In my manic getting-ready-to-travel-and-paint mode, I drop a lot of balls and wonder where I left my head, but you can expect packing to commence at least three weeks ahead. I try out equipment, repair and modify, build, work out the kinks and the suitcase layout. I have two art travels upcoming: a residency at a nature reserve in South Carolina called the Spring Island Trust, and then three weeks in the tropical rainforest of Barro Colorado Island, Panama. They’re both islands, rich in flora and fauna, and both look suspiciously like paradise from my perch here high atop the old Oklahoma homestead.
For Spring Island I’ll keep it fairly simple: a box of pastels and sanded paper to take in wide green marshlands and big blue skies. A scope on a tripod, a pair of binoculars and sketchbook for wood storks, ospreys, if all goes well, prothonotary warblers in a cypress swamp.
For Barro Colorado Island I have this crazy yen to haul oil paints into the rainforest and paint light-dappled forest interiors on big sheets of paper with a large brush. A bus ride to Panama City for turpentine may be essential-and fun- it’s become a hoppin’ place (see today’s New York Times for a look into the Panama City boom). But I loved its seedy pre-boom grime and the surreal shopping weirdness of the infamous downtown variety store, Machetazos), since I don’t want to pack turpentine. But to cover the bases I bought a starter set of Winsor & Newton water-mixable oils, testing them out them at our regular figure session this morning. My review? Meh. Not great, not bad, just meh.
I struggled with them, to tell you the truth. The bristle brushes dragged on the textured paper. I couldn’t get a point on the rounds or use the fine chisel edges of the flats, and the filberts? They splayed. The only brush that worked well was a soft synthetic filbert, the only arrow left in the quiver. And with the paint thinned down to a wash, the oil-primed paper buckled. Has anyone else tried these with better success than I had?
I’m glad I tried them out. Experiments are ever good. The set is small and I can take it along for a backup, but look for me in boomtown Panama City, on the bus.
But then I’ll have to devise an ingenious way to bring those oily paintings home with me. I’m doing R&D on that right now. Let me get back to you.