Friday, June 12, 2015

My Latest Plein Air Experience

I returned last weekend from the Mountain Maryland Plein Air Competition. Overall, it was a great week. I say "overall" because the weather was pretty crappy with overcast drizzle that sometimes turned quite blustery. And it was cold. Colder than up here in the arctic circle.

However, the people were first class including the organizers and volunteers of the event as well as my host family who were supreme. Friendly, hospitable, willing to help but most of all: enthused about the art that was being produced throughout the week.

I'm still a newbie to the plein air genre. Barely two years of painting outside and here I am entering competitions. The nerve. I'm not kidding myself, I'm competing against very seasoned artists who have been on the circuit for a long, long time.

I mentioned that I might not be ready for prime time to a board member and she couldn't agree less, stating that I was a very experienced artist and that I was merely re-inventing myself. When I mentioned that my quick draw pieces (paintings produced in a timed two hours, it's a separate, fun competition) were my strongest, she offered "there you go, you're over-thinking." Well, that was a large epiphany of sorts after my intensive year of constant self-study.

Here are the quick draw pieces. The first is a restored train station in the nearby town of Frostburg. I was pleased with the freshness of the brushstrokes.
Frostburg Station, 8"x10", oil on panel
The experienced artists are all painting large, even in the quick draw competitions. I told myself to paint big or go home. Right, all the way up to 14"x11". This piece was in the main quick draw in downtown Cumberland.
Rails, 14"x11", oil on canvas panel
Hard to see here but the grays are subtle and suggest the overcast atmosphere. I think this was my strongest piece. The composition is also decent.

I also wasn't too displeased with this next piece. Painted from the back of my mini-van high above the city in a church parking lot, it has a wispy feel of the foggy, saturated air. I kept the brushstrokes loose and light.
Foggy Cumberland, 11"x14", oil on canvas panel
So here's a little story I'll share with you. Late last Saturday afternoon was of course, the running of the Belmont Stakes. I believed that American Pharoah had the best chance of winning the third leg of the Triple Crown than any of the close contenders of the past twenty-five years. I decided I would NOT miss the race. Here's what I posted on my Facebook timeline:

I ran out to a bar across the street during the middle of the awards ceremony at the Mountain Maryland Plein Air. It was strangers screaming and hugging each other after that phenomenal race. Shows where my heart still wants to be, damn it.

Yup. The next morning as I packed to head home, I became misty and emotional. What? The more I try to distance myself from horse racing, the harder it pulls me back. I know I can never walk away from it. It won't let me go. My peeps won't let me either and that's a very, very exceptional and blessed thing indeed.

Sniff, sniff,