Awestruck in the Adirondacks – Plein Air Invitational (Online art lesson #24)


PLEINAIR Magazine Publisher's Invitational, acrylic, Lillian Kennedy

PLEINAIR Magazine Publisher's Invitational, acrylic 10x20, Lillian Kennedy

Expanding your Art Comfort Zone gives you a roomier world.  It’s my theory that if you don’t actively expand this zone, it begins to shrink – and you start scrunching up instead of stretching out.

So, the assignment this week is to take a step into some territory that you want to explore but haven’t because the terrain makes you uneasy.  It can be a place that is out of your CZ either physically or emotionally.  Paint in the park, enter a show, do something with the computer that helps your art… don’t risk your health or sanity, just stretch out a bit.

You don’t need to go far; one step is a good start.  Relax with that step and see if you feel the increased spaciousness.

Of course, you’ll have to be uncomfortable for awhile to get this bigger space in which to live your life, but the expansion time can be full of excitement and wonder too.

My time at PleinAir Magazine’s Invitational in the Adirondacks included so much laughter and listening and learning that I will be absorbing the experience all summer.  It was also unnerving to the core, but now my world seems more open and my painting batteries are fully charged.

The first morning, I gathered body and soul into suitable painting clothes, rang my Tibetan singing bowl, and stepped out of  my cloistered comfort zone feeling like an intrepid explorer.  Accustomed to quietly gazing while alone in nature, I had fantasized about finding a beautiful pine tree to bond with.  Focusing in the hurly burly of a  group seemed a challenge, so I found a tucked away corner and set up in my little world.

Stage #1 "Into the Woods" Paul Smith College, L Kennedy, Golden OPEN acrylics

Stage #1 "Into the Woods "16"x20" Using slow drying Golden OPEN acrylics for the first time in high humidity made for a change in technique.


Rainy day plein air set up, Lillian Kennedy

Rainy day plein air set up. I have a felt backed plastic table cloth defining my studio. The waterproof side is down and the edges can fold up and over my "stuff" when the rain gets heavy. It also keeps the deer ticks away (Lyme disease).


As the rain splattered and pattered against the  umbrella, I thought that I might be about the only one out working on such a day.  Quite proud of this accomplishment, I signed the piece  and trotted it in to show at the Bobcat Bar (and temporary Museum).

I was dumbstruck by the quality and quantity of the other paintings on display  – all of them done that day in the rain!.  My confidence washed away faster than I would have thought possible.  Where had these people come from?  How had they made these varied, strong and lush paintings?  Why were they not showing signs of visible suffering?

Stage #2 "Into the Woods" Acrylic, Lillian Kennedy

Stage #2 "Into the Woods" using regular Utrecht acrylics as a second layer - slow drying enough in the rain!

Deciding that perhaps the slow drying acrylics and the green light seeping through the green umbrella had tricked my vision, I tried again the next day using regular acrylics and the palette knife as I do in the studio.  But I remained too unnerved to bring it back to the Bobcat.  Now I wonder why I lost my center, but I did.

I continued to paint and thoroughly enjoy the company of the other painters.   In fact, my fascination with everyone there became greater than my desire to bond with a pine tree.

By the last day, I was eager to paint with the group and headed out towards a gathering place.  I stopped just short of the location as the view was compelling.

Rainy day Adirondack view, L Kennedy, acrylic

Rainy day Adirondack view, L Kennedy, 10"x20" Golden Open acrylic

Soon it began to rain, but I was now in the swing of things and stayed on through the deluge. After awhile, however, I began to think of that farm just up the road where they were hosting our group.  I envisioned the fire and the pot of coffee, and soon I was imagining pastries too!   I drove up to join the party before all those pastries were gone, but

Rainy day Adirondack view, L Kennedy, acrylic

Rainy day Adirondack farm 9"x12" L Kennedy

to my amazement, everyone was outside painting. In the rain.  No fire, coffee or pastries.

I loved painting that day and now don’t fear the rain, or painting in a group, or putting out work that gets lost in a crowd of beautiful paintings.

Overheard: “We were lucky with the weather.” Huh? “Everyday the report has said thunderstorms, and it has only rained!”

Christin Coy in her found art Adirondack hat, PleinAir Invitational

Christin Coy found this beautiful strip of curled birch bark in the woods - complete with tree fungi - the perfect Adirondack Art Hat.

Also overheard: “I was painting in Canada and walked to Morocco for lunch”?  She was painting at Epcot.

In the next issue of PleinAir magazine, you will be able to see some of the amazing pieces that were created during the event.

Eric Rhoads put on this event, and he is putting together a plein air  convention and expo at Red Rock (Los Vegas) in April.  I will definitely try to make it!  And everyone is invited.

Please share your experiences with expanding your comfort zone by leaving a comment.



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8 Responses to Awestruck in the Adirondacks – Plein Air Invitational (Online art lesson #24)

  1. Jean in NH says:

    Very interesting post. For me there can never be too many reminders about expanding our comfort zone and you have said it so eloquently.

    After looking back and forth, back and forth at the two different “Back in the Woods” they remain equally attractive to me.

  2. Mike Reynolds says:

    Lillian, I am so glad you are embracing all the change in your life. I hope you truly enjoy your summer and then come back to us and teach us everything you have learned. I love your weekly art lesson.

    • Lillian Kennedy says:

      Thanks Mike,
      I miss you all and think of you often. And I am preparing some lessons for when I return! Happy painting + stay in touch.

  3. Charlene Kellsey says:

    Hi Lillian!
    It’s comforting to hear that even my teacher, who I consider such a good painter, can feel intimidated and out of her comfort zone. I really enjoyed your plein air workshop at Long’s Gardens before you left, it helped me feel more comfortable trying plein air scenes with the little watercolor and gouache kit. I’m also enjoying the change from my 11×14 panels to 18×24 watercolor paper for my acrylic paintings – I love the big, loose block-ins! I’m going to keep working with both, and hope to have lots of paintings to show you when you get back. Enjoy the rest of the summer!

  4. nyla Witmore says:

    Your esperience is a testament to those of us who say, “I never do such and such.”, “I can’t take………..”, “I have to have my special chair, special bed, special pillow etc. ……..”
    THE MORAL OF THE STORY…..STAY FLEXIBLE…. especially as you get older. And don’t rely on, “I’m too old to……….”

    Lil you’re an example for all of us.

    The paintings were absolutely stunning, and inviting, and above all…..VICTORIOUS!

  5. Lilly!
    …I’m soooo thrilled for you! …can’t wait to see all the work you produced during this event, PLUS hear ALL your stories! I’m PUMPED. Your stage 1 painting is beautiful in its own right, but I love the finesse of stage 2! …and painting in the RAIN!!! I’m truly impressed.
    I went to Bond Park in Estes Park tonight for a concert. There is a LOVELY view of Long’s Peak, especially nice at sunset. I was thinking while there (sometimes dangerous, I know!)…and wondered if the town will let anybody set up an easel there in the middle of the park in the middle of town and paint that scene. That might be a little out of my comfort zone, but I’d be willing to give it a try! Maybe we can have a field trip one day with Club Tuesday!
    We’re missing you!

  6. p.s. I clicked on the link to the convention in April at Red Rocks Park around Vegas, but it didn’t work. I actually read or heard about this someplace else, and boy do I want to go… Bill told me it’s a “maybe!” …usually that means YES!

  7. Pingback: Between a Rock and a Wet Place: Keeping Your Art Balance (Online art lesson #62) |

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