Last fall, took the red eye from LA to Chicago. Pretended I was 20-something, rented a car and drove to Southbend, arrived at 5 am. It’s dark and cold. The only compensation – and it reveals that the Angeleno thing was in my DNA all along – is I get the best parking space on campus.
It’s unbelievably dark and cold. I mean, I leave Manhattan Beach and it’s 80 and now it’s basically in the low 30’s and I feel like I’m in the Night’s Watch on Game of Thrones. But I pull it together – hey, I’m boots on the ground GAME DAY Notre Dame vs USC and I was at the USC Notre Dame game last year so I definitely have my competitive mojo up – and I begin to walk the campus at sunrise. I make a couple of sketches. Did one of Carroll Hall at daybreak. It was very cold and bleak at dawn, but the GO IRISH bed sheets made me laugh.
I’m here to experience this place, the game, and make art. Conjuring inspiration is a simple spell at such a beautiful campus. My alma mater. My fostering mother.
I’m committed to paint the Golden Dome at 1:00 pm. It’s a changeable, chill October day. Cold and breezy, not ideal for setting up a canvas on an easel (think ‘sail’). But fun. Set up the easel on the round planter in front of the Dome. The sky turns gray to blue while I’m mixing the gray. The big heavy easel that was promised does not turn up. Time for improvisation! Isn’t life, in the end, improv? We all plan, and buy insurance policies, and hedge our bets, but in the end it’s improv.
The wind is brutal. I literally have to hold the canvas down on the easel. Lots of balls in the air: answering questions from fans, holding the painting down, and despite all that, getting absolutely hooked on mixing the exact Naples yellow of the Administration building bricks. Getting seduced by color (once again), always my original sin, my original DNA default, coming to the fore despite the wind, the cold, the inevitable challenges of trying to do something real in the moment.
Truly, it’s the first day I think of plein air painting as theater – as life. There are no dress rehearsals. You can never be prepared, so just go for it and make something lasting.