I was lucky enough to be invited by my friend Kim Casebeer to come and paint the Flint Hills of Kansas with a group of very fine fpainters last week, September 29 - October 2, 2011. Along to paint was Cally Krallman, Phil Starke, John Potoschnick, Susan Lynn, Dick Sneary, Joseph Loganbill, Debra J. Groesser, Judith Mackey, Michael Albrechtson, Kim and yours truly. We stayed at the Flying 'W' Ranch, a working cattle and dude ranch owned and operated by Josh and Gwen Hoy. We had wonderful facilities, bunk houses and Josh is a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) trained chef so the food was amazing and welcomed each morning and evening.
We had the most unbelievably good weather, warm and no wind for the three full days we painted. Not a cloud either... we were wishing that one of those would show up to break up the pure blue sky. The color at this time of the year was rich and full of the warmer side of the palette and a treat to paint. Kansas surprised my notion of what I would find there, that being a notion that it would be flat and agricultural. There's plenty of that, but the Flint Hills contain a huge amount of woodland riparian habitat that is broken by prairie and some agriculture. It's a great combination of textures, vistas, color and elevation change for painting. There is something about the vast open landscape and a near absence of any sounds other than grasshoppers and birds that I love. I really enjoyed myself there and am going to be sure to include it as a painting location again soon.
I painted a total of 8 paintings, wiped one off. The larger piece here "Morning View of the Flint Hills", a 16x24 oil, was painted for 3 mornings for about an hour or slightly longer each session. The shadows on the hills in the distance disappeared fast as the sun rose. Being that they're about the only thing that gave definition to the landscape, I would only paint for a short period of time while they had some form shadow to them. I guess you could say that I would have painted about 11 or 12 paintings in the 3 days if I had been painting smaller each of those mornings. I'm glad that I took on this one though, and it's not that large, but painting something that is new means learning the language of the land in paint. It's an exploration and period of discovery which slows things down a little bit.
One last thing, if you go there be sure that you have good tires with a large number of plys. The non paved roads are covered in broken, crushed flint and guess what flint is really good for? Making knives and arrow or spear points. They will go through even a good new tire, we found that out with one of the painters vehicle. Driving slow on the roads is a help. For the beauty, it's worth the $13.50 that it cost our painter to have it fixed in Cottonwood Falls where the gentleman spends most of the time fixing "rock slices" in tires.
'Flying W Ranch' oil-8x10 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
This was the first painting I did when I arrived on Thursday afternoon. Parked the truck, got out the painting gear, wandered for a few minutes and then painted this one! I love this job.
'Morning View of the Flint Hills' oil-16x24 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
I spent 3+ mornings on this painting, about an hour or so per session, like I mentioned above.
'Flint Hills Autumn' oil-12x12 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
We had unbroken blue skies, which are nice, but for painting it's nice to have some clouds to play with compositionally. In this painting I waited and waited for one to appear, it didn't. Finally a jet flew over at altitude leaving a contrail for me to add to the sky. I probably would have anyway, that or a crow or three. But it's good when they help you out. This was a late morning painting, the landscape becoming quite flat by the time I painted it. I was counting on the design to help hold it together.
'Sunset on the Hills' oil-9x12 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
Josh Hoy loaded us all up in the back of The Plains Drifter, a 1956 grain truck that has had the bed converted to carry guests out into the hills on rides, and we went up to a high point to paint the end of the day. The color was astounding.
'Stock Pond' oil-11x14 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
I painted with Michael Albrechtson and John Potoschnick one afternoon on the Magathon Farm. We found some shade around one of the stock ponds on the farm, complete with stock. As we were painting some of the milk cows decided that they liked John and got very close, a noses' distance from him. All of his "Go away cow!" commands didn't do a bit of good. They wanted to watch his magic.
'Mike's Green Day' oil-5x7 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
This little monochromatic green painting, painted only with terre verte and white, is the result of a rather mischievous idea that I had for us all to do an 'all green' painting one morning. The reason is that Michael Albrechtson when showing us his work the night before was having a fit over his use of 'green', stemming from, according to him, his having been in the studio for a long period of time. We didn't think he was all that overtaken by green in the work, it looked quite good to us. But to help him along we pulled this little prank and that evening 7 of us laid out our green paintings all at once, much to his surprise and dismay! He got a kick out of it, good natured as he is, and we all had a laugh about it.
'Road to Bazaare, KS' oil-14x18 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
I drove back up to the area where we had painted the sundown piece the night before and found this view to the east that was captivating in it's 'largeness'. This was an interesting painting to me. It's painted quite thin, just enough paint on it to grab the fast moving light and it's color. I used a lot of sketchy strokes, laid down fast and untouched. The effect is one that I like and am finding myself using a little bit here and there since.
'Hot and Bright' oil-8x10 ©2011 Marc R. Hanson
This was my last painting of the trip. I stayed an extra day to get one more morning's work on the larger piece above and then had lunch with some of the group before they departed. Following that I went to explore another area that sounded intriguing... Sharpe's Creek Road. It was a beautiful place. I took a lot of photos but decided to do this one last painting. It was 'hot and bright' and I was tired and ready to hit the road.