Engineers for Painters?
by Nancy Park on 11/3/2009 7:03:35 PM
Yesterday I went out to Will Rogers Park to paint at 10:30. It was a lovely, sunny day. I ended up coming home with a first-class sunburn. The only time this has ever happened to me (as an adult) is when I went out to paint at Gloucester, MA. Apparently the problem is to remember to keep applying sun-block when one is deeply engaged in creative work. My powers of concentration focus sharply to the exclusion of other factors, such as feeling "a little warm."
Today I'm suffering for it. I had been planning on going out again today, since it's another nice day, but I'm in so much pain today that the only thing I can wear is a loose silk caftan -- OK for a man, but not for a woman outdoors! Luckily I had my camera, so the whole trip wasn't a waste. The only item I wanted to focus on in the painting is the fountain sculpture that is central to the park, with just a loose background of the colorful fall foliage.
I decided that my main problem was that my cowboy hat was not wide enough to protect me from the sun. When you're concentrating on form, value, color harmony and actual brushwork, you need passive protection such as well-designed hats (my hands would have still gotten sunburned!). This is an engineering problem, and I think some savvy engineer could manage to come up with a painting hat that is a) wide enough to protect your head and shoulders even in winter when the sun is lower in the South; b) curved downward enough on sides and back to prevent a breeze from making off with it; and c) doesn't make you look like a dork.
Here's a rough sketch I just made. Maybe a set-in scarf or bolo under the hat for the wind would add something. And if the design was more masculine, that might help, too.
The other engineering thing I thought would add something to the whole en plein air experience is a better palette. None of the artists I know actually holds a palette in his non-painting hand, but ends up sticking his used brushes between his fingers. At home I use a palette with no holes in it, and ... how would I hold a classic palette outdoors if I had to use my other hand as a brush holder? (This is the "wind comes sweepin' down the plains" state.)
The plastic painting box with the blue lid that is ubiquitous in art supply stores is designed to hold disposable paper palettes. But what if someone designed a substantial palette that would fit edge to edge inside it -- without a thumb hole and curves in it? The box is equipped with pegs that fit down snugly all the way around the edge of the paper palettes. If a non-hole wooden palette that size were placed inside, the paint would still be held away from the lid. We could come in from outdoors without having to scrape off the palette while sunburned (I got Prussian blue on my sunburnt hands).
People are always trying to sell us new art products. I'm sure some of the rest of you have ideas on how to make the painting experience easier. I would love to hear about them, and maybe the art supply industry would like that, too!
Oh, one other thing I thought of...