My First Plein Air Paint Out

Life is about the experiences we have, not about what we have or often what we do. I’ve been painting for several years and never really entered a larger competition. I took a class in Mendocino and my teacher suggested I should join the upcoming Mendocino Paint Out; so I signed up. As the weeks went by, I collected frames and made sure I have enough canvases. I made an hotel reservation, and thought I was set to go.

About a week before I was set to leave, I thought I should check with the hotel about my reservation. I am glad I did, as I accidentally booked a room with twin beds and a bathroom down the hall. I upped it to another room with twin beds, but my own bathroom. In the interim, my husband decided to join me for the weekend festivities, so when I arrived I asked if I could upgrade a little more, so I would have one bed, not two. I ended up having a living room, bedroom and bath, which was large, but very old and very sad. The draperies in the rooms, had blackout shades in shreds. At one time they must have been beautiful, but today they were old and looked tired. Everything looked tired. It could have been spectacular with a little love and maybe a little money.

When I got back to my room after dinner, and discovered the TV did not work, I was glad for my IPad and was set to watch a movie on it. But as I pulled back the sheets I noticed a fairly small drop of blood on both the top sheet and the bottom sheet. That did not make me smile, but I was tired from the long windy drive in pouring down rain. I just crawled in, poured myself a glass of wine and watched my “Chick Flick”.

And then it began: The first day, we all (or those who started that day) lined up to have the back of our canvases stamped. We could enjoy viewing the one piece painted before the paint out, that everyone was to bring and hang. It was a wide of assortment of talent and style. The three main artists (the judges) had their work on display. The work was interesting and varied, consisting of two oil painters and a watercolorist. Although their work was artistic, it was not particularly to my personal liking. I would learn a lesson from this later in the week.

So we all took off to find out place to paint the first day. I headed to Little River Inn, where I has stayed before, and enjoyed the distant view. I finished my first painting in a couple of hours, and headed back to town to get a bite of lunch. Waiting in line, a nice young man informed me there was a spider on my backside, before he knocked it off. I had been sitting on a quite old and damp bench painting. As it turns out, I was lucky he saw it and ended its life, as it was a Black Widow. So that was how my week began?

View from River’s End Inn

My first painting was 20″ x 10″, and I painted it in an already framed canvas. I forgot to have this one stamped, so had to call to get permission for it to be allowed. They were very nice, and let me use this the first day. I had time after lunch and it was a beautiful day.

I had discovered when I set up my palette to paint, that my plein air paints had all dried out, so I decided to drive to Fort Bragg to a local and wonderful art store to refresh all my oil paints to the tune of $260. Fresh and new, but an expensive lesson. Since I was already in Fort Bragg, I ventured to MacKercher Park, hoping to paint the lagoon. As I was setting up, a creature crawled out of the lagoon with a direct line toward me. I did not know what it was, but it did not look “friendly”! I had never seen, what I found out a few moments later, was a Crawdad, alive. Luckily a young woman in the parking lot knew what it was, as her father was a commercial fisherman. But I decided I would go to the other side and paint the beach!

When I got to the beach, the fog was setting in and I could not decide what view to paint. It was busy with lots of people. I generally like to paint quietly in my studio or in a more deserted spot for Plein Air.
I did spend a lot of time on this one, and I am afraid it shows. By the time I finished my first day of painting I was pretty tired and wind-burned. Nevertheless, I took it back and hung it on my wall. The Art Center provided free pizza that night, and they even had gluten free. That and glass of wine was perfect!

The next day, I decided I would paint one of the beautiful houses downtown. I worked on it most of the day, and wiped it clean at the end of the day, not liking it. The next day I tackled it again and upon finishing it called it “a day”.

By this time, I am beginning to think that I do not work as well under pressure. The next day I went to Fort Bragg with a very nice woman I met to paint at the harbor. I decided to paint something a little more simple. I painted the trees on the hill above the harbor.
It was fun and relaxing and we painted in an area where there were not many people.

The last day was a quick draw contest. They give you a location and send you out. You have about a half hour to set up and two hours to paint. This year it was downtown Main Street. You could paint the beach or turn around and paint the town. There were 50-60 artists all painting downtown. I chose to go quite simple and painted the distant shore. I never knew so many small bugs could fly into a painting. Apparently they like the smell of the paint. I still need to finish the piece I did, as a gnat flew into it after I hung it up on the wall.

You can see the bug and the scratch marks, where someone tried to remove it.

That evening they had the rewards ceremony. My lesson with all this was: If you are not particularly fond of the work of the featured artists (judges), why would not be surprised that you would not have selected the same pieces to win the awards? Of all the talented artists in the contest, I did not agree with most of the winners. Many that were by far better, did not win any awards. Of the awards given, often another piece by the same artist was more beautifully executed. One of the awards went to the husband of one of the judges, and it was the one I really thought was color straight from the tube, poorly drawn and actually a little ugly.

I did not go expecting to win. I went for the experience and an experience it was! I met a lot of really nice people, and a few that were a little too overzealous about their art. I ate some great food, and some not so great food. I could not find a good latte anywhere in town, but the raw oysters in abundance made up for it, even if they were flown in from Washington State.

Many artists do ten to twelve of these a year. I found it exciting, exhausting and challenging. Would I do it again? Maybe for a shorter duration? I might try doing another medium, as no one was doing gouache, there were only a couple pastel artists and maybe one doing acrylic. That might up the odds of having a chance to win. Some paint outs provide a free place to stay, so that might make a huge difference expense wise. There are so many factors that go into deciding what to do with your art.

My First Plein Air Paint Out

Life Drawing

I took a life drawing class in Sacramento last weekend, and enjoyed the experience. I had not worked in charcoal in several years. It took a while to get back into it. There were two very experienced models. We started out with five minute poses, which we erased, then went on to twenty minute poses. These are all twenty minute poses.

Life Drawing

Commissioned Art – Yes or NO!

So a friend of an acquaintance of mine, whom I met briefly once, called and wanted me to do a portrait of her granddaughter. I told her that I did commissions, but that I was not a “Portrait Artist” per se. She looked at my work and insisted I do it for her. When I told her my prices, there was a long pregnant pause. I told her it would be $50 less if she framed it, knowing all too well it would cost her considerably more if she were to have it framed at a frame shop. She sent me the photo, and asked that I take out the toy in the hand and add a beach with palm trees in the background. I personally thought it was overkill, and let her know in a subtle manner. I did as she asked, and spent about four days on the painting. I was charging $400 unframed and $450 unframed.

I am finally learning at this point in life, not to be as trusting as I have been all my life. I did not ask for a deposit. Shame on me! I trusted she would like the finished product.

Well, it did not turn out that way. She did not like it; never came to see it in person and was pretty rude in her interactions with me.

This is the photo that she emailed to me. She said she loved the hat, and wanted palm trees in the background on the beach. She wanted the green toy removed.
This what I sent her, then I redid the lips, but did not send. I did not hear from here the first week, the second week she said she was ill, and this went on for about a month and a half. I sent a note and said she did not have to buy it if she did not like it. Well, she certainly did not!
But rather than even stopping by to see it in person, she sent a “text” saying that: ” She did not like it all, and it looked nothing like her granddaughter, and her son did not think it looked her either. She NEVER saw the portrait itself.

I think I am a little upset, as I spent longer on it than I normally do on a painting, and basically wasted three days of my life. But did I really waste my time, or was this a message I needed.

I texted her back saying this was not a photograph, but was represented an image of her granddaughter. She stated she would pay me nothing, and that part is rude, but not unexpected. I added that I learned a good lesson: Don’t do commissions for someone you do not know, and get part of the money upfront. I wasted time and nice linen canvas. The thing I really cannot believe is that she could not bother to even stop by and take a look. I think she just decided she did not want to spend the money.

A family member in the interim asked me to do a portrait of her daughter, and she loved it. She did not ask for a background, which is usually nominal in a child’s portrait, but gave a photo that showed the whole head, without a huge hat.

I still do not call myself a portrait artist, and will not step out and take a chance with a total stranger. The woman who did not accept the portrait of her granddaughter did not say thank you for your time or even offer to pay for the canvas or my time.

It is one thing to accept negative comments, but something entirely different to be treated so rudely. How do I know, maybe she is just not a happy person or I did not make her grandbaby a beauty contest winner??

You can be the judge of that! I think I will just draw a mustache on the painting and deliver it to it’s proper home: The trash!

Commissioned Art – Yes or NO!

Sunflowers

With everyone doing paintings of Sunflowers for the Children of the Ukraine, I decided it was time for me to do one too! So, off to Farmer’s Market last weekend, where they were selling beautiful Sunflowers. My husband bought two bundles for me, and I put them in one of my favorite vases. I do not paint very many flowers, so this was a new challenge for me.

When I put it on my page on Facebook, one of my friends said to “ditch” the arms on the vase. I am glad I did not, as I think they add character to the painting. Everyone has an opinion about art, whether intellectual or just a gut feeling. At this point in my life I only trust an opinion from an artist I consider better than myself. Everyone thinks you should listen to their opinion, but if they don’t have a background in art/color why would think how they feel is more important than how you feel about the piece. I have stopped asking the opinions of family and friends, as in most cases I do not agree with them. My sons grew up surrounded by art and design, so luckily they do have a good eye. My youngest son has made many suggestions that truly worked in art and in design. At the moment he works for a company designing furniture.

The other thing people almost always ask, is how long did it take to paint that piece. One of my dear friends, and another artist explained to me to always tell them it took years. That is indeed the truth, as you are working for years to perfect your skill. So this painting probably took thirty years and two hours!

Sunflowers

Redoing a Painting

When we were staying in Newport and having dinner, this fishing boat passed by the window. I liked the composition, but not the colors. I thought about it for a while and decided I would try to add a sunset behind the bridge. I painted this about a year ago, and still thought it looked a little dull.

This is the original attempt and it seems lack-lustre.
So I gave it a little more life today, and now I think it is dancing almost too much and I really am not wild about the colors. The fishing boat is too centered in the painting and I think it is “dump worthy”. this just goes to show that you are not always successful with your painting. But if you do not try new things, then you do not grow. As I look at the composition, it is not my best.

What shall I paint tomorrow?

Redoing a Painting

First Local Fair

Today is the first time l’ve joined a Craft Fair in Vacaville and realize people don’t buy fine art or even cards at an event like this. I am amazed what people do buy, mostly things i would not think to buy. They buy Sensy from the booth on one side, walk by and say “pretty” then buy a net wreath or fake flower arrangement at the next booth.

Okay, I take that back, I just sold five cards It will be interesting to see if I even cover my entry fee! I know intellectually you have to get your art out somehow, but not sure this is the venue. The lady selling cat toys gets a lot more interest than my art!

If nothing else, it is interesting to see this cross-section of Vacaville! And an interesting experiment that I will most likely not repeat! Its for a good cause, but hard in a new town to figure out where to sell your art?

First Local Fair

Lagoon Valley Afternoon Walk

Last year this reserve was dry with very little water. The other day we went for a walk and I was lucky to capture several lovely photos of the area. It is close to Vacaville and always busy with a lot of families enjoying the day.

When I walk or travel, I am always looking for the “Next Possible Painting”. I enjoy the walk, the views, the company, but looking for the next painting is always fun.

This one is 18″ x 24″ and is available for $650. If I ship, I will have to bill additionally for shipping.

Lagoon Valley Afternoon Walk

Trees in Watercolor

Back to the watercolor class today with mixed emotions. I wonder if watercolor is even my medium? Do you ever wonder why you are trying something new. I was told the piece was very “painterly”, which was nice, but I really did not like the piece. I came home and added some pen and ink to the watercolor as it looked to bland to me. I am having a hard time figuring out how to have more dark darks in watercolor. It is so very different than painting in oils.

How do you control the movement of the water with the paint as you apply it, so you do not get splotches? How do you get the vibrant color that you get with oils? I won’t give up! I won’t give up!

It is a class of beginners, so hard to learn from anyone else in the class. I am using the class as a reason to force myself to try something new once a week. Not sure if it is working, as would I ever be able to sell anything in this medium. Maybe that is not a good reason to be taking a class.

Trees in Watercolor

Going to the zoo!

What is your favorite animal at the zoo? We went a while back and I have always been fascinated by Flamingos as they just seem outrageous! Amazing colors, weird shape, very long strange legs and a strangely beautiful face. I took several photos of them that day and thought I might try my hand at painting them. With their aesthetically pleasing neck and slightly different way of standing on one leg or occasionally two, I found it a bit difficult to capture them perfectly. I decided to give up on perfection and go for fun.

These Birds are Crazy. 8″ x 10″

It is fun in a kind of crazy way. Going back to landscapes or cityscapes for a while in the future, or maybe some big abstracts. I just need to find a venue where I now live to sell my work. Any ideas are welcome.

Going to the zoo!

Artwork in Place

IMG_5174 (1)

I shared the artwork I recently completed the other day, but now it is installed on my newly refinished Entry Hall Wall.  I painted the wall orange, after taking down all the boards.  When they were once again installed, I did a wash of the wall color in the rest of the house, diluted down with water.  The effect worked well, so now the wall is soft, you can see peeks of orange coming through and the new painting likes its new home.

The nice thing about painting is that you can paint at any age.  You can change your style, and reinvent what you like.  As a senior, you still have lots and lots of creative energy.  I now smile when I walk in the front door, as I like the simplicity of the painting with complexity of the brushstrokes.

See other work at http://www.dianakingsley.net

Artwork in Place