Plein air challenges

The artist's studio is a sanctuary of sorts, where one can create in peace and solace without interruption or (for better or for worse) outside influence. Its a controlled environment in every sense, from the lighting to the temperature to the people allowed (or not) into the work space. In this sense, plein air painting is exactly the opposite. One can control neither the lighting, nor the weather. Nor can one control the comments and opinions from onlookers. Sometimes the lack of predictability adds to the excitement of the experience. At other times the lack of control can be downright annoying.

Such was my experience last week when I returned to Bryan Park to paint the 9x12" piece below.

"Morning by the Stream", Oil on linen, 9x12" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

"Morning by the Stream", Oil on linen, 9x12" (SOLD) ©Jennifer E Young

When I started, the sky was bright but clouded over nearly completely, giving the land a soft but still luminous quality. Halfway through my session, the light burst through with blazing clarity, only to subside and reappear intermittently throughout the rest of the painting session. Next the wind picked up, prompting me to grab onto my umbrella periodically so as not to fly away over the rooftops.

I've learned to deal with Ma Nature and expect her many changes of mood. (Women!) Harder, for me, is to manage the human element. I simply hate the awkwardness of being interrupted when I really need to work, especially now that I'm a mom and I have only so many daylight hours set aside for work. But I also hate being rude.

I was all set up, and right before I laid down my first brushstroke I hear a man holler from across the park, "Oh wow, an artist! Can I watch?" Unfortunately I had forgotten to put my headphones on (the ultimate "leave me alone" apparatus) so I had to acknowledge the comment. I oblige...and then the questions start. "How are you going to paint the ripples on the water? Why are you painting that canvas all brown? What's that contraption there?"

At first I attempted politeness, but soon I realized this was only encouraging him. I would never get this painting started if I didn't put an end to this barrage of questions once and for all, and he wasn't picking up on my polite little hints. So finally I resorted to bluntness. "I don't want to be rude," I said, "but I need to get started, and I just want to warn you that once I begin painting won't be able to talk and paint at the same time. It's that whole left brain/ right brain thing. Haha."

I was awarded with an awkward silence and a very strange looking stare. I imagined the headlines:

Artist Drowns in Shallow Creek (painting also ruined).

But finally he broke the silence with a curt, "I'll leave you alone," and turning on his heel, he disappeared as quickly as he'd come.

Any way  in spite of the struggles and weirdness, I feel like I had a good painting session. I may do a little something more to resolve the background...or not. Overall I'm pretty happy with the composition and I feel as if I got a sense of the place and conditions of the day, especially considering what a day it was!

First plein air of autumn!

Happy Friday everyone. Here's a little plein air piece I did this week when the kiddo was in preschool. This was done at one of my fav local spots, Bryan Park. The weather has been gorgeous lately so I was thrilled to finally get back to some good old field painting at last! There were several really good views that I noted, but I settled on this lakeside view with its nice reflections and early autumn foliage. This is totally alla prima, with just a bit of tweaking to the wet paint edges when I returned to the studio. I started it at about 9 a.m.:

"Early Color, Autumn" Oil on Linen, 12x9"  ©Jennifer Young

"Early Color, Autumn" Oil on Linen, 12x9" ©Jennifer Young

I haven't mentioned plein air painting gear in a while, but it occurred to me on this outing how much I appreciate the simple shopper that I use to cart around my Soltek easel and all of the rest of my gear. Longtime readers may recall that I have a history with the Soltek that goes back about 7 or 8 years. Well, since the one "tune-up" I had, it is still going strong, though my dilemma about an adequately appointed backpack still exists. However, I picked up this little number several years ago on a whim at Burlington Coat Factory (of all places). It has a front and side outer pocket, and  fits my easel, panel carrier, and the rest of my painting gear (as well as a few personal items) perfectly. Most importantly it is on wheels, which, when used in the appropriate setting, is much easier on my back.

Now this bag won't help much trekking through the mountains or hopping over river rocks. But for city painting (which I do most often now due to time constraints and family obligations) it works great. It does have short straps on the top to carry up stairs, etc., but the bag is so long that with my 5' 4 1/2" frame they are used pretty minimally.  I have to admit that I have dragged this bag on its wheels through a field or two on a number of occasions, as well as a good many cobblestones. Remarkably it has held up great! The money I spent for this bag ($19.99) has served me well.  This I cannot say for the $70 beach cart I attempted to drag over the dunes last summer. After only traversing 10 feet on its virgin expedition, the cart's two front wheels promptly went "kerplunk" in the sand!