Sunday, June 7, 2009

Mt. Washington Paint Out

Today was the plein air painting event in the Village of Mt. Washington above Baltimore. I was nervous about not arriving right at 8am because this was a pretty informal event. No entry fees, no organizers, no sponsors, no prizes, no show. Just painting with other painters. If I did not get there on time, I might never find the other painters.

Happy hour

My first mistake was stepping behind the bar yesterday at the baby shower. Everyone wanted Seven & Sevens, and I'm a lousy bartender. I mix heavy on the Seven. That, however, made me a very popular bartender with Charlene's girls. By 8pm I wanted to curl up and go to sleep under a picnic table. Instead, I went to Mom's house--my second mistake because the two of us simply cannot stop talking to each other. It's a disorder and has only gotten worse since I moved out because we have exponentially more to catch up on every time we see each other. At least a half dozen times I started to get into bed, one of us would say something, and I would walk back across the hall to chat some more. It went on until nearly midnight. I did manage to get up in time this morning, though, but then the talking started all over again, and I did not leave Mom's until 7:30am.


My third mistake was taking 70 to 695 because the northbound exit was closed, so I had to detour south several minutes and turn around at the next exit. The closure made me about 10 minutes later than I was already. And mistake number four belongs to MAPAPA as the meeting place, Glasz Cafe, apparently went out of business in mid-May. I'm not familiar with that area, but I got to 6080 Falls Road okay and drove around the parking lot a few times squinting at store names. No dice. And by the time I got there it was 8:20am, so all the artists had left the strip mall. At least if Glasz Cafe existed they could have taped a note to the door, like "The painters went to the end of Kelly Street..."


The Village of Mt. Washington isn't that big, right, so I started driving around. I found the Baltimore Clayworks, but they weren't open yet. I drove here, there, everywhere, and never saw anyone on the street painting. AND the parking in the Village is metered: all street parking, all municipal parking, seven days a week. Who picked this town for a paint out?

Sketch of overpass


I left Mt. Washington and parked on the side of Falls Road to sketch the overpass I noticed on the way in. I'm a sucker for repeating shapes (and free parking), so the columns and curves got me. And then I went home because painting on the side of the road in a strange town when no one else knows where I am working gives me the heebie jeebies.

Painting setup on front porch

Two hours later I set up shop on the front porch. That was working out pretty well. Then a little breeze started.

Direct hit by unsecured panel

We artists call this a DIRECT HIT! Just a reminder: when you are painting outside on an easel, secure your panel and/or canvas so it doesn't conk you over the head when the wind picks up.

Secured with binder clips

Much better. So I have been working on this all afternoon, and here are a few shots of the progress. I am working with acrylic paint on a 24" x 24" piece of hardboard (Masonite maybe?) and painting knives, not brushes.

Painting in progress

Sorry the shot of the underpainting stinks...I had to use computer magic to blow it up from the corner of another picture and then correct the perspective, blah, blah, blah...

Painting in progress

Then I started fleshing it out.

Painting in progress

Then I covered everything I had just painted and added a few incised lines and scribbling with the red china marker. Hmmm...not really working yet.

Painting in progress detail

Up close, though, it has moments that put me in mind of Richard Diebenkorn who, incidentally, is a painter that I like well enough but do not adore. Everyone goes gaga over his Ocean Park series, but I like ones more like Girl with Plant and Seawall and Cityscape that are more representational.

Painting in progress detail

At this point I am not sure where this painting might go next. But that's the really exciting part: the not knowing, the walking the line between great painting and failed painting, the tension of being completely outside of my comfort zone. That's where it's at. It's better than drugs, kids. Better than drugs.

Painting in progress

What do you think? On the surface it seems like a departure, but it's not so different from this. More abstraction here, but I'm using my same favorite color palette. I am going to put it away and come back to it with fresh eyes in a couple months.

Grist mill

And although I painted a highway overpass, there were some lovely spots around Mt. Washington, like this old grist mill. But you know me...

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