For those who are local, I've been participating in the Frank Bette Paint Out this last week, and I (as well as the 39 other artists!), will be exhibiting my work in Alameda all day today, Friday 8/4. We'll be outdoors at the South Shore Center plaza from 10-6, and I will be featuring work for sale that I've done plein air in Alameda.
Paint Outs are fun , but exhausting. Everyone I spoke to noted how they were practically zombies by Thursday afternoon (4 days in)! And it's true. Most folks wish for days where we could paint, and that concentrated focus is part of the real joy of participating in this sort of event, but after day 3 or 4 6-8 hour days, painting outside, you're totally zonked. I couldn't participate Monday, but painted heartily all day Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. But by Friday, I too stayed home, framed paintings, and wrote blog posts...
One of the harder things is hunting for subject matter on the spur of the moment. It's tough. Sometimes, you just have to sit down and get to painting, or you'll spend all day looking for just "that right subject". Many times, I start up a painting like this one below, where the sketch went well but required so much editing in the background that I lost my way. Then, while sitting there pissed...
...I discover a much stronger composition with a better story only 90 degrees to my right!
Just like back in Yosemite, sometimes these vertical pieces can be really interesting because they really make you edit and focus on only that sliver of subject matter that is essential. I don't think this painting would have been any stronger if it were twice as wide.
Coming Back For More-
I'm not sure how many other artists do this in the plein air events, as time always seem very much "of the essence", but I sometimes return to the same spot on an alternate day, if my first attempt wasn't satisfactory. This helps me hone my sense of purpose and also jump in with a better sense, right from the get go, of the pitfalls to avoid. Almost always, I have better results.
On the first day, I painted this simple sketch, looking out across the bay. I was looking for a kind of strong set of sinuous lines pointing you into the distance, but sort of lost that focus. For me, things were just a little too linear and not winding enough... Not bad (I actually like the piece and am exhibiting it), but it wasn't quite what I was aiming for originally.
The next morning, I went back to the same spot for the Quick Draw and hammered the following two paintings out in 2.5 hours. Note how much composition I had to do in the first, compared to the flats I saw in front of me. But this time I had a very clear vision in my head of the sort of swooping leading lines I wanted, and this helped guide me immensely! Changing the format and going vertical helped me as well, as I had more space for the lines to draw you in.
This second piece I did on the fly, partly to keep me from fussing with the first painting while it dried. I had, once again, seen the view only after finishing the horizontal piece from Day 1 and turning 90 degrees. I snapped a shot and thought it would make a good backup. It was fun doing two at once! In between washes, I marched off the beach and dried them in my truck, turning on the heater and putting them on the dashboard! I discoverd that trick in Yosemite last winter, and it's a godsend in foggy weather too. ;)
Persevering to the End-
At the end of Day 2, I painted this scene. Way too tight! Argh!
I went back on the third day, but again, I was dissatisfied. It's very difficult to somehow get the linear blue ripples as well as the soft, wet into wet reflections!
As I sat there, dissatisfied again, I recognized that I didn't really know, technically, how I was going to approach the subject. Solving technical problems isn't sexy, but these sort of things set my brain on fire. I had a vision. If only I could get the materials to do what I wanted!
I went back in again, right on the spot, and again, I was too tight, too literal. It was better but I was frustrated and tired. But! ...but I know by now that if I can stomach it, it's almost always good to persevere to the end.
At this point in the game, when I know I don't have something I like, I think, "Well, screw it. I might as well feel free to screw this thing up, if it helps me figure out how to do it right the next time!" So I kept at it with general abandon and a healthy disregard for sharing the final product. Sometimes, you still get a throw away. Other times, you don't like the finished product, but you learn something about how you'll paint it differently next time. And sometimes you salvage it. You'll never salvage out a painting if you don't finish it-- you'll only ever get unfinished failures.
I very loosely slashed in the tree and its reflection on the right. Better, I thought, looser, but still not right. So I mixed up a bunch of white, right out of the tube, and a bit of cobalt blue, and hammered in the blue, sparkling water, opaque and drybrush, like gouache.
And, not bad! Considering I was going to throw it away!
I would actually like to paint it again, because (of course) after finishing this I found a better composition about 30' away. But I've run out of time. The event is over, and if I want to paint it, it'll have to be for my own edification. :)
If you're interested in anything, please contact me directly. If you're local, it would be lovely to see you at the event. I'll have these images, and a some more, up for the day. It's always fun to talk shop.