The Most Precious Gift We Can Give Ourselves: Time

I have been wanting to go Plein Air sketching for a very long time, but never really made the time or the opportunity to go … until just a couple of weeks ago. Of course, I really was far too busy to go – but I decided to go anyway … and I had a wonderful time!

My local art society, Arteast, started holding a Plein Air “Paint Out” event for their members every summer for the last two years. I was unable to make the previous two outings, but am so glad I was able to make it this year. The “Paint Out” is held at a different location each summer and then, in the fall, they hold a Plein Air exhibition of all the works done en plein air by the artists who attended the outing. This year the “Paint Out” was held at a local conservation area, beautiful Mer Bleue Bog.

Much of the bog is in full sun, but there is a wooded area near the end of the boardwalked trail and that is where I headed to set myself up. I was careful with my packing before I left home and was carrying only the bare necessities, which I managed to fit into a light canvas messenger type of bag with a shoulder strap. I didn’t bother to bring my SLR camera, but instead hung the long strap of my little point and shoot camera around my neck, slung my little camp stool and bag over my shoulder and had free hands to carry my sketchbooks. So many of the other artists there were carrying loads of what seemed to be fairly unwieldy and heavy stuff. Besides the fact that I prefer to sketch nature than paint it anyway, that was also part of the reason I chose my pencils over my paints – I couldn’t stand the thought of lugging all that painting paraphernalia around on such a warm day.  Fortunately, though the day was hot, it wasn’t horrifically so, and when I set myself up in a little patch of shade, the heat was more than bearable.

My gear consisted of a little camp stool, canvas bag

My set-up: camp stool, canvas bag for pencils, etc.,  sketchpads & a water bottle.

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I have been to Mer Bleue Bog many times in the past, as it is one of hubby’s favourite places to go for photos, so I knew exactly where I wanted to go to sketch first. There is a beautiful stand of birch trees right next to the boardwalk very close to a bend in the path. I was so lucky that nobody else had set up there yet! One painter had chosen to plant herself right near the bend in the path, but fortunately had left “my spot” empty. So I set myself up comfortably and sat and sketched the clump of birches for the next hour and a half or so.

My spot

My sketching spot

Though I have sketched outside several times before, it is not something I am used to, and I had never tried to sketch nature realistically from life before, so I found the shifting light to be a challenge. Drawing white trees on white paper wasn’t exactly easy either! LOL But at last it started to come together in a way I was feeling very happy about.


My incomplete sketch

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It was about then that my alarm on my phone went off to remind me to head back to the picnic area for lunch. I wandered up to the bend in the path to talk to the woman painting there (we’d taken a few breaks through the morning to talk). While still chatting. I took a couple of steps backward … and suddenly found myself on the boardwalk flat on my back! My foot had slipped off the boardwalk (which was about 3″ higher than the ground), and before I knew it, I had fallen!

It’s so scarey how unexpectedly fast accidents happen! Because of my RA and the risk to my joints, I am always so careful not to put myself in precarious positions that might cause a fall. And yet, there I was, flat on my back before I even realized I was going down! I suppose that is why they are called accidents! LOL I was so relieved and grateful that I hadn’t hurt myself! My head was fine, my back was fine, my butt was fine. Nothing hurt … or so I thought! I picked up my stuff and headed back to the car to grab my cooler and join the other artists gathering at the picnic area. I had packed a delicious lunch of caprese salad, cheese, crackers and an apple and one of the ladies at my table had even thought to bring a tablecloth, so our picnic was perfect!


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Through lunch, my ring finger on my left hand started to really hurt. When I looked at it, it was starting to swell and there was the beginning of a bruise. By the time lunch was over, my finger was throbbing in pain and had become even more swollen. I really didn’t want to leave though, as I had been having such a nice time … and I had seen a big old gnarled tree along the path in the forest that I really wanted to sketch.

Gnarly tree

Gnarly tree

I packed up my cooler and put it away into the car and determinedly went back into the forest to the tree I wanted to sketch next, but by the time I got there my entire forearm was aching and I couldn’t hold anything in my left hand (ie: my sketchbook). So with much regret (and yes, I confess, a few muttered curses), I trudged back to the car, and managed to drive home with one hand, where I spent the rest of the afternoon and evening icing my finger to try and get the swelling down. Fortunately it wasn’t broken, but it was a very bad sprain that turned half of the palm of my hand black and blue for the next week. Thankfully Father Time has worked his usual magic and now, two weeks later, the bruise is mostly gone and my finger feels nearly completely healed. I’m just so grateful that I didn’t break it!  I am also very glad that I stole the time to go on my little Plein Air adventure. It was definitely worth it … despite my poor finger!

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8 comments to The Most Precious Gift We Can Give Ourselves: Time

  • You have RA? I was diagnosed with it once but after 3 years of NSAIDs, I decided to seek answers. You don’t just suddenly overnight become arthritic! Long story short a Naturopath had me on an elimination diet and after a month, I felt better. Turned out I had an intolerance to wheat! Just saying in case this is the same for you.

    • I didn’t suddenly become arthritic, Rolande. I have had it since childhood, in the juvenile form. I was in remission for years as a teen and young adult, then it returned with a vengeance some 18 years ago. I have been off wheat for the past 8 months, and though it certainly hasn’t “cured” me, I do notice enough of a difference that I intend to stay off wheat for good. 🙂

  • Quite an experience; so glad you didn’t get badly hurt! I had a similar experience of concentrating so much on photographing a beautiful scene that I forgot I was standing on a ledge. I also stepped backwards and fell flat on my back (and fortunately didn’t break anything, including the camera!).

    Otherwise it sounds like you had a lovely day, and the drawing is delightful. I’m glad you were able to enjoy the plain air event, and wish you more (uneventful ones) in the future. I hope your hand will soon be completely healed :-).

    • Oh wow, Andrea! I’m so glad you didn’t hurt yourself! Or your camera!! At the degree to which we artists so often lose ourselves in the pursuit of our art, I am surprised that we don’t hear about artists walking off of boardwalks and ledges in the news more often! LOL

  • Manon

    I had the same experience the first hour of my Camino. I was standing still when my friend said “Manon move back there are fast bicycles coming our way.” So I moved about 6 inches back and tripped over a cobble stone, fell hit my right hip on a step and my head on the corner of the building. As I was going down, all I could think of was “Here I am not even started on my walk and I am done.” Luckily I got up brushed myself off and we walked our first day. Needless to say I had a huge bump on my head and my thigh was black for a month. It was an accident, not in my plan at all. Glad you were ok Lissa…Hugs

    • OMG Manon!! How scarey that must have been! So relieved you were able to continue your Camino! Would have been devastating otherwise! Very glad you were okay too! ~hugs~

  • You have inspired me to get out and sketch Lissa…you have not inspired me to fall…it doesn’t sound like much fun at all!!! 😉 SO happy you are okay, luckily it wasn’t your dominate hand with your show coming up right after that!! Ohhh, in the name of art what we artists do!!

  • hahaa…so glad I have inspired you to NOT fall, Kathryn! And yes, I was SO grateful it wasn’t my drawing hand I tried to break my fall with!