Battlefield Park

In 2017 I visited family in Berea, Kentucky. I made sure to pack my easel in case I was able to get a few minutes to myself during our week-long trip. I was on the lookout for the perfect object to collage as we explored the Berea area. On one of our drives, I had noticed that there were a lot of black barns dotting the farmland. I am accustomed to barns, but the ones I see are usually red. The black paint was such a visual contrast next to the light blue skies. I thought it would be the perfect subject matter for a new collage. I made a note of the closest barn to my family’s home.

Midway through the week I got my chance to go to paint. The weather was beautiful and the afternoon was free. I asked my husband if he wanted to come along and we packed our young son—along with the paints and canvas—into the car. It was going to be a little family art experience.

We drove down the road to where I saw my black barn. It was sitting in the middle of a field on a historic Civil War battle site in Battlefield Park. We parked near the visitor center. I strapped my son into a baby wearing chest carrier. I popped a hat on his head and a pacifier into his mouth. We then grabbed the bags, easel and blanket. My husband was ready to explore the park with our boy in case he got uncomfortable against me. I was ready to explore painting while wearing the baby since I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The day was hot, but we thankfully found some afternoon shade. As I set up my easel with my materials I did a slow swaying dance. He decided to be a sweet guy and fall asleep for me soon after we started our walk. The park was quiet as I finally got my canvas paper attached to the easel back. I stared at the black barn in the distance for a long time before I lightly mapped it onto my surface with loose acrylic paint. Once I got the shape in, I worked quickly to lay down the first blocks of color. Then the paint was traded for paper. I brought my paper scraps along, hoping that the wind wouldn’t be an issue. I was blessed to have calm skies and could use my glue, adding a layer of paper texture to the paint drips.

In the two hours of working on the collage, here are a few thoughts I had:

  • Baby wearing makes your torso HOT and your arms TIRED.
  • I moved a lot more than usual to keep the baby asleep.
  • Black really wasn’t black. I had to find a whole lot of variations to this black that my eyes were seeing.
  • Always try to paint in the shade.
  • Being an artist doesn’t have to take a back seat while being a part of my family.
  • I love making things.

Choose my piece of paper, find my paint, check the baby, repeat. My husband wanders about as I add my sky. I let drips slid down from the top. I keep the paint watered down so I can add a lot of thin layers to the grass. Finally, I get my whole surface covered with texture. My son wakes up and I look at my watch to see how long we’ve been out. It’s time to pack up and head back to the family. I can bring my painting back home to the studio to finish it. I rarely finish a piece in one sitting. Another successful start of a collage on location. Thank you for the lovely countryside, Kentucky!

Photos from the plein air experience

Click to see the finished collage

Kentucky Barn by Katherine Horst

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