Li’l Van Go

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Dear Artist,

In my chronic weakness for mobile painting stations, I bought a panel van. With the current passion for economical cars sweeping the world, plenty of these vehicles are on the market. I figured there were 200 of them on one stretch of used car lots near here. They’re mostly white, mostly off-lease ex-phone company, cablevision or rental redundancies selling for anywhere between $4000 and $14,000. Mine is a barebones 2004 Ford E150 V8, an ex-Budget rental truck. I’m calling her “Li’l Van Go.”

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2004 Ford E150. I haven’t quite figured out how to finish the interior walls

The first thing I did was put down a flat plywood floor and cover it with a replaceable carpet. A local auto-glass company installed a removable sunroof over the easel area. The easel, palette and paint storage are near the rear so the doors can be thrown open for the view. A painter can sit comfortably but he can’t stand up.

The first few sorties were spent in our driveway. I was testing the heights of various chairs and the relative positions and handiness of things. Then yesterday I took her out in stormy conditions. What a delight to be there under the soft skylight with the rain beating on the roof, the CD whispering “Starry, Starry Night,” and umbrella-huddled passersby paying scant attention.

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The built-in easel can be rotated to take advantage of back door lighting

But there’s more to the disappearing act than that. It has to do with the simplicity and lack of clutter of such an environment. Mobility is one thing, but insularity is another. One need not go far. Without the phone and the computer, no matter where you are, the mind clears and the brush settles into a pleasant rural rhythm. Contemplation and the blessing of steady application pervade. I found myself dwelling on the multiple trunks of a paper birch. The words “snug” and “smug” came to mind.

I drove into a nearby forest. I opened the doors and turned off the CD. The storm abated and the rain stopped. Late sunlight penetrated the tall timbers. I listened to the reflected calls of barred owls. Peace overtook me and I painted once more.

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It’s not just a panel van anymore, it’s a way of life.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods.” (John Muir)

Esoterica: One of the features of a dedicated mobile work station is the ready availability of tools and material as soon as you pull up. Acrylic brushes stay water-immersed in a deep container. The palette is quickly replenished by the tubes at hand. Glazes and other media in squirt bottles stand at alert. All is well, and the move to painting is second nature. “The mind of the sage, being in repose, becomes the mirror of the universe, the speculum of all creation.” (Chuang Tzu)

 

Li’l Van Go

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There are still plenty of these to go around–sitting at the back of used car lots

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2004 Ford E150. I haven’t quite figured out how to finish the interior walls

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Sunroof. The auxiliary lighting beside it is one of those battery operated LED headlamps

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The built-in easel can be rotated to take advantage of back door lighting

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It’s not just a panel van anymore, it’s a way of life

 

 

 

 

 

 


Golden days on the roof
by Philip Mix, Victoria, BC, Canada
 

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Terraced Vineyard, 1994 (left)
All Along, 2009 (right)
original paintings
by Philip Mix

I hope yours gets good mileage, metaphorically that is. I placed a platform on top of my van when I cruised Israel and Cyprus, there was hardly ever rain and what I desired was a vantage point that gave my paintings a sense of grandness even though they were small. I worked in gouache on board (very portable for travel) and translated them to larger works later. Well that was a long time ago but strangely today I just thought of it on my morning tranquility, talk to God, walk. Maybe your letter is serendipity or maybe it’s a cue. Now I paint differently than then but the inspiration is the same. I enclose an example from then, and one from now.

(RG note) Thanks Philip. When Carol and I were first married, we lived for nearly two years in a VW bus all over Europe. We used to hang up my oil painted canvases on lines inside the bus to dry — and sleep under them. Later we had a 28 ft motor-home for 17 years, and yes, that roof really came in handy, and not just for the canoe.

 


Life with Vinni Van Go
by Eleanor Reykjalin
 

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“The welcoming”
original painting
by Eleanor Reykjalin

Mine is a 2003 Kia, Sedona. I bought her 2 years ago. After the purchase, as I was driving her home, I named her “Vinni Van Go.” Over the Labour Day weekend I have been out to the Cypress Hills, just outside of Maple Creek, Saskatchewan. teaching an oil painting workshop and doing some Plein Air. It was wonderful and Mother Nature presented herself in her true colours and natural compositions, what more could an artist ask for? As for “Vinni” she provides me with a working studio on wheels, I travel fairly lightly, and have room for everything I need to paint outdoors and if necessary I can accommodate painting in the back. I also have sleeping accommodations that are most comfortable. I love the sense of oneness and peace in the surroundings of my choosing. It is absolutely delightful to fall into a deep sleep as the sky slowly darkens and the owls hoot their lullaby, the trees sway and move with the breezes, the pine cones and needles tap on the roof and at other times the pattering of raindrops… I have no need to listen to music on the stereo, I don’t think of hearing about any news stories and I don’t have to watch the clock or be on time. In fact the sun, the stars and the moon determine what will happen next. Even if a storm should come along I can take comfort in my surroundings. The only requirement that I impose on myself is to not leave a shred of evidence that I was ever there and dispose of all garbage in an appropriate manner, therefore leaving only my footprint and the marks of my tires, and in due time the weather conditions will take care of that. “Touch the earth, feel the earth, rest your spirit in her solitary places.” (Henry Beston)



There is 1 comment for Life with Vinni Van Go by Eleanor Reykjalin

From: Cosette Copperfield — Sep 21, 2009

Eleanor,

This is one of the most beautiful paintings I have ever seen. You have a magnificent talent.

 


Perils of the outdoors
by Frank Nicholas, Wheaton, IL, USA
 

With a smile on my face, I read through your analysis and procedure regarding the van. I’ve never considered going that far, but have done other things to keep out of weather. Sometimes it’s been just, run for the trees or try to get all the stuff onto somebody’s porch. My location work is almost always in watercolor and my paper and board is fairly flat. We have similar struggles when it comes to picking up in a speedy manner. Both hands with clutching fingers holding loose items and both arms and even chin squeezing to grip all of my stuff. Thanks for sharing with us the need to consider a customized van as a rolling studio.

 


Super portable kit
by Jeanne Long, Minneapolis, MN, USA
 

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photo of sketchbook, kit, and New York Times

Love everything about your L’il Van Go! It seems to really fit your needs, and be a work of art in itself. I share your love for finding the perfect travel gear, but on a much smaller scale. I put together a sketching kit, in a camera bag. I found that not only did I take it into the field, but I tend to enjoy using it on the dining room table with the New York Times providing me with some inspiring scenery that I might not have access to on my own!



There is 1 comment for Super portable kit by Jeanne Long

From: M. Browett — Sep 17, 2009

What a great idea using an old camera bag for all the stuff needed to paint outdoors. I use a tiny case of Windsor Newton watercolours plus small sketchbook and pen/pencil when outside and have to use my backpack to carry it but your idea is much better especially since I have an old camera bag. Thanks for sharing.

 


Nirvana in a Ford van
by Susan K Burgess, Marblehead, MA, USA
 

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“Town Hall, San Gemini, Italy”
watercolour painting
by Susan K Burgess

This letter actually made me weep — for joy that you’ve found nirvana in a Ford panel van and for a moment such as you described when ‘peace overtook you.’ Thank you for your inspiration and communal friendship that finds its way through these letters. It’s of immeasurable support to painterly souls like me, wandering across the world’s landscapes searching to steal a moment in time and space. We paint that moment to capture it, but then we must let it go — to galleries and to other walls than ours. So — drive on, as Li’l Van Go would say.

 


Might take off again soon
by Marina des Tombe, Florence, Italy
 

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Marina des Tombe

I read your email and wanted to thank you. It reminded me of when I used to go painting in my old camper. I would just take off and stop on a nice spot (which is about everywere here in the Chianti area). I would put on some Music, make myself a cup of tea (which tastes much better made in the old camper) and with the rain tinkling on the roof I would paint for a few hours. What a fantastic feeling, and you are right it is immediately a different World, far away of all the thoughts and distractions, even though maybe only 10 minutes from home.So thanks for reminding me, I might take off soon again now that I remember the sensation.

 

 


Van Go down under
by Hans Werner, Australia
 

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Hans Werner’s mobile studio

Now you have started something, and I look forward to many others from all over the world, a subject for another book perhaps?

 

 


Life on the road
by Charles Peck, Punta Gorda, Florida, USA
 

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“Dance Of The Complements”
acrylic painting
by Charles Peck

I was brightened by your letter and the great “blast from the past” it brought flooding into my mind.

I spent several years traveling the Gulf of Mexico coastline of the southern U.S.A. States after Nam first in an old ’62 ford station wagon, then a sort of newish Ford Econoline van, next a converted school bus then a converted ’56 1 1/2 ton ford Utility van milk truck as my final version. I lived as well as painted out of these various rolling studios often pulling up to outdoor Art fairs and doing quick sketch portraits. A couple of times I was waylaid to play house for awhile but the road becomes an enchanting seductress in its own right and usually won out in the end. There is an immersion in the moment to fling the rear doors open, unstrap one’s materials and get right back into painting that which is in front of one I have not found anywhere else … except anchoring one’s sailboat and setting up on deck to have a go at it or taking the dinghy to shore with the French easel and looking about for some shade and a view.

 


Heavy duty ‘paintmobile’
by Jen Lacoste, South Africa
 

Ron Ranson mentions Walter Gonske of New Mexico (in his book Modern Oil Impressionists) : “This commitment to immediacy has led him to acquire a customized pick-up truck which he calls his ‘paintmobile’: It’s a Ford cab and chassis with a box-like camper which gives plenty of space to work in all kinds of conditions, undisturbed. The recreational space is appointed with built in racks for canvasses and special shelves for paint. ‘I can stack fifty canvasses in there, and twenty-five tubes of each colour of paint. That’s enough for about a month of work.’ ”

We have refitted several old (very old) VW Kombi vans, and have found that, in the absence of available spare parts, quite adequate interior wall panels might be made from approximately 3mm hardboard or Masonite cut to measure, and covered with lightweight stick-on carpet tiles, or vinyl fabric. These are pretty easy to screw/rivet into place.



There are 2 comments for Heavy duty ‘paintmobile’ by Jen Lacoste

From: Patrick — Sep 18, 2009

Walt Gonske happens to be one of my favorite painters. I was recently playing on YouTube and searched his name. What came up was a wonderful tour of his “paintmobile.” He shares many great ideas.

From: Lauren Everett Finn — Sep 18, 2009

Here’s the link to the video Patrick talks about (thanks Patrick)

 

 


Deluxe camper
by John Hulsey, KS, USA
 

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John Hulsey’s mobile studio, VanGo

Your letter on mobile studios brought back fond memories of my own “rolling studio,” our 1984 Westphalia deluxe camper also named VanGo. We drove all over the U.S. in it, painting as we went, and when we finally retired it, it had over 200,000 miles on it! I have attached a photo here of it parked in Yosemite National Park, where I was invited to spend a month painting as artist-in residence. Some of your readers may remember reading about two of my painting excursions in VanGo, the first article, published in American Artist Magazine’s June 1991 issue, Traveling Cross-Country with Watercolors,” and the second in Watercolor Magazine’s Summer 1998 issue,”The Range of Light.” The Westphalia is an ideal vehicle for the traveling painter as it contains a large water tank, sink with electrical pump, propane stove and refrigerator (which will run for weeks on a full tank of gas, built-in ) allowing one to paint in very remote locations for an extended period without resupply, and only then for perishables! The pop-up top allows for standing up and also the use of the upper sleeping berth, the openable skylight and large sliding door provide for ventilation, and the swing-out table over the large bench seat in the back makes a terrific painting surface when inclement weather hits. There is beaucoup storage, including a hanging closet for jackets and tall stuff, and snap-in screens and curtains provide a bug-free and private environment in which to work, play, or just take a mid-day nap. Great gas mileage and high ground clearance meant that we could go just about anywhere, even off-road. (They also made an all-wheel drive version). Our water-cooled version also had air conditioning, but lacked a lot of horsepower, so one needed to drive conservatively. We loved it and even got used to the typical Volkswagen quirks, like an unpredictable electrical system. On one trip, we were driving up to the 12,000 ft. summit of Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park late at night, and right at the top, just before the road took a sharp right, the headlights went out — a real adrenaline moment! I was able to work the bright headlight switch, and by holding it on, get enough lights back on for the drive down to Estes Park for a repair. So many great painting adventures in VanGo — in my view, the best-designed mobile studio ever built. I hope to find another one someday.

 

 

woa
 
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Old Friend

oil painting, 60 x 60 inches
by Cross Trinity

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Michael Pointer of Afghanistan, who wrote, “I’m in Afghanistan for the next two years working with the Afghanistan Dental Relief Project. I always supported my art by working as a dental technician. Now I’m here teaching what I know and bringing toothbrushes to people who’ve never seen one. It seems that dental abscesses kill many people here. Your lively and interesting discussions are a great solace to me.”

And also Peter Reid of Chatsworth, ON, Canada, who wrote, “Maybe an office chair with wheels would give you a bit more mobility and you could get the height/tilt just right. You would need to secure it during transport. You can even roll back a bit while painting.”

(RG note) Thanks, Peter. Right on! I tried a few paintings with my favorite twenties secretary chair with wheels. It’s definitely the best but awkward always having to tie down when moving. Also, half the time I want to get outside and the cheap lawn chair is quick and light.

And also ‘Papa Joe’ Marchant of Richardson, TX, USA, who wrote, “I have been considering a small school bus or an airport parking van. Either of these vehicles eliminates the need for a removable sun roof as a six foot person can stand in either of the vehicles and both are air conditioned. The small school bus appears to be the best. One with a handicapped lift in the rear is very appealing. But what I really want is a Monet barge. If I could only afford my own pond. My backyard koi pond will not support my dream.
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Li’l Van Go

 

 

From: Jeanette — Sep 14, 2009

How cool! I have a feeling the surplus of used vans is going to dwindle in the coming months, thanks to Lil’ Van Go.

From: charles peck — Sep 15, 2009

Good Morning Robert,

This am was brightened by your letter and the great “blast from the past” it brought flooding into my mind.

I spent several years traveling the Gulf of Mexico coastline of the southern U.S.A. States after Nam first in an old ’62 ford station wagon, then a sort of newish ford econoline van, next a converted school bus then a converted ’56 1 1/2 ton ford Ultility van milk truck as my final version. I lived as well as painted out of these various rolling studios often pulling up to outdoor Art fairs and doing quick sketch portraits. A couple of times I was waylaid to play house for awhile but the road becomes an enchanting seductress in its own right and usually won out in the end. There is an immersion in the moment to fling the rear doors open, unstrap one’s materials and get right back into painting that which is in front of one’s self I have not found anywhere else … except anchoring one’s sailboat and setting up on deck to have a go at it or taking the dinghy to shore with the french easel and looking about for some shade and a view. Thanks for those youthful memories.

From: Cora — Sep 15, 2009

Gotta say I am not sure about that. I think for myself, I would rather be outside in the air, not boxed up. I think it would kind of stifle my muse. It is a cool idea though, if it could be outfitted with stove and bed for travel around the country. Better and more economical then one of those air stream mobile homes. You may start some kind of market for artist vehicles.

From: Jackie Knott — Sep 15, 2009

I’ve pondered on how to convert the back end of my little Honda CRV (which is equipped with a collapsible, stored table) as a remote studio. It’s still our primary vehicle so it must also be a quick and easy reversal. Thanks for some ideas.

One difference between our northern neighbors and your colleagues here in south Texas is — we have endured 68 days of 100 degree plus temperatures this summer. We would bake inside any vehicle even with the windows down and doors open. We must be outside in the shade.

How can you not see the sides of Lil’ Van Go and all that lovely white space as canvas begging for paint? It may attract more attention than you want but you won’t ever have to hunt for it in a parking lot.

From: Peggy — Sep 15, 2009

We just bought a Sportsmobile van from E-Bay! I am a retired (and re-wired) art teacher from the public school system. I have found my possibilities for a mobile art studio endless. There is an artist van conversion on the web site Sportsmobile.com in the gallery. I am creating a list for travel and painting destinations. I hope you will create a web page for just this topic!

From: Melissa Evangeline Keyes — Sep 15, 2009

Hooray for you and Lil Van Go! I lived on the road a lot, and wandering on sailboats. Nothing so wonderful as a change of scenery. And being away from the computer!

From: Diane Leifheit — Sep 15, 2009

Sorry about this decision. For the sake of your art you have increased your carbon footprint. How ironic you have chosen to record visions that will eventually vanish from our reality because of addiction to big vehicles. You are becoming a recorder of the demise of your landscape. I am disappointed.

From: Dwight Williams, Idaho — Sep 15, 2009

But Robert, you’re stuck with only roadside views. Lots to see beyond the end of the road.

From: Eleanor Reykjalin — Sep 15, 2009

I have been using a mini van for years for a mini studio and also a means of transporting myself and my art. My newest being a 2003 Kia (sedona) after purchasing her 2 years ago (at auction), as I was driving her home, I named her Vinni Van Go. I travel down the road with only the things I absolutely need and even have sleeping accomadations, I don’t feel I am leaving a signifigant footprint on the earth, I was brought up to respect the earth and to be a steward of the land. The only footprint I leave are my own footprints and tire tracks in the soil and Mother Nature takes care of that by creating weather conditions to sweep the soil. I often walk to my more remote locations and don’t create a burden for anyone to have to clean up after me, also, it beats the heck out of staying in a motel where one is creating a signigant footprint. I have fresh air, mother natures pallette to work from and she creates even grander compositions, as well I am in constant awe of the sights and sounds that awaken me in the morning and lull me to sleep at night….I am entertained with teriffic natural light shows like the Northern Lights or a Thunder and Lightening storm,there is no need to pay hundreds of dollars to see a rock concert that needs 6 semis to haul equipment, an abundance of electricity as well as thousands of plastic cups and litter from fans. Now there is a FOOTPRINT!!! I can work quite comfortably from the back of my van or go it outdoors, its all up to me. I can relive the times of just “being” whether it is remembering great times in the back of a 67 Chevy Van, listening to Jimmy Buffet or in 2009 and still listening to Jimmy and painting Plein Air>

From: Barbara Tibbets — Sep 15, 2009

Wow, Diane was a little hard on you Robert. I say go for it! Life is too short not to enjoy your art endeavors. Maybe do other things to reduce that carbon footprint. A trade off. Have fun.

From: sitting by the river — Sep 15, 2009

you bought a van, to paint in. who cares? not I.

From: Kelley MacDonald — Sep 15, 2009

I agree, Diane was too hard on you – think about it Diane – he didn’t ‘commission’ this vehicle to be built – he didn’t even buy it new – SOMEone would be driving it, if not Robert. Rest assured, these drivable vehicles are not going to the dump. And I think recording the vistas which may disappear is an honorable job.

From: Bobbi Heath — Sep 15, 2009

I’ve painted and sketched from the front seat, and it is pretty cumbersome. Love your van idea. And I’m so glad to see there is room for your awesome Airedale. I wish mine were better at watching me paint!

From: William Wallace — Sep 15, 2009

I love the name for the vehicle, lately I’ve been experimenting with waterbased paint pens. The first thought that came into my head upon hearing the name and seeing the van was that I would paint my own version of “Starry Night” down the entire side of it. The pens being like “magic markers” would be perfect for duplicating his style. Once painted simply ” seal” with clear acrylic.

The result would pretty that “beast” right up! I believe it would also be quite the attention getter, and conversation starter. I use these pens for mural work and to paint surfboards.

From: Jackie Ivey-Weaver — Sep 15, 2009

Lil Van Go is cool, man.

If the inside walls are in sections, use the sections for storage of rags, paper towels (small rolls), cans or plastic containers of mineral spirits(or whatever you use). Of course you could use netting or install little doors to hold them in place. Have fun !

From: Lynn Kenneth Pecknold — Sep 15, 2009

Bravo! You always know how to infect us with a joyful spirit an urge us/yourself to follow our/your passion. I am looking forward to the contrast of images when your chauffeur drives you down the highway while you get a sketch of the traffic behind! Love what you do.

From: Dorenda Crager Watson — Sep 15, 2009

Several of my students over the years have purchased the old, retired U.S. Mail trucks from the postal service (with the sliding side door) for this very same purpose…some have even used them as portable selling stations and traveling classrooms as well!

From: Jane Morris — Sep 15, 2009

Someone is going to want to know how how much fuel you are burning.

My son JD is manufacturing 10, 12, 14, foot aluminum boats for fly fishing. I asked him why anyone would want a 10 footer. With a grin he said ” Easy to travel with. Too small to take a friend along.

From: Janice Robinson-Delaney — Sep 15, 2009

You must have a magnificent library or master internet searching skills in addition to your artistic talents (though talent seem sort of diminuitive, downright inappropriate for you as far as I can tell). Such priceless PS’s!

From: Sheila Psaledas — Sep 15, 2009

Good message. It reminds me of my first SUV, a Chevy Suburban. A big gas guzzler, but in those days, who cared? I often used it for painting “plein air” in winter. I had a folding seat, an easel with telescopic legs and my set of paints or pastels in the back. I would turn on the engine, and crank up the heat when the car cooled down. I realize now that when you really want to accomplish something, just apply yourself and it’ll happen!

From: John Wordsworth — Sep 15, 2009

Your van is clearly not a “Van Ordinaire” !

From: Wilma Hardenburgh — Sep 15, 2009

What an incredible idea!

Thanks for sending the pictures to give the visuals needed to get a fuller understanding.

The removal from all things electronic is so needed since most of us are so caught up in this world.

Thank you for your letters. I enjoy and learn much from them. You are to be commended for taking the time to do this.

From: Rodney Cobb — Sep 15, 2009

Just read your e-mail about your new van, looked at the pics, and noticed the responses to your prior e-mails.

I have to admit that I suspected that some of the “bait” in your emails, were made up. But, have read enough now to believe that they are real. Was skeptical because it is hard to believe that someone would have an EQ (not IQ) such they would put those ideas in writing. Wow, it is both hilarious and sad.

The real delightful part is the responses (and often your e-mails) contain gems of great wisdom.

Moreover, thank you for sponsoring all of these great art ideas.

Rodney

P.S. Hope you enjoy your new painting venue–in the van. (It reminded me of how Trevor Chamberlaind would sometimes set up for plein air painting in a corner of walls so that by passers would not disturb him.)

From: Valerie McCaffrey — Sep 15, 2009

Jealous, jealous, jealous!!!! But wait! I can have one of my own, can’t I? It’s a worthy goal – even for a studio artist such as myself and as I write this I find myself being grateful for your generous sharing of ideas, Robert. I share so many of them with my students – and this one is a “keeper”.

From: Kate Jackson — Sep 15, 2009

BRILLIANT! How clever and adaptable you are, and dedicated to being IN the painting! My Dad would have loved this, Robert, he didn’t paint in his van, but he and his dog got out and photographed nature as often and as adventurously as you do I believe.

I know you could probably paint one of these landscapes in your sleep by now, but the passion you have for actually being there and capturing the essence and energy of the scene before you is impressive and encouraging.

Thanks for being you, and sharing with all of us!

From: Dyan Law — Sep 15, 2009

Three years ago while I was preparing to head North to Vermont to paint I signed a three-year lease on a 325XI BMW the day before my Autumn journey. “Me and my Plein Air Beemer” Sport Wagon were headed for the hills, loaded to the gills with boxes of art supplies. I bought a huge plastic tray from the dealership for the rear floor to protect my “investment”. The rear door of the wagon lifts so as not to obstruct my peripherial views and also protects me and my trusty easel from the elements. I set-up my metal easel just outside the rear door and basically tailgate-it with my supplies easily available in the tray. The wagon has a double-size moon roof which I open for overhead light and ventilation. This plein-air station of mine has 4-wheel drive, gets good mileage and although certainly a pricier version of the panel van, it happens to be my main source of transportation when not in painting use. I was avoiding buying an SUV for various reasons, but wanted a good amount of cargo space for transporting my paintings to galleries and exhibitions.

Whatever the choice of mobile studio, if it “fits” it’s worth looking into. OR…in this case “looking out of”!!

From: Catherine Hayduk — Sep 15, 2009

Thanks for sharing your piece of heaven on wheels. Very inspirational! I too owned a van (pop top rules) but the real added bonus was the small sink with water storage that I had installed. Great for clean-up.

Happy travels,

Catherine

From: Kittie Beletic — Sep 15, 2009

Since I was very small I found that being mobile was one of my greatest muses! I would try and try to write my English assignment and somehow didn’t find the words until I was in the apple tree down the street. The answers to math problems and the solutions to life challenges seemed to come when I was removed from my usual surroundings. Sometimes just moving from one room to another has helped free my tethered mind. When I was writing musicals, my children were small and carpool was my middle name. (I wrote a song called “I’m Drowning in the Carpool of Life”) I wrote the melodies and the lyrics to 3 of those plays while driving. My sweet Allison was only 5 years old at the time. I dictated letters that symbolized notes on the scale and she would write them sequentially on a legal pad with arrows pointing up or down to signify which octave the notes were in. I would have her write the time signature at the beginning and put lines in between the musical and lyrical phrases. We were collaborators, Ali and I, and to this day, those songs are some of the best written!

Mobility is the nature of creativity. It is a natural partner and for me, a glorious one! When I get stuck, I move. When I need space, I move. When I want fun, I move and groove. When inspiration has waned, mobility unclouds my eyes and I am free again! It is a muse who is a trusted friend and gives a whole new meaning to “moving day”.

From: Dorothy — Sep 16, 2009

Thank you!

How funny!

I have started driving my husband to appointments {usually a two hour drive and a two hour meeting} so that he can work and be on the phone. I am not crazy about John being distracted on busy roads. Yes-I am now a chauffer. I need a cap!

I am facing a long drive this morning and an even longer meeting time. Last night I thought, “Hey, I’ll take some open acrylics and challenge myself to find a painting in a parking area.

I WILL have a VanGo soon!

You are brilliant, My Kind Friend!

From: Michael Weaver — Sep 16, 2009

Hi! I just wish to tell you that I spent a good deal of time poring over the L’il Van Go article and the photographs, which were particularly good. I love the idea of the reconverted indutrail van for Art! You look like a king – very good indeed – and with a dog of such nobility at your side.

From: Deb Strong Napple — Sep 16, 2009

Your Lil Van Go letter came just two weeks after I bought a camper van to get out and do more landscape. I spent this summer on a landscape painting residency, and I learned that one of the challenges is getting enough time in a location to get to know it well enough to paint it. So I bought a camper that will let me and my dog Spam live close by, and get out to paint.

It looks like we have different goals for our vehicles…yours will get to close enough to paint from it, mine will allow me to spend a few days living nearby, but I will leave it to paint. Unless, of course, it rains. Then the awning on the side comes out and I stick close.

From: Corinne Spinnler — Sep 16, 2009

Hi Robert:

I just loved the story on your new (2004) van. Being a plein air painter – I was painting with you, smelling the rain, then the forest……every step of the way. Thanks so much for sharing this experience, being 71 now I wish I had a van – it would sure make it easier to take the equipment. Sincerely, Corinne Spinnler in El Paso, Texas.

From: Alfonso Tejada — Sep 16, 2009

Sr Don Roberto: I could not stop myself from trying to guess what goes into your mind, One day is spiritual, other times academic or political and we get a whole spectrum of thoughts without an index. The one companion that you keep at your side may also have some relevant ideas and comments about your thinking–doing processes and I have tried to guess what is going on her mind. Please do not try to fly to the moon as we enjoy tour earthly thoughts even if they are as random as the weather and the moon. We wait anxiously for them to come twice a week to give us a shot of our own reality.

From: Isabel Benson — Sep 16, 2009

Or why not Winnie Bay Gogh?

From: kristi Krafft — Sep 17, 2009

I love my 4 wheel drive Ford Expedition. I can scout offroad painting locations without getting stuck.It’s great for when it’s too windy, cold, or too many bugs to work outside. Also, safe for a lone female when it’s getting dark in some remote area, although I do like to bring along my rottweiller. I like to sit in the back seat and put the front seat all the way forward to have plenty of working room. I have a laptop pochade and just look out the side window. Very comfy!

From: Gail Harper,NY — Sep 18, 2009

…great food for thought….a mini motorhome has been on my list for a few years…..perhaps I will explore your Van idea.

As usual your your letter has struck a note!

Thank you, Robert

From: Kathie Newman, IL — Sep 19, 2009

One of my favorite stories about Anthony Thieme, Rockport/Cape Ann painter, is that he cut out the floor of his station wagon back in the ’30’s so that he could stand and paint while protected from the elements. His coastal winter scenes (and others) are breathtaking.

From: Gregory Schrupp — Sep 19, 2009

Interesting use of color and form in the ‘terrace’. I enjoyed this semi abstract piece for its basic concept of exploring ‘real’ geometric form.

From: C A Debrosky — Sep 21, 2009

Way to GO (Pardon the pun…)

A few years ago I rigged up my bike to hold/carry painting supplies. It allowed me access to places where there was no drive/parking/roadway to get a car.

I have gone ‘car”painting as well, but the bike seemed a more “pedestrian’ approach.

 

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