Saturday, April 13, 2013

Pleinly Speaking

Today was the annual Raleigh Plein Air Paint-Out, sponsored by Local Color Gallery and Jerry's Artarama. According to the Call for Artists, Jerry's was going to open an hour early today and hand out free canvases. I needed supplies, and so stopped by there on Wednesday night after my Hair Club appointment—too late. Oh well, I can go there early today, right? We just need to check into the event by 10 AM.

So I called Jerry's Thursday to confirm that they were open early. "No, ma'am," they assured me, and even asked other workers. Nope.

Wokay. Thus I embarked on a panicked search of studio, storage room, and any kind of art storage I could find in the house—and there are quite a few of those places. (Someday I'll get the house remodeled to accommodate my needs. Or I'll move.) Ta dah! Found some blank canvases. One was linen, not quite the thing for plein air, but at least it was larger than the other quite small canvases. And smaller than the other quite large canvases. When you're outside painting your brains out, you want a medium-sized canvas and you don't need expensive linen, which allows for fine detail.

Lo and behold, there was a frame of the same size, still in its plastic wrap. (Okay, not quite the same size. When I slipped the finished canvas in, the frame was the tiniest bit too large, or perhaps the canvas was the tiniest bit too small [Jerry's canvases seem to run small], but I got it wedged in enough that I don't think it's going anywhere.)

It's been about a year since I last did plein air. In fact, it was during the theater release of The Avengers, because I celebrated completing a plein air workshop by seeing it. I'd planned on really getting out last year and keeping up the habit, but I didn't. Now with this contest I am making a pledge to get out more. Practice makes perfect, and I hope that travel during my retirement will be partially financed by being able to paint as I go.

Last night I gathered equipment. Acrylic or oil? I decided on oils, which allow you to moosh around a bit with things instead of having a mistake dry before you can fix it. I use alkyd oils, which dry thoroughly in 24 hours. (Okay, if you really layer it thickly, it takes longer.) I cannibalized the Gamsol in my studio container because I didn't have any more. (see: "Jerry's was closed," above) The rest I began to reach for and throw into the pile. About 9 PM I loaded it all in the car and hit the sack. After I put my bedtime book down and turned off the light, I had to switch it on again so I could run around and collect four more things I'd forgotten.

Hopefully in the future I'll pay more attention to my lists and go by them.

So: up this morning an hour after I usually rise, and it was off to Raleigh! There was an actual parking space across from the gallery!!!! Signed in, made use of their Facilities, and drove off to find a suitable subject within the area we were confined to. I'd previously thought I'd paint the forested grounds of a school, but that was just off St. Mary's and not Boylan Ave., which was our limit. On the hunt again, I spotted a delicious stone church and parsonage. I parked on the street (the parking lot across the street from the church had 24/7 towing signage, and I watch a lot of Parking Wars) and set up.

The real parsonage, with proper shadows.

I'd determined that this year, by gosh and by golly, I was going to enjoy the painting instead of being in a deep, dark hysteria over getting things Just Right and Done On Time. I'd prepared by looking over some plein air magazines that reiterated the importance of value, value, value. And temperature. And edges. And...

No pressure. I didn't even make as detailed (hah!) a preliminary drawing as I usually do, trying to figure out things. At least I remembered to take a picture of the scene when I started. I figure that when I get my painting back I can compare and repaint, if needed. (I'm still working on the one from last year.) (It's going to be good, dammit.)

The church was doing a booming business for a Saturday, and I got an occasional stray from whatever they were doing over there. Someone mentioned that music lessons were available in what was the ex-parsonage. These were mostly kids accompanied by their mothers, and two mothers brought their sons by to inspect my work. The boys were both interested in art, so I showed them what I was doing and tried to explain what "value" was to the younger guy, and encourage the older one, who looked about high school age, to join us next year. "Imagine, you meeting a real artist!" the mother of the young one gushed.


A car rolled up into the tow parking lot I had set up in, to join the other car that was there. A man got out of car and strolled over. "Whatcha doing?" he asked.

I explained, and he said he wasn't the owner of the building, but it was okay for me to be set up there. I assured him that absolutely no mess would remain. Later, an artist and her hubby parked in the lot and came over to ask about towing. I explained that they should consider being cautious, so they moved to the side of the street a couple cars behind mine. We all made Parking Wars jokes.

Well, the sun climbed in the sky and all those dramatic shadows against the stonework drifted to the ground. I kept having to shift shop to my right, to my right, and to my right again so the canvas and me were in shadow. (How I WISH I could find a good plein air umbrella that actually attaches to something and stays in place!) By the first move I had the basics of the painting on canvas, so I was just checking for color and such, and could bear having my viewpoint changed.

It's not a bad little painting. I kept telling myself to simplify, and I did. Very proud! I left the leaves on the big tree until the last—they were in front of the rest of the composition—and then dabbed them in.

Ugh! OMG! How do I redo this? I cursed and cursed, then closed my eyes and took a breath. Do not panic.

Opened my eyes again. Oh gee, it looks like Cézanne on a messy day.

Yeah, Cézanne. My leaves look like Cézanne's, if you haven't seen a Cézanne painting in a while. I painted some more, liking the effect more as I went. I even went back and put in some blocky tree limbs because, hey, this was a real painted painting, not something produced in Photoshop, and it should look like a human hand was behind it.

Not bad.

Got the frame on and the car loaded up and decided that I needed to get in some exercise for the day. I'd walk the painting up to the gallery; it was just a couple blocks. Whoops—It was a lot farther than that, and uphill. In addition I had to pass blocks and blocks of restaurants and cafes serving lunch and exuding tasty smells. I almost swooned from pleasure in front of the Thai place. Can't have soy or peanuts for another couple weeks, darn it!

Handed the painting in, called it "The Parsonage," and tried to take a picture for my files, just in case it actually sells during the month it'll be on display at Local Color. My cheap purse camera gave me a "disc full" message, and I couldn't get to anything to delete a picture. Not even one. #@!! Sure, I could have walked back to the car and gotten my fancy camera out of the equipment bag, but then I'd have to walk all the way back, since there were now zero empty parking spots on Glenwood.

So I don't have a picture to show you. When I get the painting back, I'll try to remember to post it here.

All the walking made my left knee hurt. It hasn't bothered me in AGES. It's not bothering me now, but began bothering me for a bit just before I got back to the car. Uh oh. I have a vacation planned for Washington, DC, Colonial Williamsburg, and Historic Jamestowne next month. Looks like I'll have to get deadly serious about getting in condition for it.

No comments: