Time struggles, plein air, and new calendar of events

This week has been a little crazy; two openings and a plein air event for me, theater rehearsals and school and sports for my daughter, and all of the regular stuff of life in between. But some version of crazy seems to be the norm for my schedule every week, and I am not alone.

While I was painting this week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (more on that in a minute) I ran into an artist friend and we started talking about how disorganized we can sometimes feel and how guilty we feel about not being better at marketing to social media, to our newsletters, and yes, to our blogs. When time is crunched, the choice of whether to do any of the above or to paint always seems to result in painting as the clear winner.

It’s a frustration that I know a lot of other artists share, many of whom, like me, aren’t always masters of time management or organization. “I need a calendar of events on my website,” I said to my friend, “a quick and simple way for people to check in and see my upcoming shows and events. Maybe it would help me stay more organized too.” When I got home that afternoon, I checked out my site and lo and behold it does have that functionality. So viola! I now have a calendar!😃

If you check out the aforementioned calendar you can see that I have been spending the week painting at the botanical gardens as part of a promotion for National Public Gardens Week. Local artists who applied to paint during this week will submit their completed works for a chance to be juried in to an exhibit at Lewis Ginter that opens June 22nd.

Work in progress, 12x16”, painted during National Public Garden Week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

Work in progress, 12x16”, painted during National Public Garden Week at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens

I really like these kind of events because even though I regularly paint outside on my own, they get me out and focused and inspired. I enjoy seeing what other artists are doing and collecting new ideas on various artists setups and tools of the trade. It’s a very different vibe from the more formal events that are organized around competition. I have some friends who thrive on competition and use it as a means to drive themselves onward to bigger heights. For myself, it’s a little more stressful. I do the competitions from time to time and haven’t yet regretted it, but I am not that competitive by nature. So the more relaxed festivals that are really just a celebration of art and plein air painting are truly my jam.

Plein air season

Every spring I jump the gun and think that the warm weather is here to stay, only to be blindsided by Ma Nature. Last week reached 80 degrees, so, after packing away most of my winter things, off I went to the garden center looking for color for my containers. That was last week. This week has been a totally different story, with rain, a March-like chill, and wind, oh so much wind!

Well the one smart thing I did in my zest for spring was to dust off my plein air gear on one of those summery mornings and visit the botanical gardens at Lewis Ginter. I went back to the Grace Arents Gardens that sit in front of the Bloemendaal House. I have painted this garden so many times but it is so beautiful and each season offers something new. In the early spring the garden offers a feast for the eyes dubbed "A Million Blooms", with acres of tulips, daffodils, and other spring bulbs.

"A Million Blooms in Grace Arents Garden" Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

"A Million Blooms in Grace Arents Garden" Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

I also like this particular site because it is one of the few places where there is adequate shade, and as the years have marched on my skin has become very sensitive. I do slather on the sunscreen and wear a big goofy hat, but it isn't always adequate and I pay for it later. I also carry an umbrella, but I don't really use it that much because of the extra time it takes to mount it, not to mention the dangers of having my whole setup topple over from a surprise gust of wind.


While I was there at the garden painting, I met several staff members who were enthusiastically commenting on my painting. Among them was the social media guru who took this snap of me in the early stages of my painting (bad hairdo and all). I had a great time and felt the sense of renewal that I always feel when I come back to plein air painting after a long break. Then came the wind and rain and cold, which delayed my ability to get a good shot of this piece outside until now.  I really hope the wind settles down today as I'd like to head back out there (or somewhere) today to get in some more on the spot painting while the spring flowers and trees are still going crazy.

P.S. Many of you responded to my last post with comments about my little obsession with a certain color on my palette. Yes, it is blue, but not any blue. It is (drumroll please) Indanthrene Blue. I will write more about it in an upcoming post.

Daffodil Season

I'm back to work from spring break, and since it was such a beautiful day yesterday I decided to kick off the week with a little plein air painting at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. It is a great place to visit and paint! Tulips are everywhere right now, but there were a ton of people visiting yesterday. And since I had gotten a late start and needed to set up quickly,  I wanted to avoid setting up in high traffic spots and those completely devoid of shade. So no tulips. However,  I found a lovely spot (with shade) in a quieter area of the gardens near the Bloomenthal House profuse with daffodils and pansies:

"Daffodil Season" Oil on panel, 8x10"  Jennifer E Young

"Daffodil Season" Oil on panel, 8x10" Jennifer E Young

It's pretty gray and rainy this morning, so I may need to re-photograph this when I have a bit more natural light. I had about an hour and a half to work on this painting, and then it was time to close up shop and pick up my daughter from preschool. But  was such a beautiful day in the gardens, that I returned with my daughter to share with her my enjoyment of this beautiful place.

Another garden plein air

Here is this week's plein air effort, once again at the botanical gardens:

plein air garden floral painting by Jennifer Young

It's incomplete as I started late and had to close shop before the two-hour mark. It was a beautiful morning, but the light quickly shifted from sun to overcast clouds, making my previously well delineated, high contrast subject suddenly a muddled mass of leaves and confusion.

Or maybe it was just my mind that was muddled? Every so often the light would peek back out, but not quite often enough to provide the kind of clarity I needed. In any case, this is as far as I got before I had to call it quits and pay the babysitter.

I painted this general location some time ago, though the arrangement (and light) was different. I had planned on painting another setting, but a large group was visiting the gardens this morning and had taken over my spot, foiling my plans.

Being short on time I decided to take another stab at this scene. I'm not sure if I will finish this piece. I may just treat it as an artifact of the morning's experience to learn from as I look forward to the next outing.

Plein air with the birds!

I spent two and a half hours yesterday morning literally contemplating the birds and bees at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. And of course, painting (which is the reason for this post!) I have watched this garden grow over the years that I have lived nearby, and it has become one of my favorite places to wander and paint. In fact, it has recently been awarded one of the "top 10 gardens worth traveling for" , and I feel really fortunate to be just down the road. At the far end of the garden, through the "woodland walk", one can come upon this little scene; it is a sanctuary for birds, butterflies, bees, and maybe even a human or two:

"Garden Sanctuary" Oil on Canvas, 12x9" ©Jennifer Young

"Garden Sanctuary" Oil on Canvas, 12x9" ©Jennifer Young

I have really missed plein air painting. It takes me beyond "production mode" and more deeply into the experience of painting nature. After yesterday's session I made a resolution; my goal for the next 60 days is to paint en plein air once a week. There may be a week here and there that my mommy duties will have to take precedence, but generally speaking I think this is a manageable goal. So if you notice me falling off task, you have my permission to nag, or slap me with a wet noodle--your choice! ;-)