Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Easton Quick Draw

Elena at the Easton Quick Draw street sale.

Girl in a Garden, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12." Contact Artist for price.

I made plans to paint at the Easton Quick Draw on Saturday morning. I was lucky to find a lady who'd been in one of the same workshops and Lee's still life class last winter had a house in Cambridge, the next town below Easton on Maryland's eastern shore. Brande was so kind to host me for the night, and getting to know her was a real treat.

I had expected a modest country farm house, but her house turned out to be a beautiful historic waterfront estate. She and her husband had bought the run-down property about ten years ago and had lovingly restored it, turning it into a charming place. The house was built in the 1830's; the original farmstead dated from the 1700's. It had fireplaces in most of the rooms, was beautifully decorated with a mixture of antique and contemporary furnishings, all the modern conveniences and gorgeous views of the water.

I started out too late in the morning, reluctant to leave such a beautiful place and apprehensive about the competition, thus didn't arrive in Easton till after ten. I'd scouted out some locations the day before and was pretty sure my best bets were the Historic Society's Garden or a small park a block away (no buildings). The public parking was right next to the shady historic garden and it would be cool on what promised to be a hot day.

About ten other artists were there already, so it was hard to find an empty spot, but I found a corner next to a screeching AC unit. Best yet, another artist had posed a young girl on a bench in the middle of the garden within my field of view-- I had a model for free! Working furiously, I managed to finish a credible painting by twelve and ran back to my car to get the frame & wire, then lugged it all to the next block where the street sale and judging were held. By noon it was blisteringly hot and we had to endure this for the next two hours. After I walked around looking at all the other paintings I sat on the street curb to rest my tired feet.

A lady who had seen me while I painted was interested in buying my painting but she didn't want to pay the price (I thought it reasonable considering the 25% commission to Plein Air Easton); she wanted a bargain. I told her if I hadn't sold the painting toward the end of the event I'd reduce it a little. She returned a bit before two and I knocked off $50. She looked pleadingly at her husband, but he walked on, so I packed up my stuff and took it back to my car. I was surprised to see that many and better paintings by the juried artists didn't sell either.

Afterward I stopped at a small sandwich shop to pick up a cheap lunch and took it back to eat in the garden. At this hour the garden was deliciously quiet, a gentle breeze blowing through the crepe myrtles. I was the only person there and the food and relaxation revived me after the morning's pressure.

After lunch I walked over to the Easton Academy to see the juried artists' work and the award-winners. Many of the artists were different from last year and it seemed to me that some of these artists' work was not as strong. I wonder how this level of artists circulates around these plein air events, trying their luck one year here, another year there. I imagine the jurors don't pick the same artists year in and out, though the jurors are usually different too.

It was a bit after three when I finished there and remembered that master artist Kenn Backhaus was doing a portrait demo at the Troika Gallery from 3:00-5:30 PM. The demo was on the sidewalk in front of the gallery. Kenn had already toned his background and sketched out the model's face in pencil. He was just starting to put in the first darks: the eyes and areas around them, then the forehead shaded by the model's beret. It was miraculous how the features began to emerge right from the start. I propped myself against a conveniently located lampost--so worn out I literally needed the support. My feet were killing me but there were no seats available--I should have thought to bring my portable stool. Around five Kenn gave the model his second break and a couple who had been sitting in camping chairs got up--I asked if I might occupy one while they were gone and they kindly consented. As soon as I sat down I started to doze off, struggling to stay alert to watch as Kenn continued to transform his painting, stroke by stroke, into a lively likeness.

After the demo I walked to the South Street Gallery to see Camille Przewodek's show and hear her gallery talk on color. I liked her a lot. Over the years I've heard a good deal about Henry Hensche and read his book, but her take on him revealed yet another aspect of this great artist and teacher. I think I'll be ready for her workshop next year, God willing.

Thank heaven the traffic on the way home was light--I was so exhausted I could barely function. As I headed west on 32 I drove through a huge thunderstorm and got home only to find that there was no power at our house. Herb & I had to go out for dinner since we couldn't cook anything; I bathed by candlelight and turned in very early.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Londontowne in Spring

Londontowne in Spring, oils on canvas panel, 11" x 14." Contact artist for price.

It's high summer here in Maryland; we've been lucky to have cooler and less humid weather than usual so far. Still, I wasn't motivated to go outside to paint last weekend. My new 84-mile daily commute to my employer's Arlington office started the Monday before and by Thursday evening I was totally exhausted.

I'd been wanting to paint Londontowne Gardens so I dug out some of my photos taken this past spring when the gardens were at their most splendid. Voila! I love the the variety of greens of the foliage against the pinks and purples of the azaleas and bleeding hearts on this cloudy day.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Blue Heron Among the Waterlilies

Blue Heron Among Waterlilies, oils on canvas panel, 14" x 11." Contact artist for price.

My husband Herb kept urging me to paint something new and suggested I try birds. I told him it was impossible to paint birds in plein air. Birds rarely sit still for very long or let one get close enough to see any of the necessary details. That's why John J. Audubon had to kill his birds to paint them in such realistic detail. Thank heaven it's not necessary to kill the poor creatures anymore--we have cameras with zoom lenses to get our shots.

I took this photo at Centennial Park one morning last year and painted the beautiful blue heron from it in the studio yesterday. I love the graceful curves of the bird's pose, the setting among the waterlilies and the reflections on the water.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Waterlilies at Centennial Park

Waterlilies at Centennial Park, oils on canvas panel, 9" x 12"

It was delightfully cool on this breezy morning as I headed to Centennial Park to paint the waterlilies. I've learned from experience that this variety of waterlily flower opens only in the morning hours--by early afternoon the flowers begin to close and they stay closed until the next dawn.

There were no waterlilies on the near bank of the lake, so I had to walk around to the far side to find this beautiful group of rafts. It was well worth the effort to paint this view. I'll try another painting of waterlilies soon, next time with a closer focus on the plants and flowers.