Plein air painting with the Chestnut Group today. This beech tree is from a protected property nicknamed "Valley of the Big Trees."
About a dozen of us walked single file into the valley, our feet crunching on the stiff, frozen leaves. Our faces were already feeling the bite of the cold winter air. Some painters were well prepared with pouchade boxes neatly tucked into backpacks. I was hiking my trusty french easel with hacked back-pack strap attachments and a loud, but very functional TJ Max bag full of gear.
Our guide told us stories of interest as we journeyed through. She told us how the land we were entering had been left mostly untouched for the better part of a century. She showed us places of interest— like where four species of trees were growing from the same mound of earth. She shared how they revere the fallen trees just as much as the living ones. The fallen trees become a new haven for other inhabitants of the forest.
The painters each found their places of interest from which to paint. I went the farthest into the valley to find this beautiful Beech tree. Its massive roots spread out for a distance of about 8 to 10 feet. They looked like giant fingers gripping into the side of the hill. Behind it, another tree had previously fallen and and broke apart on the back of the mighty Beech. At first glance, the Beach just seemed to be shades of gray. But after spending some time looking at it, I discovered a rich palette of greens, pinks and blues. I knew this was the tree whose story I had come to paint today.
I set up my easel on the hillside. And a steep hillside it was. There was no level place to stand. As I painted, the winter cold was getting the upper hand one me. My paints felt thicker the joints of my fingers were getting stiff. My back was getting sore from the incline. But this is what plein air painting is all about. It's an adventure every time, and a opportunity to better understand nature. So, I pressed on. I loved every second of it!
As light began to fall behind the valley, we packed up and hiked back out of the forest. I felt privileged to have been a witness of such a sacred place. I felt thankful for my colleagues and the efforts of The Chestnut Group for arranging this unique opportunity. I made some new friends in those woods that day—and one very, very old friend—Mr. Beach.
Painters in the Valley of Big Trees
Reference photo… just in case I don't get finished.