Earlier this year I was intreged by a website I stubbled across called Paint the Parks. The premise is an opportunity for artists to paint the National Parks with a message of nature preservation for future generations. Inspired but limited ability to participate on such a large scale, I decided to do something similar close to home. I am fortunate to live on the south end of Lake Carlos located on the edge of Alexandria, MN. A 7 minute drive gets me to the north end of Lake Carlos and Lake Carlos State Park. Can’t really get much more convenient!
The park has a fantastic trail system and unlimited inspiration. Sandy beach on Lake Carlos, wetlands with smaller ponds and lakes, deciduous forests of oak, maple, and aspen intersperced with open prairie. If you can’t find something inspirational here to paint, I just don’t know what to tell you. My goal is to spend the summer plein air painting Lake Carlos State Park and do my best to capture how lovely west central Minnesota is. And then next summer, I’ll pick a couple more state parks to travel to, and the next a few more. Maybe one day I’ll have painted all of them! It’s a lofty but worthwhile goal to celebrate the intersection of art and Minnesota’s beautiful park system. I hope to do it justice.
I honestly planned on starting all of this much earlier, but being bogged down mentally with the implecations of Covid19 and having 2 kids to get through distance learning, it just didn’t happen. But yesterday was my day. I didn’t get out nearly as early as I would have liked either but nothing about plein air painting is ever perfect and for someone like me, I can use a little grace in the need to for perfection.
Beautiful weather. 78 Degrees and sunny, but windy so I opted for watercolors rather than my oils. I arrived at the park about 4:30pm, hosed myself down with bug spray, and wandered around for awhile remembering how much I enjoy being in the woods alone and going at my own pace following whatever trail strikes my fancy. I love hiking with my kids, but it always feels like a race to get nowhere.
Eventually I settled on a wetland overlook with an easy place to set my stuff down since I didn’t have an easel or portable camp table along. I quickly fell into the rhythm of painting outside again. Watercolor dries fast, especially in the wind and sun, so my little 5 x7 didn’t take long to come together. I lingered longer than I needed to watching the dragonflies zoom around and trying to catch a glimpse of a vole running back and forth under the grass. Redwing black birds had an ongoing conversation I couldn’t follow. I was glad to be there and pausing with purpose.