Jonalyn's Watercolor Blog

Painting Outside: Why Do it? a real life plein air story

Every painting has a story, some scarier than others.

The Unmarked White Van

Warm enough to paint outside, I packed early for Seabrook, New Hampshire. Near the border of Massachusetts, Seabrook is renown for roughness. The half block deserted beach held several tantalizing lobster boats close to shore. I parked and walked to the ideal spot. I had set up my gear and painted the first wash before an unmarked white van pulled up.

The male driver parked close enough to watch me, but far enough that I couldn’t see his eyes. I could see he was looking in my direction. Perhaps an aspiring artist?

Yea, right.

My favorite podcasters had just finished a review of “The Silence of the Lambs”. Consequently, I felt my alarm bells ringing louder than usual. If he got out and asked for help to move a couch . . .

I tried to think big picture. I’d invested in my easel, umbrella, palette and tripod (not to mention the painting), should I leave them or spend the time to pack up?

I left them all, strode a half block to my truck, started the engine. But I didn’t drive away. Instead, I drove back to my easel, staking my claim with my getaway car right next to me.

I got out, continued to paint. The man in the van reclined his seat. He was going to be around for awhile.

Here’s the picture I took when he finally drove away. I watched him watching me in his side view mirror as he pulled out of sight. I still don’t know what he was doing, maybe just enjoying the same beautiful view I was.

So why do it? Why not simply snap a picture to paint later?

The clarity of that early morning light is different from what a camera can capture. I will use the study to build several more studies and then create a larger piece. These are the field notes, and you cannot get them unless you go out to the field.

I keep all my successful studies; they will form the backbone for future work of this time living in New Hampshire. They are priceless.

Personal Update

We moved out of our beach rental for a month road-tripping to say our goodbyes.

We are moving away from New Hampshire to begin our journey to our new floating home.

Someone asked why we named her Lady Grey. Lady Grey is also our fourth Lady (we had three corgis, Lady Lucia, Lady Jane and Lady Victoria) before her. Lady Grey is also a hat tip to our favorite British authors, C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, Dorothy L. Sayers, G.K. Chesterton. And let’s not forget the amazing short reign of Lady Jane Grey, Queen of England, who fascinates me, but isn’t really our inspiration. She was beheaded after all. We chose to paint Lady Grey this gorgeous creamy grey, you can see the progress pic below.

We have been planning our move to Lady Grey for five years, and we are ready for this next adventure. You should know, I will be painting all along the way, irregardless of ocean crossings, storms, or white vans.

Speaking of which, take a look at what’s new.

New Paintings

Find “Applecrest Harvest” in my Shop


Find “One Half Peck” in my Shop


Find “Apple Cider Donuts” in my Shop.

Did you know you can ask for my guidance through my Shop. Have a particular occasion or celebration you’d like to honor with a painting?

Simply contact me and I’ll guide you with a personal email.

Our Norse sailboat, Sept 2017, Dillon Lake Reservoir, near Vale, CO.


Lady Grey, April 2024, 80% complete, Knysna, South Africa



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You might also enjoy...

Nubble Lighthouse Reflections watercolor painting with white lighthouse, blue water reflecting sky.
A New Adventure Sailing the World

The last five years, from the Rockies to the Atlantic Ocean, our family has inched closer to the …

"Beauty from Prickles" - Cactus with yellow bloom
Who Tells Your Story?

We can all remember certain stories that define us. When you think of your favorites stories growing up, …

Covid art of doctor with COVID era mask in the shape of a hand covering her mouth.
COVID Paintings – Reviews from the VIRTUAL Watercolor Show

When you finish an event, two years in the making, it’s wonderful to be able to share the …

Subscribe to Jonalyn’s blog

We respect your privacy.