say, need a smaller window of opportunity, but if you’re a woman wearing regular snowpants, you’ll be glad you don’t have to take off your jacket when answering a call of nature. Just sayin’.
Another winter painting tip: I load up the palette with plenty of paint before leaving home. Trying to get caps off tubes wearing gloves is almost impossible; without the gloves it’s dangerously cold. I also carry a small rug in the car to use if I have to stand in snow.
In the interest of full disclosure, those off-white socks in the first pic are new this year. Here are my old ones, which are down-at-the-heels after keeping my feet warm all last winter.
This is another way to keep warm, if you can manage to grow your own. These sheep live on a farm nearby, where I painted yesterday. They're a lot better looking than the painting I started; I should have painted them instead!