Last month I participated in the Carmel Art Festival. I wanted to share some paintings and chat a bit about what it means to participate in events like this. It was a lot of fun meeting so many other artists, particularly a lot of oil painters, and it's a good thing to put your work up and share. Don't paint in a vacuum! There's lots to learn and experience, even if you're paintings don't sell.
Logistics of Plein Air Events-
So, the event ran from Wednesday evening to Sunday. It was juried, which meant everyone submitted a fee, plus photos of their work, and a judge chose who could join. The top 60 got a place in the weekend. I was just excited I got accepted to participate! Submitting, in and of itself, was a hump to get over. We all arrived and checked in late on Wednesday, and had 2 days to paint on site on the Carmel Peninsula. Judging occurs and paintings were sold on Saturday and Sunday. For those who got an award (myself included), there was the Quick Draw event on Sunday, where we had to paint, mat, and frame a painting in only 2 hours. Lots of plein air events have some sort of schedule like this.
Some events also provide local housing for artists, but that wasn't the case here. We had to pay for hotels, and we also had to pay to mat and frame our paintings. So... not particularly cheap. Artists handling the matting and framing seems pretty typical for these sorts of plein air events though- that's an expense the artist always foots. My take on it is to go and get the frames cheap, and keep them in stock. In the beginning, you outlay a bit of money, but if you don't sell the paintings, you can reuse them at the next event for free. The truth is that I came out of the weekend in the hole, financially. I figured it was sort of like a mini-vacation or learning experience, l and I was going to paint and have fun.
So, having said all that, I arrived late on Wednesday, checked in, and then went down to the beach. I decided to try a quick painting before heading off to my hotel room. Sadly, it was kind of drab and overcast. I hammered a quick painting out, and fiddled with it to the end. Nothing exciting, but it was good to get going. Got that "first one" under my belt. Now I could move on to bigger and better things. :)
Painting Plein Air in Garland Park-
The weather was overcast and foggy down by the beach for both of the painting days. Bleh. Instead, I drove up Carmel Valley, and found Garland Park. Heaven!! Just an incredibly lovely place, with walking paths and beautiful vistas. Plus free parking and a clean public bathroom! A site made for plein air painters. :DSunnier and warmer too. I went there both days, and painted 3 paintings each day. 1/4 sheets the first day, and 1/2 sheets the second- each of the same composition as before, just in a larger size. I was excited about trying to paint bigger, and had been practicing 1/2 sheets of plein air on my own for the past month or so. Another hump I was getting over. I'm going to share both days' paintings, side by side, so you can see the growth of the image.
Garland Park had this little bridge that went over Carmel River. I found my way down to the water's side, and painted there. This was, by far, the hardest of the set. The 1/2 sheet just never quite read as well as the 1/4 sheet. I had fun painting, it was a beautiful space, but I let it go. Kinda a bummer, after spending 2 hours on the first painting on Day 1, and 3+ on the second painting on Day 2, but that's the way it goes sometimes.
Part of the interesting element of plein air painting is all the odd stuff that goes on that you become part of. Does it make for better paintings? Maybe, maybe not. But it definitely makes for interesting experiences! Here, I went down to my spot on the 2nd day, and there was about 30 kids on a field trip, playing at Pooh Sticks and whatnot with their families. It was total mayhem. They were gone by the time I got painting, but it was fun while I sketched. Perhaps I should have included them, or the man who threw sticks for his dog into the river, to give myself a human subject, but the scene was already so complicated, I just let it be "simple." Ha! Perhaps I shouldn't have chickened out. I hate that mentality, but I admit I was feeling the pressure to create a "successful" painting in the time frame allotted. I might have thrown caution to the wind if I weren't in the competition.... So, that's something to ponder and probably get past.
Honestly, it's photos and paintings like this one below that probably best represent Garland Park. High fog rolling over the hills, grassy fields, eucalyptus and oak trees, etc. I plunked down and did 2 paintings here too, over the 2 days. The 1/2 sheet below is the one that got an Honorable Mention. Fun!
This is out on one of the walking paths- Cottonwood Trail, for those who might one day visit Garland Park. I was wandering about, late in the day, looking for a final painting, when the turkey vultures all swooped down, almost like they were pointing, "Here!" and then circled away. Just a lovely scene, with a lot of amber in the grassy fields, and some California poppies in the foreground. "Okay," I said, and took out my tripod. There was a bit of shade on the north side of some trees for me to set up in, so I went about it proper. Such a lovely place to be.
On day 2, there was even more sun late in the afternoon. A man actually walked up the path with his dog part way through and I thought about including them, but again... I felt timid about ruining the painting. As I see it, festivals like this aren't really about experimenting- they're about demonstrating what you know you can do. Which is true, and yet... Looking back... I think "Bah!" Timidity is the death of art. So, afterwards, I was kind of pissed and frustrated with myself. Representing myself well in the show was important to me, and the finished paintings were actually not bad, but in the end, I didn't sell any paintings or get any big prizes anyways. I should have taken what serendipity so pleasantly offered me. Playing it safe rarely pays off. Screw fear. I should have just stuck to my guns and done what I wanted to do, regardless. That's a lesson I won't soon forget.
Here's all the paintings I did over the 2 days. They all read a bit cool in the shade, but it gives you an idea. I was pleased enough with the work. This is something I never would have been able to do 2-3 years ago- I came out and had 2 days to make some paintings I thought were good enough to share in a show. Plus, they had to be plein air, and some of them were 1/2 sheet. Whatever their faults (and of course, I focus some on the faults!), I had a good time and did some good painting!
The Weekend Art Festival-
Well, of course, the weekend came and now that I was done painting, the weather was fantastic. We turned the paintings in late on Friday night, and they were all up in the public, outdoor "gallery". There wasn't much to do. So me, Kate, and Tasha went down to the beach with my sister. Just lovely lovely lovely. When Carmel is nice, it's reeeeally nice. Absolutely fantastic weather. I would have painted here all week, if it had looked like this on Thursday and Friday!
On Sunday, they had the Quick Draw event. With only 2 hours to paint, mat, and frame my work, it was a bit of a blur. I chose this oak because of its proximity to the festival. In the end, it was ok. What was an odd detail, however, was that it was foggy and cool while we painted. This made it very hard to get my painting to dry!! I didn't have a blow drier, and the sun wasn't working right!! :PI've seen people actually use a blow torch for this (really), but I didn't have one handy (LOL!), so I zipped over to a public bathroom and used the hand-driers to blow dry painting. It worked, but I lost about 15 minutes waiting for it to dry at first. Even so, it was still damp, and there was actually condensation on the glass. This is a clear benefit for oil painters!!
Seeing My Work in Context-
One of the interesting things I got out of participating was seeing my work in the context of a lot of other paintings. When you put your work up on a wall and surround it with a lot of other work, that's a good learning opportunity. What do you like about the other paintings? What do you dislike? What makes your work your own, and not just like everyone else's? What might you like to do differently? etc. I got to see a lot of oil paintings too, in particular, which was very educational and thought provoking. The work was very different from most watercolor work I see. The oil paintings really pop with color, and when you're looking at work on a wall from 10-15' away, that sort of stuff makes a real impact. Seeing their work made me feel like I could take more risks with my own use of color. I began to wonder- are oil painters "looking" differently? Why were the paintings so different? So, perhaps that'll lead to some experiments of my own.
Besides all that, I didn't end up selling anything (pooh!), but I did have a good time. I stretched my limits and painted A LOT. About 6-8 hours a day. I got my work out there. And I got to meet a lot of other painters. This was a very cool side benefit. I met a few in the field, while painting, where we would chat for 10 minutes or so, and introduce ourselves, but for the other 7 hours it was mostly just like painting on my own, like normal. Perhaps if I come back next year, we'll be able to visit more because we'll know each other some. There are definitely people who come year after year to participate. On Sunday, however, after the Quick Draw, many artists hung around for the festival to wrap up, as there weren't any more artist related events or activities to do. I hung out with a number of other artists in a local cafe, and we all talked shop and compared notes. Something I don't normally get to do!