I always try to take a break after a workshop, but this week, the break was dictated by a back injury. Plein air painters lug around a lot of gear, and when I'm teaching a workshop, I lug around a bit more than usual. This, followed by packing the car - and extending my back in a cantilevered position to tuck the gear into the car's deepest recesses - did me in.
Two days of novels and movies and boredom, however, have driven me back into the field. I've been observing the live oaks. Trina and I are in Fairhope, Alabama, visiting family, and Fairhope is home to some lovely specimens. They're full of twisting branches, limbs draped with ferns and epiphytes, and even though we're just one day from winter, deep green foliage. I've spotted several that I hope to paint before we leave.
Yesterday, I painted one pair down in the park by Mobile Bay. Although these younger trees don't have the great, muscled limbs of their older brothers, the evening light on them caught my fancy. I thought it was a good time to try a small oil study and to get back into painting.
"Fairhope Live Oaks" 5x7, oil
I stood to paint this, and it really tired out my back. Today, I'm better, and I did a painting of my in-laws' house, but this time I remained seated.
The lesson for the week: Be careful of your back. We painters so often think of protecting our eyes and our hands. But painting, and especially outdoor painting, is a very physical activity, and we should take care with the rest of our bodies. There are exercises one can do to strengthen the back, and yoga can help greatly.