Last weekend (April 13-15, 2018), I had the opportunity to paint outside in East Beach Norfolk, Virginia. Plein air painting involves leaving the studio and painting in the landscape. Most of you may know I have not done this sort of art since I was a water colorist decades ago. Currently, I do my thing in my studio surrounded by my files of reference material, piles of categorized hard copy photos dating back to the 70s, digitized photos (16,000 and counting on my computer or in the cloud), as well as any and all art supplies, canvases, paints,inks, gel medium, printed material for collages, and drawing implements. I paint, collate, collage, paint over, scrub it out, throw paint around using my gloved hands as well as my brushes, dance to my music or scream at TV news all while creating.
Plein air is different. You have to tote your supplies, including your easel, paints, and canvases. You have to remember your water, your hat, your sunscreen, sun glasses and check out proximity to the closest restroom. Your subject matter is generally stationary. Since my forte is action, painting outside here is difficult for me.
The organizers for the East Beach Plein Air Painting Escape do a phenomenal job of dealing with artists who don’t know each other, neighbors who are to house out of town artists, planning food and other accommodations for us, planning a dinner, and marketing and then hosting an art display and sales event. All this while hoping the weekend is as beautiful as this past week was. The fundraising is for the Children’s Hospital of the Kings Daughters (CHKD) so success is important. Congratulations to the organizers on a job well done.
Back to me. The main point of my art revolves around my thought process and how I can present emotion.I long ago abandoned painting directly from the photograph. I don’t copy photos. I use them as take off points. For example this weekend I photoed a rusted gate. That became a design element for my imagined dancing figures. Colors are meant to be changed. I generally avoid panoramic use in favor of close-up details that expand to become less recognizable. I can foresee painting a large flower and embedding my figures. So basically I am a faux plein air painter.
However I can appreciate the other plein air painters’ unique form of art. It is a tough way to paint. On Friday, the glare was formidable and the wind was blowing so hard. The sand on the beach became a barrage of mini needles. I saw the wind take a fresh painted oil and throw it face down in the sand. While I might have used the sand as a textual element I know the artist was frustrated with what had happened and elected to start over again.
My most comfortable painting experience was perched in front of a live oak quite near my car. I was in the shade with a cool morning breeze while volunteers in golf carts came by with water and snacks.
My plein air colleagues exhibit incredible patience and discipline -selecting their subjects and rendering them so that everyone knows exactly where the location is yet they can see art and not a photo. I lack these traits of discipline and I am not methodical. I am very impulsive and love the art of throwing paint around. So I guess I am not cut out to be a plein air artist. Though I would love to be part of the event again, but set up inside somewhere. That way I could enjoy their company, and paint my little heart out.