I’ve started collecting the materials that have to go into my Subaru – frames, canvas panels, paints, sun hat, snacks, suitcase. I’m so excited to start the new plein air season. The First Brush of Spring in New Harmony, Indiana is my first new adventure. Spring has been very late in arriving in this part of the country (Ohio). My daffodils haven’t even opened yet. I am looking forward to sunshine, and maybe if we are lucky, some spring flowers in southern Indiana.
In June, I will be back at the Finger Lakes for the Finger Lakes Plein Air Festival. It is such a beautiful area. There is so much more exploring to do, as well as returning to a couple favorite places. Almost immediately after the Finger Lakes I will take off for my “international” competition in Parrsboro, Nova Scotia. The logistics of traveling this far for a competition are challenging, but how wonderful to discover and paint in and around Parrsboro.
Doing another 30 paintings in 30 days strada easel challenge kept me painting through January. I was lucky to have some breaks from the Ohio winter this year and managed to paint a bit in Florida and Hawaii. But I am feeling a bit rusty as I head to Indiana.
If I am lucky, the lessons I learned in the Joshua Been OPAS (Ohio Plein Air Society) workshop will take my painting up a notch. That’s what I am hoping, anyway.
Speaking of Joshua Been, what a fun little “it’s a small world” event I had in Hawaii. My husband and I wanted to explore one more beautiful beach in Hana, Hawaii. As we entered the trail, there were signs warning us to proceed at our own risk. The property owner was not responsible for death or injury. For a half hour we trekked up and down cliffs with rocks, loose gravel, tree roots trying to trip us up. Finally we rounded a corner and saw THE MOST beautiful beach I have ever seen. And down on the beach, what did I see, but a plein air painter! Naturally, I had to say hello, even though I know plein air painters don’t like being bothered. However, this painter was very friendly, greeted me with a big smile and answered that his name was Joshua Been. No way. I was signed up to take a workshop from him in Ohio just 3 weeks later. Yep, small world.
It’s the very end of 2017. I’m finally getting around to updating my website. Like most people, I am looking back the year and taking stock. All in all, I would say it was a pretty good year. In terms of painting, I ask myself, “What have I learned?” Well, right off the bat, I learned that I am a terrible blogger! Oh, I write all the time… in my head. But never seem to get it onto my pages.
In January, I committed to the Strada Easel “30 paintings in 30 days” challenge and learned that it is hard to paint every day. With the commitment I made, I discovered that I can find the time even if it means painting at midnight. I also discovered that I have a lot to learn about still life painting. I had a lot of “duds” while painting every day, but maybe a few successes along the way.
In March, I had a workshop with Howard Friedland. I learned that sometimes it is important to go back to the basic building blocks. Every time I paint, I have to remind myself to find the darkest, medium, light and lightest areas. I have to look for the big shapes. So many times I want to jump right into the painting without doing that mental (or marker) study. Oh, and throwing purple into the shadows is “cheap.” I still like purple in shadows, but I try to use it more thoughtfully and sparingly.
April! April was PACE 17. I already knew that I love attending PACE. I learned you get even more out of PACE going back a second time, knowing what to expect and how to navigate the schedule. I wish I were going to Sante Fe this year, but it’s not in the budget.
From June through October I learned that I love attending Plein Air competitions. It’s hard work and tiring, but inspiring and challenging. This season took me to the Peninsula Plein Air Competition, Parrsboro (Nova Scotia) Plein Air, Finger Lakes Plein Air, Harford County Plein Air and Ohio Plein Air Society competition. I am so inspired and impressed by the talent and vision of the other artists. I don’t expect to win awards, but when I do, I am humbled. An honorable mention at the Finger Lakes was a real thrill.
I look back at my work from the year before, and I hope I can say that I am improving, and learning along the way. I owe a big thanks to those who offer support, education, encouragement and a huge thanks to those who have chosen my artwork to hang on their walls.
I’ve been home from PACE 17 a little over a week now, and finally caught up on sleep. It was another whirlwind experience full of painting and stuffing my brain with information and ideas. Right now it is hard for me to put into words what I learned. But what stays with me is the energy and inspiration one gets from sharing the same passion with 1000 other people. Listening to, watching demos by, and meeting top artists in our field is exciting. Quang Ho, Jeremy Lipking, Jill Carver, Scott W. Prior, James Gurney, Roos Schuring, Shelby Keefe, Qiang Huang are just a few of the generous artists who were there to share their talent with us, and gently guide us.
Eric Rhoads and his team run an amazingly smooth convention– and even keeps it running on time. He adds in some fun and silliness along with plenty of art marketing ideas (starting at 6:30am! This from a NON morning person!) There’s also an assortment of prizes. Sadly, I wasn’t a recipient of a prize. The conference started off with a bang when the FIRST name drawn spun the wheel and won and all-expense paid Safari painting trip! There were 999 jealous people in the room. But she was so adorable, you couldn’t help but feel happy for her.
After watching demos for a good part of each day, we then when out and painted. That itself is a sight to behold. Painters everywhere! Tuesday we painted at the marina behind the hotel at sunset. Wednesday we painted at San Diego Old Town, Thursday at Balboa Park and Friday we had all day to paint at Point Loma park on the beautiful cliffs with the ocean crashing below. Talk about a piece of heaven!
The big question now is, what have I learned that I can bring to my painting? To step it up a notch. I guess we will see.
Lots of photos to share:
Before the conference was officially underway, I was able to slip away and paint at Torrey Pines State Park. I must have been quite a site, dragging my art supplies in a rolling suitcase down the rocky, sandy path to get a view of the ocean!
The 900 painters gathered for the opening of PACE 17. The young man with the orange hat is Kyle Ma. He is SIXTEEN years old and ridiculously talented! Look him up.
Cynthia Rosen painted next to me. I have been following her on instagram and love her palette knife style- so full of color and energy!
Marina Sunset 12×9″ Oil
“Colors of the Sky” 9×12 Painted at San Diego Old Town
“Balboa Park” 9×12
The very talented Quang Ho with his painting from Point Loma.
There’s a pile of art supplies and clothing ready to be stuffed into my suitcase. The big question is, “Can I fit it all in?” Maybe, if I only take one outfit!
I’m off to San Diego on Sunday night for the Plein Air Convention and Expo 1017. This will be my second PACE event. Last year it was in Tucson, Arizona. A faculty of over 80 artists, and 900 attendees, makes this the largest plein air event in the world. It was quite a sight last year, to look around the main conference room and see 900 painters all in one place! Talk about energizing and inspiring…
With kick-off events on Monday afternoon and evening, the convention goes from 6:30am to 9:30 pm, non-stop, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with an all-day paint out on Friday. The only time for meals is on the run. Internationally known artists demonstrate their plein air techniques for the first half of the day, then join the artist attendees at locations around San Diego for “paint outs.” Faculty artists generously share their expertise with the attendees offering pointers and feedback, or demonstrating on site for artists to observe.
Last year, I found myself on such brain overload that I needed to take a break. I wondered through a desert botanical garden and had a leisurely lunch– then went back and to absorb as much as I could. I’m really looking forward to it this year. I feel ready to soak up more and push my painting up a notch.
It’s March in NE Ohio. It’s been a strange winter. We’ve had very little snow, and few super cold days. But in place of the snow we have had what seems like endless grey, rainy days. I decided I needed some color! Going back through my photos, I came across our trip along the California coastline. The famous Route 1 drive. We went in April five years ago. I insisted that my husband pull over at nearly every roadside pull-off and parking lot. Not being a writer, it is difficult for me to describe in words what I experienced every time we stopped. It was exhilarating to all the senses. The scenery was exquisite. The teal, aqua, cobalt and ultramarine hues of the water, the scent of flowers exploding over the rocky cliffs, the warm sun and the sea spray on my skin made me sure that this was about as close as you can get to heaven on earth. I wanted to pull up a beach chair and just stay there. My painting can’t possibly capture all that, but while I was working on it, I enjoyed the memory of it. I hope to get back there sometime and spend hours painting en plein air.
I found this blue mug in a antique/junk shop and immediately pictured daisies in it. Having some time yesterday, I gave it a shot. It turned out very “springy” I’d say.
This warm weather streak we’ve been having has given me a few chances to get outside and paint. On Saturday, I went to the farm around the corner from me and visited with the cows. I painted from the door at the end of the barn. One cow was standing there watching while I painted her. Unfortunately, she got bored before I was done and moved away. I added another cow who was peeking through the fence, and thought the painting was coming along fairly well. Then I got home and all the problems were jumping out. I played around with it for a while, but finally realized it wasn’t going to work. I scraped it off that night.
Sunday is was also sunny and warm, so I decided I need to “get back in the saddle” and paint again. This time, I chose a barn that I pass almost every day. I’ve been wanting to paint it for a long time. I really like it in the snow- it’s a white barn. I love the subtle colors of a gray sky and then the white barn and white snow. It’d be a challenge to get that right. There was no snow on Sunday, but a pretty contrast with the winter blue sky and the shadows from the sun. Now the problem was how to paint a white barn from the shadow side. And still “read” as white. My brain kept wanting me to use white paint, but my eyes were showing me that there were several shades difference between the sunlight side and the shadow side. I think I will look for more white buildings to paint this year and work on that problem. All in all, I was much happier with Sunday’s painting than Saturday’s cow painting. At least I didn’t scrape it off!
How does an artist decide when her painting is “done?” That’s something I definitely struggle with, especially the paintings done en plein air. The painting SESSION is usually done when the light has changed too much, when your painting time is up, or when you are just too tired or uncomfortable to continue. Nature often provides those deadlines. Painting in snow, rain, midday heat can be challenging. Once you can’t feel your toes, you know it’s time to stop!
But the problem happens when you bring the painting back to the studio if it didn’t quite feel “finished” when you hit your stopping point. In plein air competitions, you are not allowed to alter the painting once you leave your outdoor location. But if you aren’t in a competition, that “finished” decision is up to you. Some artists feel fine using their notes and photo reference to work into a plein air painting. Others don’t touch the painting again. Using it only as a study for a larger, studio painting. Normally, I do very little back in the studio. The painting made need just a few spots of darker darks, or a nice highlight. But the painting I posted with this article, just didn’t feel complete to me. I stopped because the light had changed too much, and I was really uncomfortable. I decided to work on it “just a little.” But then it was a little more, and a little more. And then, all of a sudden, it was overworked. I’ve heard that’s it’s always better for a painting to be underdone than a little bit overdone. Although I am in awe of painters who can create super realistic paintings, I am more drawn to artwork that leaves some “breathing room”, drawing the viewer in, leaving it to the viewer to finish the scene in their own minds.
Some artists say that their paintings are only done once they leave their possession. There are stories of artists who are still adding “finishing touches” to their paintings hanging in an exhibition. I laughed when I read a quote that said, “It takes two people to make a painting: The artist and someone to kill the artist before he ruins it.” So true. More than once, while painting with other artists, I have exclaimed, “Oh, this part is just perfect. Don’t touch it!” And more often than not, they do. As so I.
I got some feedback on the painting(s) in this point from a Facebook painters’ page. Most commented that the original study was better. A few said they liked the newer version enough that I should keep it. But I am still not satisfied with it. So I may go fuss with it some more and see if I can rescue some artwork, or it may go into my “abandoned” pile.
Original Plein Air on the left, reworked piece on the right.
Some artists are loners, others enjoy painting with a group of artists or a “painting buddy.” While I enjoy “my space” in my studio, I also find inspiration and energy painting with other artists. I love seeing how another painter chooses a completely different scene than I would, or interprets the same scene so differently. It’s also wonderful to paint with others who are willing to share tidbits of information on supplies and techniques.
I was so lucky to find my painting buddy at the beginning of my plein air journey. Barb Walker and I have leap frogged along together as we’ve painted over the last years, celebrating the sales, acceptance into shows, awards and our personal painting successes as well as encouraging each other when we’ve felt discouraged. I’m looking forward to “someday” when we have enough time and money to go on some big painting adventures!
Yesterday was a fun painting day at Barb’s house. We managed to get two paintings done with lots of “catching up” and art talk.
At the end of December, I saw some posts online about a “30 Paintings in 30 Days” challenge. I’ve never been good about following through on New Year’s resolutions, but this was a challenge I wanted to take on. I have found it difficult to put aside time every day to paint, or to make painting the priority of every day. I have read that this kind of sustained work will enable growth in one’s work.
Being sick on January 1 wasn’t the best way to start, but I managed to do an iPad painting. And then I was on my way. With dreary, cold, grey Northeast Ohio weather, going outside wasn’t an appealing option. Several of the 30 day paintings were still lifes. That was a new challenge in itself. I tried painting glass, metal, fabrics, fruits, vegetables and flowers. (Flowers are harder to paint than you would guess!)
I’m proud to say that I completed the challenge without missing a day, even with a trip to Colorado in the middle of the month. Some were flops, most were okay, and a couple I ended up liking a fair amount. Here is a collage of the (31) paintings.
I’m pleased to announce that my painting, “Indian Summer” was accepted into the Ohio Plein Air Society’s Best of OPAS show at the Columbus Museum of Art. The show runs March 3- June 18, 2017.
Indian Summer was painted at the Brecksville Reservation in Northeast Ohio. It was a beautiful fall morning with a bit of sunshine, and falling leaves. It was painted on a birch wood panel.