Pastel landscape painting in national parks
Pastel landscape painting in national parks. Artists played a huge role in creating the national park system. He continued the tradition of artists who celebrated national parks with extensive painting trips, followed by his partner, Sue. In this interview with Anne, Editor-in-Chief of Artists Magazine and Pastel Journal, Tweeddale shares her process and how the parks have strengthened their bond with nature. Don’t miss Tweeddale’s travel tips at the end of the article!
Plan a dream
Doug Tweeddale has had two passions since childhood: painting and traveling. While serving as CEO and raising a family, these interests were difficult to pursue, so Tweeddale looked forward to retirement. “Most people only think of financial resources when they think about retirement, but the real planning doesn’t stop there. The most important and often forgotten passages concern the articulation and the life of the passionate dreams that we all carry within us.
Tweeddale’s dream of retirement combined with a love of art and travel. I envisioned educational workshops and eventually a series of paintings in national parks. At first, I thought I would make more trips over the years, but then it occurred that I could make a longer trip in the RV. Next to his official departure in the wintertime, Tweeddale and his wife Sue started planning. Their State Park Tour was a four-month painting trip through the American and Canadian West.
Our interest in art dates back to childhood
I have been painting with pastel colors for about 30 years and before that with oil and watercolor. In 2000 I began my studies with pastel master Albert Handell, who introduced me to outdoor pastel painting. His workshops, held in beautiful western locations, have made my dream of traveling to the West come true. Albert’s wonderful mentor taught me how to deepen my artistic perception of the subtle beauty of a scene and then express it in a painting. Every year I attended one or more workshops with him. I also started extending business trips to paint. These activities have kept my travel and art dreams alive throughout my years of work. The outdoor painting has become the meeting point of my love for art, travel, and nature.
How did you organize the painting excursion?
The mechanics of the trip were pretty simple. Buying a used but like new motorhome was surprisingly cheap. We discovered that there are RV lots throughout, especially near national parks. Even with low fuel consumption, our expenses were lower than the cost of such a long journey using conventional means. I have also studied the history of the national parks and learned of the commitment of many conservationists to preserve this land over the years. Characters like John and John Powell breathed their passionate dreams for the benefit of all of us. I discovered the National Park Service and Congress and their efforts to preserve these places of diverse beauty for future generations.
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Interested in national park painting.
Artists played a huge role in creating the national park system. I especially noticed Thomas Moran. I realized that I would travel to many of the places he’d painted. There were, of course, some important differences. He traveled by train, wagon, and horse while I pulled a trailer on the paved road that Sue and I affectionately called Conestoga Lite. And while Moran kept detailed journals of his travels, Sue and I blogged.
How did the travel experience affect your artistic work?
Traveling from one exciting place to different has held my creative fluids flowing and expanded my artistic creation. I felt more freedom in the use of color and composition. My pictures have become bigger and looser. Before the trip, I looked for perfection and wanted every painting to be a masterpiece. During the journey, that self-imposed burden disappeared, and I just painted to reflect my emotional response.
What are some of the trials of art in national parks?
The parks can get quite crowded in the high season. Some places had a lot of busloads of visitors, so I used headphones and listened to music to block out the auditory distraction. I also tried to pick the less-traveled areas, but there were times when I wanted to paint the famous landscape drawing. On the positive side, a lot of people stopped to admire my work and ask questions. I kept a large supply of business cards and brochures ready for distribution and even sold some of my pictures on-site.
Did the trip satisfy your wanderlust or whet your appetite for more art tours?
Sue and I traveled, visited national parks, and stayed at various campsites. I painted 60 pictures. We wanted the trip to be an unrepeatable outdoor painting, but it has become a way of life. We have adapted so well to RV life that returning to our spacious home felt weird. Living for more than three moons in our little trailer has reminded us of how incredibly happy you can live with less. We completed a second three-month tour of the national parks in the Southwest last spring and will travel to Maine in August.
Did you learn important lessons from a daily dose of inspiration?
I have come to believe that creating a special painting is undesirable. Instead, it arises organically as a dance between subject and artist, reinforced by the depth of inspiration and a pinch of luck. The opportunity to take this trip strengthened my bond with nature. I realized that this is a deep and ubiquitous well that I can dive into and lower the bucket to reveal something refreshing, supportive, and life-enriching. It is a joyful dance between me and the world, with a painting that is a tangible result of the experience. That is joy. That’s why I paint.
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