Saturday, April 24, 2010
Snow Hill part 4
Cell phone squashed against my shoulder, head cocked at a painful angle, and driving rapidly down 113, I warned Jessie that I might have to drop her and the phone in order to abruptly pull off the highway if I saw the spot I had in mind for painting. She laughed nervously and asked how this painting en plein air thing worked exactly. So I told her all about paint outs, and now I'll tell you, too, in case you were wondering. Let's pretend that you were.
First, you walk or drive around to find a place to work. How to choose? Some site criteria might be the subject (lake, house, cow) or the quality of light (sunrise, blazing noon). Or sometimes a site catches your eye. Often I find that the subject is somewhat arbitrary, in that choosing a site is more about settling one's mind and arriving at the point at which you can set your shoulder to the work. In this case, I loved the red field.
Next, you start painting. This was the underpainting for "Furrows." And below is "Furrows" completed. See the underpainting peeking through?
And the painting is fully made out-of-doors, on site, in the open, en plein air. Most plein air painters set up easels and stand behind them with their oil paints. But me, I turn off the dome light and sit on the back ledge of my car, shielded from the elements by the gaping hatchback. I sit, and I work. When several hours have passed, I notice a new soreness in my lower back and that my left butt cheek has fallen asleep. In fact, my entire left leg is numb. Now that I think about it, my vision has gone a little funny. And the panic sets in: am I having a stroke?! Nah, just been sitting on the tailgate, staring at things for too long. I continue to sit and work until I am done or my bladder begins to shout. So goes my experience of plein air painting.
Stop by the hardware store before you start the next part.
Because it's the unfun part. Your eleventh hour activities are determined by your medium of choice. 1.) Watercolor paintings need to be mounted behind glass. The glass must be meticulously cleaned even if it's new. You will probably also need to cut out a custom mat. 2.) Same goes for pastels. 3.) Oil paintings take days, weeks, months to fully dry depending how thick the paint is. So you very carefully frame them while they are still wet. 4.) Acrylic paintings need to be varnished before framing. And then you wait for the varnish to dry. I do a whole lot of #4. Secure the painting in the frame. Cover the back of the frame with paper to protect it from dust. Drive pilot holes for the eye screws and carefully insert them into the frame. Measure, cut, and secure hanging wire. Label, rinse, repeat.
Oh, I forgot to mention matching the frame to the artwork. For "Furrows" I deliberately chose a frame with deep grooves in it, like furrows. (Thank you, Lynne Lockhart, for noticing and complimenting my choice!) Most of my other frame choices were not so obvious but hopefully flattered the artwork.
Then you transport your framed artwork to the show, select a space, double check your labels and inventory sheet, and hang up your art. Other artists might swarm around as though to help you, but really we're just nosy as hell and want to see what you've been working on.
I arrived at setup early and chose a panel facing the entrance. It was bathed in natural light when they opened the doors for the show.
Then the show opens, and you hear the champagne pop. Much of your time will be spent talking to art enthusiasts and other artists. And you browse around looking at all the work. I finally met the gentleman who purchased "West Market Street" at PSH 2007.
I won the red dot stampede this year, making the first sale of the show.
Then you pack up whatever you didn't sell, and you ride off into the sunset.