Artist Patrick Michael Karnahan – Chasing Daylight (his words)
Landscape painting has always been a great challenge and a teacher to me. Today’s art term for
this expression is Plein Air. The term is used a lot in the gallery world, but I still like to call it
simply from nature. To paint historical subject matter, which I do often, an artist must gain the
creative skills attained from painting from life. To sit on a bluff high above the ocean, on a cold
and windy day, to have your full palette of colors in front of you, that is what it is all about! To
feel the sunlight’s warmth change by the hour, to hear the various birds speak back and forth, for
a moment the artist becomes one with the environment that is being captured.
I painted my very first life landscape at age fifteen, of my family’s ranch barn. I remembered how
amazed it was to see how the colors could change so fast, in fact it always seemed like I was
racing with the sun..
Today, I use the term “chasing daylight” (catching the color before it’s gone). As an artist
however, you do have to pick the final time of day for your subject, but it is a creative journey in
getting there sometimes.
When considering a good subject matter, I must always think about changing light and colors.
“I’ve always believed that between 3pm and 5pm work best. Other considerations are the
weather, temperature and wind factor. Remembering the many times I taught landscape painting
in Ireland, where I once lived, one minute it would be so nice and sunny, canvas and paints ready,
—and then comes a cloudburst. At times I would have to complete the artwork from the
dashboard of my car with the windshield wipers running.
One important lesson I learned the hard way was, -keep your body warm at all times. When
painting landscapes, you sometimes- loose track of time, and as the outside air is lowering so is
your body temperature. In 1987, I was doing an art study of the famous ‘Cliffs of Moher’, in
County Clare. It was a very cold and windy day and it started to rain. I decided to keep on
painting in the rain. After five hours of painting I started to get cold, I mean very cold. I made my
way to a pub to have a Guinness. After I took half the pint down I realized I was getting a case of
cold exposure. Thank goodness the pub owner had lots of blankets to pull be out of my condition
or I would have been dead.
Wind can always be a factor when painting on the ocean. Along the California & Oregon
Coastlines I have lost a few canvases due to strong updraft winds. Once I had an almost
completed seascape of Big Sur’s, Big Creek Bridge, blow right off the easel and lost to the ocean
below. With all the challenges of life painting it’s still my favorite. Many times I will take with
me a good bottle of wine and a guitar. When the sun is down I often perform a little concert of my
songs to the sky and sea. There is nothing like living in your own landscape on a magical
afternoon Chasing Daylight!
I own a house in Shelter Cover near Black Sands Beach, and often I find myself painting the view
to the north of my house, toward King Peak. When not near the ocean, I live and manage a small
ranch and vineyard in the Sierra Nevada. I’m still not fully retired however from past life of being a
Wildland firefighter with the United States Forest Service, but at age 62, these legs will give out
someday I suppose…if anything, I will have more time to oil paint and “Chase Daylight”…