No, it’s not the ‘Masked Marauder’ taking a day off from robbing banks to do a little recreational painting. It’s me punching in at the day-job during a cold snap. Out with my trusty paintin’-pooch, Sally, and a good friend, Scott Gellatly (who snapped the picture)
The temperature was 34 degree F, which doesn’t seem all that cold until you factor in the wind chill.
We set up at the mouth of the Columbia Gorge, a veritable trumpet horn of weather, and I guesstimated the breeze was a constant 10 to 15 MPH, with higher gusts repeatedly being thrown at our faces. (That’s what it takes to know my easel over. You can see me holding on to my easel mwith ymleft hand.)
This gave us the equivalent of a heat-stripping 27 -20 degrees F to work in. Brrr!…Actually, the 34F reading was at the PDX airport, west of us about ten miles. Where we were had to have been colder. Again, not that harsh, unless you are just standing around, trying not to move, pinching a brush with your right hand thumb and index finger, and holding your easel steady with your left, for several hours at a time.
So how does a painter stay (relatively) warm in such conditions? And in a manner which allows for painting?
Two things: Layers and Wind-blockers.
Most folks already know about the layering, but equally as important, if not more so, is the wind blocking. I’m always surprised at how wind blocking gets over-looked.
In this photo I am wearing:
Below the belt…
- Polypropylene underwear
- A base layer of 100 series fleece
- Nylon rip-stop pants
- My light-weight snow pants (as the wind blocker)
- Two pairs of wool socks
Above the belt…
- Polypropylene underwear (again)
- A base layer of 100 series fleece (again, and with neck coverage)
- Fleece vest (with more neck coverage)
- Polypropylene coat I ski and snowshoe in (the wind blocker)
- A old 300-series polartech fleece jacket (The black one you see in the photo) Beat up, and soiled with paint, with the zipper handle long gone and replaced with a paper clip. It’s my version of the painter’s smock for outdoor painting.
- Fleece face mask, basically an up-scale ski balaclava (also wind blocking)
- Hat with brim for shade
- Thin polypropylene gloves with fingers
- And fingerless fleece gloves, so I can still feel the brush handling (Again, wind blocking)
- I also stuffed heat packs into the gloves on top of my palms to transfer continuous heat to my fingers
What you can’t see…
- No cotton. Zilch. Nada. Not even a stitch. Even the undies are polypropylene.
The Boy Scouts of America have a saying, “Cotton is rotten” and trust me, it’s true. In our part of the world, cold is often accompanied by dampness, and cotton sucks any moisture in the air and stick it next to your skin. And it will hold on to that moisture with a vengeance. So don’t cotton and you’ll be a warmer puppy. A happier camper, er, painter – whatever. And note that Sally, the paintin’-pooch, is also wearing a fleece jacket with a wind blocker. Stylin’, eh?
Now, if I put my rain shell over my black fleece, I’d would have been even toastier, but I didn’t do it for two reasons:
- It was a sunny day and I didn’t want the electric color of the rain shell to reflect its hue into my painting and palette. It’s a god-awful puce and that wasn’t something I wanted to contend with.
- And, whenever I can, I prefer to wear black on the outer most layer so it can absorb the sunlight. Radiant sunlight converts into conductive heat once it hits a dark object, and a two or three degree bump can make your whole day. Really, it can.
The painting? W
ell, when Scott and I were walking out to the site, we were filled with all sorts of macho bravado. Two strong manly-men who convinced ourselves we were going out into harsh conditions to bring home the kill and all that. (Ha!) We were thinking we’d knock out two or three quick little studies before heading back home to the warm bosoms of our families. But it became clear in short order that one painting would be all we’d do, and perhaps just a sketch at that. We packed up after two hours and headed back to find that warmth.
Here is my painting, raw and unfinished. Not a complete statement by any means. But something with decent color notes and speaks to the temperature of the day. I think I’ll go back when it hit the low 40s – balmy in comparison – and give it another go.