michael king plein air Westham Island Herb Farm

The Stories We Can Tell

The longer one paints outside the more stories one seems to collect. We all have at least one.

Most encounters are no more than a few seconds with a bystander taking the time to come over and ask if they can take a look. This is usually followed by either a pleasant conversation or them jokingly asking where the numbers on the canvas are. Either way it is one of the challenges to taking your art outside.

michael king plein air Westham Island Herb FarmMy newest story, is from just this Monday, June 2, 2014. I was painting at Westham Island Herb Farm in Ladner with a friend of mine, Mary Ann Burrows. It was an absolutely beautiful morning and we found an old abandoned truck in the farmers field after asking permission to paint on-site.

We were about three quarters of the way through painting, both hurrying to catch the light, with the farmer in the distance starting to fertilize the grassy area we happened to be on.

With each pass he is getting closer and I just assume he will turn off the spreader when he is near to us. In the distance he takes a wide turn at the top of the field and is now cruising our way. As he approaches he yells over the noise of the tractor, “Don’t worry, it won’t hurt.” And with that, thwap, thwap, thwap, we get nailed with pellets of fertilizer. How else could it have ended? :-/

Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos or video of the incident, but at least I have a witness. :)

Below was the final result of the morning paint out.

Michael King plein air Westham Island Herb Farm

If you have any good stories to tell, we would love to hear them in the comments below.



1 reply
  1. Tom Johnson says:

    Twenty years ago I was in art school studying product design and from time to time I would escape the structure of studies to the other side of the building and sit in on illustration classes there I made a few friends … a funny group of characters and all great artists. It was the first time I saw someone mix and lay down the perfect shadow value in direct painting, BAM…. there it was… that fast and that perfect, it was like watching someone catch the perfect catch in sports. We started regularly painting around L.A.
    We would find houses that were covered with fumigation tents or beat up carnival rides in back of a shopping center. Architectural oddities that had fun color schemes made great subject matter.
    After a while we found less and less oddities and for some reason we started going at night. Usually we would be at a local dive bar around the corner from our place. Night painting became a drink and pant event. And seemed like we were killing two birds with one stone. A Friday night in the parking lot painting the front of Ralph’s Grocery with the green florescent lighting on our easels and a few cocktails beat the dive bar by a mile. We’d make a event out of it. One night we were on top of the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena..
    it was built in 1913 and a very high bridge and not surprisingly also nicknamed suicide bridge.We all split up once we hit the bridge. It was tremendously cold up there so I was quite bundled up with a good jacket and a few sweatshirts….At the time I had little to no dough, so I lashed together some pieces of found wood and made a easel. It was quite short, for the wood I found was pretty scrappy. And unless you could set it on a ledge or something, you had to sit and paint.
    That night I was sitting down in a alcove next to the thick concrete railings. And I was getting into things pretty good that night. My subject was the Richard H. Chambers building of the U.S Court of Appeals on the hill that overlooked the bridge. It was built in the 1920’s and was up-lit rather dramatically for today’s standards in architectural lighting. It was all very Chinatown… the John Huston one. A car pulls up slowly behind me I couldn’t see it but it was behind me a bit I could hear the wheels slowly moving my way. It was Los Angeles at 2:30 am so I did have my creep detection activated… I kept working and in a instant a huge light was blasting on me followed by a loud crackly megaphone sound. “YOU, THERE” there was a long pause followed by “WHAT Are you doing?”
    By now I knew it could only be LA’s finest and realized maybe I looked homeless, bundled up in a corner on a huge bridge late at night. I responded “I’m painting!!” There was a longer pause like 10 seconds. They pulled up along side of me separated by a wide sidewalk their light was now directly on me and just shuts off. The officer asks me ” Your what?!”
    “I am landscape painting.” Another long pause “OK stay safe!. And they sped away.
    At the time right when they sped off I remember thinking, In movies that’s what they say right before something bad usually happens.
    “Why wouldn’t I ‘stay safe’? You know. if something happens and safety is completely out of the equation for me then there really is no way I can willfully control “staying safe”.
    About a year after this happened I did a ambulance ride a long for research for a product design project. The first call was to the same bridge. I helped the ambulance crew carry the gear down to the sandy river bed below the bridge and I saw there first hand the reason for the nick name. So I get why the policeman was checking me out so closely to see if I was someone hanging on to the hardest decision they will ever have to make or will ever make…but instead they got a goofy easel and a student with a 6 pack of Henry Wienhards knocking out 9″ x 6″ studies… I recently cleaned out my garage and found the paintings I was doing that night along with a few others….completely hideous they are but were a lot of fun in the making. Stay safe! and bring better palette lighting.

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