Friday, May 16, 2014

Starting the Plein Air Season in the Flint Hills

Ok, so I've been BAD about posting on my blog.  Really, really bad.  My last real post was 9 months ago.  Yikes!  But spring is here and with it, the start of a busy plein air season.  This seems like as good as time as any to start sharing again.  I don't mean just posting pretty paintings.  Ok, that will happen, but along with those, I hope to post a lot about experiences - travel, meeting people, painting, techniques.  We all can become better from hearing about other people's experiences.

Spring has been slow to start in NE Kansas.  I've been out a few times trying to brush off the cobwebs and prepare for the rest of the season.  I leave in just a few days for a week long painting trip in Central California and needed some practice!  Last Saturday, I got a few artists together through Missouri Valley Impressionist Society.  We met in the morning at the Konza Nature Trail which is part of the Konza Prairie Biological Station.  Most of Kansas land is privately owned, so painting outside is typically done off a road and out of your car.  The Konza Nature Trail gives us an opportunity to hike in.  While I enjoy this, it's not the easiest thing to do.  One has to make sure to keep gear to a minimum so it can be on your back.  I typically paint 8x10 when hiking in because I can put my 8x10 Raymar wet panel carrier in my pack, along with the pochade, tripod, paint, thinner, brushes, rags, sunscreen, bug spray, snacks and water.  Yes, it's easy to see how you can quickly fill up a backpack!

At first it looked like the weather wasn't going to be friendly, but the rain drops and clouds disappeared.
This is looking back toward the start of the 2.5 mile Nature Trail.  The steepest climb is the 1.3 miles straight up this hill to the radio tower. 
I decided my first painting of the morning would be at the top of the hill, so I climbed the 1+ miles and picked a spot just south of the radio tower.  WARNING: if you are a painter who wants to paint on this hill, pick a day when it's not windy!  The main reason I decided to start here is because typically the wind isn't too bad in the morning.  It seems to be the highest point for miles which is wonderful for views, but with no wind breaks, not so good for plein air painters.

Doug Frye, Susan Rose, Linda Shoults and Mike Flora may have had the right idea painting down the trail.  Can you see my set up on the far right at the top of the hill?

Mike Flora creating a great pastel piece.
This was the flint hills view I painted.
The reason I love this hill is the 360 degree views.  From one side you get the more pristine flint hills and on the other you see the valley dotted with farms and some fields.  It's really beautiful!
Here's a great view of the valley.  You can see fields and farms in the distance.
The clouds went away quickly, which translates to flat light sooner in the day.  I learned a long time ago if you want a big view, you need to get up really early, or stay out late.  Middle of the day is best for more protected areas where you may get dappled light.

Yes, we do stop to eat lunch once in a while!
Joe Loganbill painted the restored limestone barn.
And that is just what we did!  Most of the artists who stayed and painted in the afternoon, met at the Hokanson Homestead.  It has a beautifully restored limestone barn, spring house and best of all, Kings Creek runs through the property.  We were able to enjoy the shade since it was getting hot.  I painted Kings Creek, which is a pristine creek and used for research.  It's considered pristine because it starts on the Konza and doesn't run through crop land.  It's limestone bottom makes it one of the clearer creeks and made a stunning subject.  Plus, it's so peaceful painting to the sound of bubbling water and chirping birds.   It was a great start to spring!

Kings Creek in the afternoon.
There are many great shade trees around the homestead area.