“The portability and quality of Multimedia Artboard is simply incomparable; nothing comes close. Without them, hiking the Pacific Crest Trail as a painting expedition would have been near impossible. Whenever I go plein air painting, whether is close to home or all the way to Asia, I always bring my Multimedia Artboards.”
Dylan, originally from the Hudson River Valley, relocated to Italy when he was 18 to train at the Florence Academy of Art. Believing that the beauty of the natural world cannot be matched by what is created through imagination, Dylan works primarily from life. Since graduating in 2015 from the Advanced Painting Program, he has been painting and teaching throughout Europe, America, and China.
Pacific Crest Trail: A Painting Expedition ~ Dylan GIllespie
After moving back from my years in Italy, I found it tough to devote enough time for my art as I was essentially working two full time jobs. Very different from my life style in Florence. Several videos of people hiking the Pacific Crest Trail caught my attention and gave me an idea. I love plein air painting and being outdoors, so while not hike the trail and paint as I go?
This dream journey haunted me day and night but so many questions needed to be answered first. How could I carry multiple wet paintings for days on end? What kind of support would I paint on? How much paint and which colors should I bring? My gear would need to be lightweight and easily repairable with basic supplies. Sturdy enough to to withstand months in the woods yet thin enough to fit in a pack along with my food and gear.
Late one night, a design popped into my head for a pochade box and I knew my dream of a painting expedition was about to become a reality. Over the next several months I acquired all of the necessary camping gear, built my pochade box and wet panel carriers, purchased my panels, sorted out my flight details and counted down the days left until my departure.
Recalling that first day is as easy as remembering what I had for breakfast. Frantically double and triple checking my pack. Making sure I had plenty of food, first aid supplies, tent spikes, permit, etc. We went out for what I believed would be my last warm meal for a week, and then we set out on an hour long drive to the Southern Terminus. After several photos and a hug goodbye, I watched as her Jeep drove away along the boarder between Mexico and the US, leaving me behind in the dry heat of the desert. It was this moment that what I decided to undertake, really sunk in.
Those first steps felt clumsy as emotions flooded in. Feelings of anxiety and a tinge of fear stirred up, but my excitement and longing for adventure overwhelmed them all as I started my painting expedition of the Pacific Crest Trail.
In exactly five months, I hiked from Mexico to Canada. A total of 2,652 miles through California, Oregon, and Washington. I crossed through miles of deserts and pine forests. Traversed the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevadas, meandered in valleys laden with wild berries, and walked in areas where life was just starting to return after wildfires of years prior wrecked their havoc. I met some of the kindest and most generous people I have ever encountered and saw wildlife that stopped my heart...a mother bear running on a trail shrouded in mist has that kind of effect.
When I came across a scene I wanted to paint, I would allow myself, at most, two hours to do so. I couldn’t afford more than that as I had a deadline to finish by. My trail family and I averaged about 20 miles a day but it could vary quite a bit. On one particular occasion, we hiked just over 41 miles because, why not?
Overall, I painted 40 paintings that I deemed worth keeping. Several others got scraped down, but that’s just a part of it. To keep things interesting and challenging, I made sure to keep my scenes varied. Easy to do when the landscape changes as quickly as it does on the west coast. In mere miles, the terrain would change from bare desert floors to woods harboring snow in their shadows. From vistas full of majestic mountain ranges to valleys filled with half frozen lakes and frigid streams. I learned a lot about my strengths as an artist, but even more importantly in my opinion, my weaknesses. A healthy bit of humility breeds growth; not just as an artist, but as an individual.
Nearing the end of my hike, I will admit that whenever people asked if I would commit to another, I said ‘probably not’. That answer turned into an emphatic yes just days after getting off trail. A few close friends of mine that I made on the PCT and I have agreed to hike the Continental Divide Trail together, and I can’t wait!