Sunday, June 15, 2014

Plein Air Experience

With hindsight I admit that I probably shouldn't have traveled to my first plein air competition at Finger Lakes immediately after the traumatic van fire. In addition to being more rattled than I initially realized, I lost the packed contents of the van and had to scramble for replacements. The generosity of people who want to help in trying times is humbling and I decided to go forward accoutered with the many blessings I received. A dear friend even lent us their minivan for the five days. In the end, I'm glad I was a great learning experience and my ultimate intention.

I had no inkling what the competition would be like and made several dumb rookie mistakes: like using the wrong gallery cards for an exhibit, forgetting to get my quick draw panel stamped and not taking full advantage of the marketing opportunities that the organizers keenly provided. I also missed the first day and was behind the other artists in production. Not being hep to other crucial procedures determining when I should be present or when I should allow room for potential collectors was my biggest blunder.
Moi at the quick draw.
The organizers provided plenty of ongoing venues for the artists. Another mistake: thinking we could camp and cook our own food...not when returning after 10:00pm whipped.

Most of the other artists were well-seasoned and just damn good painters. I made some friends and avoided others. I'm well aware that I was distracted and definitely not at my best, ensuing major frustration after I had put in so much practice time to prepare. As a former race tracker, I've had years of showing up for the game matter what...and getting the job done right.

Popular spot to paint the during quick draw.

Here are some of my observations on the business end of things:
There are a limited number of hosts available for lodging and several artists were from out-of-state incurring travel costs I assume. Our prior research resulted in no motel rooms available for under $120, hence the camping idea. So, there's that expense. Supplies of paint, supports and frames are another expense. Keeping nourished and hydrated is another expense. Most of the final paintings were smallish (11"x14") and averaged around $750. To my mind, that creates tremendous pressure to sell and sell well which several artists indeed did, however, the event takes a 40% cut. Yes, there's decent prize money to be had but also 40 artists competing for those limited funds. Pondering the financials, I'm wondering if participation in plein air events is all that lucrative.

Here are some of my observations on the artistic end of things:
We were provided with maps for both the main painting event and the quick draw, meaning we were to paint within these predetermined boundaries. The main map generously included the city area including the marina at the north end of the lake. I don't recall seeing cows and tractors anywhere but I could be mistaken. The finished paintings displayed in the quick draw event were to be created in a two hour time frame. Hmm...some of them were kinda big with lots of detail. This may be where my naivetè makes a glaring appearance. Perhaps some of these artists can paint these great paintings really, really fast or maybe my rank ignorance is rearing it's clueless head.

To the organizers and myriad volunteers, I extend a great big thank you for everything. The schedule was perfectly executed and the events were elegant and generous. Pat Rini Rohrer of Pat Rini Rohrer Gallery was at the helm and to be heartily congratulated. Special, grateful thanks to Pat.

As they say in horse racing: you don't cry when you win so don't cry when you lose.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Fiery Passions

Ever drive down the highway and see those poor souls in the breakdown lane with their vehicle on fire? Like me, do you wonder: " awful, how does something like that happen?" Well, now I know.

It was a surreal site to behold...
Michael and I were on our way to pick up some frames before leaving for the Finger Lakes Plein Air Competition last Tuesday. The van was almost fully packed except for a few extras -a  cooler full of food and beverages and a large commissioned painting I was to meet a client for delivery. After a suspect odor began wafting through the vents (Michael remarked that it smelled like "fur burning") we veered off at the next exit to investigate. Smoke was already pouring out from under the hood. Skipping over the next few minutes of desperate details, we both got out safely but the van was fully engulfed in flames by the time the fire department arrived.

The fire men stated that we'll probably never be able to determine the exact cause due to the intense heat and destruction. That fur burning smell is suspect however...those cute little mice with racing stripes who possess a compulsive need to chew could have worked their mischief on wires that were not meant to be crossed.

Not much left but a metal frame. Even the hood disintegrated from the heat. Besides our only vehicle, I lost six original paintings, paint, easels, canvases, tools, clothes, camping equipment, etc. As the week progressed we'd recall what else was torched.
My poor shocked sweetie saying goodbye as the van is pulled onto the tow truck
It was traumatic but we're so blessed and grateful to have escaped unscathed. It's just stuff that will be replaced, even the paintings. Perhaps I'll create better ones from the ashes. A dear friend generously loaned us their mini van and we were able to travel to Canandaigua, albeit a day late. I know you want to know about my first plein air competition experience and I'm happy to share on the next post.

Fire in the hole!