Hi faithful and new readers!
Welcome to the 30th Studio Session! Its a joy to share an intimate look into the process of my artwork with you. As some of you may be aware, based on my recent social media posting, I spent three nights camping alone in Sedona last weekend. Overall the trip was a success because I returned to Queen Creek with a dashboard full of plein air paintings!
I decided to take this trip a few weeks ago when I started receiving denied letters for grad school applications. I know this is a great learning experience and there's a lot to take away from my process of applying. Already I feel I have an incredible life where my time revolves around painting and sharing art with people I love. What more could I possibly need? One of the biggest reasons I want to pursue an MFA degree is so I can be immersed once again into a creative and passionate environment. Something I feel I'm lacking in this new destination. Also even though it may not appear this way to some of you, I view my artwork as incomplete. By this I mean there are many aspects to my artwork that still feel unresolved. Why do I spend so much of my time worrying about this right? Well I think by studying work from the masters of today I've concluded many of them have their "voice" "style" and both always appear, as a follower, to be consistent. Consistency is something I personally struggle with. I want it and hate it at the same time.
I mean art is about exploring process and ideas right?!
I suppose I'm still in the exploring phase and my list of painting possibilities grows everyday!
One of these explorations is painting 'en plein air' :
pertaining to a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in passerby's the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio.
*photo taken at Peralta Trail not in Sedona
I left Queen Creek at 3pm, picked up groceries and ice, filled up my tank and hit the road! The drive to Sedona is 2 hours and 45 minutes putting me there around 6:30 by the time I was out of the store. Unfortunately I hit traffic for 45 minutes and didn't make it into Sedona until 7:30PM. By this time it was already dark and the camping spot I planned on would be another 30 minutes away. Also, the road to get there, France in Rd, was unpaved and full of jagged rock. I tried driving through it and turned around after almost bottoming out with my car!
So then I decided my car would have to do. MISTAKE 1.
At first I wasn't sure where I would be able to park without having a cop wake me up with a ticket. Maybe the Safeway grocery store? Sounds like a safe way to sleep in a car to me...
But then I spotted a small parking lot by a dead end street without a time limit sign and labeled with a public parking sign! PERFECT!
I pulled into one of many open spots and scrolled through social media while texting Megan my whereabouts. Before I turned off my car the dash thermometer read 40 degrees. Okay thats a bit cooler than the mid 70's of Queen Creek earlier that day.
Somehow I managed to close my eyes and drift into what would be one of the most challenging attempts of sleep I've ever faced.
To make this part short, I seriously woke up around 40 times throughout the night. Each time I tried a new sleeping position. At one point my legs were tucked between my shifter and the compartment between front seats. My feet were resting on the passenger side seat. That position didn't last long.
Another time I decided to stretch my feet and eventually felt a stinging needles feeling in the bones of my toes! Queen Creek's balmy weather when I left forced me into my Birkenstock sandals without socks. So of course like a dummy I took my shoes off before bed and DID NOT put socks on. MISTAKE 2.
So yes the stinging needles happened more than once.
MISTAKE 3 was not zipping up the sleeping bag and using it for its intended purpose. This conveniently allowed plenty of gaps for 30 degree air flow into my failing cocoon.
By some form of magic I eventually woke up to a dark blue sky. Not black. Dark blue. YES! The sun would be rising soon I thought.
I woke again when I could see the inside of my frozen car, everything outside was blurred by a thin sheet of frost on the windows. I turned on my car and soon thawed and updated my trustee Instagram Fam that I survived this test of life. And just like that my spirits were at an all time high, I was alive, I had heat, I was in Sedona, and I was going to paint all day! LIFE WAS GOOD!
Night one was clearly and thankfully the worst point of the trip. I suppose traveling needs moments like these to help us appreciate small moments of fortune.
Considering how long my intro is and because night one really was the most exciting and memorable point in the trip I'll just throw a montage of photos at you that share my favorite moments of painting and camping!
Don't want morning breath to throw off that "I just slept in these clothes" aroma. You know what I mean?
My morale was lifted after a warm and cheap breakfast. It's awesome to have fast cooking skills learned from the ol' scoutin days and the bike trip.
I brought a package of bacon cheddar sausage that became the MVI (most valuable ingredient) during the trip. No contest.
Tacos for lunch. Also a tasty meal with only a few ingredients. I felt a little strange cooking alone in the parking lot where I slept. Luckily this fact was unknown to most passerby's. If you read my recent FB or Instagram post about the painting spot above. You heard about how I thought a cop would write me up for painting in this neighborhood. Good gravy some people are paranoid, not the cop nor myself.
If you've ever wondered how I take these pictures, its a longer process than it looks. I setup my tripod, focus on my easel if its in the picture otherwise like a branch or tree, I go stand in the spot while my camera beeps loudly, it snaps the photo and then I check how clear the image is. I do this anywhere from the rare "first try and nailed it" to like 8 times. I think these were in the 8 times range. Pretty slick tho right.
Hard to tell, but the lit mountain side was super orange. Think POTUS orange.
My house for the evening you can see the bedroom, garage, hallways, kitchen and silhouette of the bathroom on the right.
Here's a super clear photo of my cooking setup, the smartest move during the trip in my opinion (utilizing the easel like a straight up Bob Ross MacGyver). However, at this moment there were no campers visibly nearby and I started to wonder how common bears are to Sedona. I texted Megan, an AZ native, first and had no response for what felt like too long so I googled it. Mhmmm well 4 years ago there were Bear sightings in Boynton Canyon. I'm like where the hell is Boynton Canyon, probably on the other side of Sedona right?
Boynton Canyon was only 4 miles away. If the bears are still there then they must not be fans of ground beef because the wind was blowing my meaty smells everywhere. The night grew dark rapidly after this photo was taken. I stood alone with one headlight overlooking my pan of beef waiting in fear for a bear to strike from the darkness.
The cold was consistent. Found this when I woke up, but then noticed hot air balloons over the red rock wat?!
But seriously imagine how cold that ride was.
I drove back into town and hunted for painting spots. After seeing this high point next to the CVS I pulled a roundabout Uie and parked. The view speaks for itself. A family came right as I was getting started and walked near me without engaging. Little did I know I would bump into the same group a few hours later on the main st where I would make my second painting of the day.
Hence painting #2. I didn't get a suave selfie with this one because I didn't bring my tripod knowing this area was busy, and I would've been nervous to leave my camera unattended while painting. But for real I just didn't want to do that selfie dance where it takes 8 tries to get a good picture. Shoutout to Quentan a young man I met, part of the family from CVS. Quentan followed my Instagram account and looked up my work immediately after reading my "about me" sign I displayed while painting - also I found a typo on the sign... dumb dumb dumb. But thanks again Quentan for your genuine interest in my paintings! Hope you get a chance to read this!
I didn't take any photos after that last painting on Saturday. Sunday morning I woke up and made my usual breakfast and did the dirty deed of washing my raggy mop of a head. I think it had been like 5 days without a shower. Usually I wouldn't care if I was alone and away from humankind. But my scalp was getting itchy and I could smell myself without trying.
So I destroyed my scalp with a jug of nearly frozen water which sounded like an intelligent solution to my problem. You gotta do what you gotta do.
Excuse the product placement. I noticed Head and Shoulders lacked a "fine artist" in their spokesperson collection #sponsoryourboi #igotthehair #kneesandtoestoo
Oh yeah that feels great. Let's make sure I don't miss the back of my neck where I have no hair.
Oop and the beard, don't want people knowing I had tacos for lunch yesterday!
Feeling like a thousand bucks. Obviously.
*Shoutout to Sheep's Bridge Trading Company who outfit quality gear for outdoor adventures! The owner is a friend of ours based in Scottsdale, AZ. A new company that's gaining popularity here in the southwest so be sure to take a minute and check out their products here:
Okay one of the main reasons I decided to shower was in case I would be meeting a gallery director. I planned to stop into at least one gallery before I drove back and beat a rainstorm scheduled for Sunday night/Monday morning. I looked one up and drove there, but it was empty! What the?
A sign on the door noted that the gallery was alive and well but the artwork lives in multiple locations. I guess they stopped renting a space? I said out loud "well I'm tired and ready to go home". I probably should've found a gallery to visit, but part of me feels at this point I'd rather have control of where my art goes and when. I think it would be great exposure to have a dedicated space to exhibit and I'm still interested in a space like this. Next time I go to Sedona I'll contact a possible gallery ahead of time to meet and ask about representation. Then I can approach with a cohesive and professional body of work.
On my way back to Queen Creek I wanted to hit at least 10 plein air paintings on the trip. I was at 9.
I whipped up this little one first and had time to do a larger board after. A beautiful view from a gas station in Camp Verde I think the highway was a few miles north of HWY17.
All in all it was a wonderful weekend opportunity and I hope you've enjoyed reading about it. I wish I would've planned ahead to do more video recording. Videos seem to help show the honesty of the moments better than I might be able to explain. Next time.
Thank you for reading my gibberish and peeking at the photos! It means a lot to know these Studio Sessions bring some form of entertainment and/or education about my artwork to your day. Please contact me with any questions or comments about the trip! I'd love to hear what you thought! If you're wishing you could've seen more of the paintings please don't fret! I'll be scanning and posting them on my website portfolio in the coming days. To see a few in the meantime check out my instagram feed linked at the bottom of my website, @acuna.art, or at this link: instagram.com/acuna.art