Plein Air Crush

This week I am coming down off of an exciting weekend in Floyd County, Virginia, where I participated in the inaugural plein air event called Plein Air Crush. In total there were about 19 artists participating over the course of the weekend, with judging and awards taking place on Sunday. This year the event centered around Chateau Morrisette Winery, which has some interesting architectural features, lovely gardens and vineyards, not to mention a fine restaurant and some pretty tasty wine. It sounds luxurious doesn't it? But keep in mind I was not doing much sipping. Instead I was schlepping; schlepping a bunch of art gear and standing for hours, out in the elements. It was hard on the body but rewarding for the spirit, and I had a good time painting the new-to-me scenery and meeting other artists.

We converged on Friday evening for a little meet and greet, but the painting portion of the event kicked off on Saturday, where we faced the threat of rain and some pretty dark skies. Painting in these conditions is really challenging because the value range is very limited and the light fairly flat. So I decided to set up in the vineyard where I found opportunities for some strong linear elements and soft edges that provided interesting compositional options:

"Vineyard in Gray Light", oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young. To purchase,  contact me !

"Vineyard in Gray Light", oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young. To purchase, contact me!

In the afternoon I decided to venture a little further afield to paint a view of Buffalo Mountain: 

"Buffalo Mountain View" , oil on linen, 8x8"  ©Jennifer E Young

"Buffalo Mountain View" , oil on linen, 8x8"  ©Jennifer E Young

Sunday was the quick draw. It was incredibly windy. Worse than clouds and rain, wind conditions are a nearly impossible situation for the plein air painter because of the danger of having your entire setup topple and/or take flight.  The wind at the winery required that most painters seek a shelterd place unless they had a good way of weighting their setup (which I didn't).

Down at the vineyard though it was much warmer and virtually windless. I hadn't really planned on doing another vineyard piece but I figured it was my best option for success when we had a time limit.

"Sunlit Vines, Oil on linen, 9x12"©Jennifer E Young.  Contact me  to purchase!

"Sunlit Vines, Oil on linen, 9x12"©Jennifer E Young. Contact me to purchase!

Jennifer painting the vineyard at Chateau Morrisette during the Quick Draw.

Jennifer painting the vineyard at Chateau Morrisette during the Quick Draw.

We had three hours for the quick draw (which is actually pretty generous). At the alotted time we had to deliver our quick draw painting and the other works we had completed during the event and set up for judging. Steve Doherty, artist and editor of Plein Air Magazine was the judge. I didn't win any awards but it was cool to meet him and I learned a lot about my painting, and even a bit about myself as well.

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Setting up for the judgement back up at the winery

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Here I am happy and tired. The wind blew up a bunch of dirt on my paintings. I have managed to get most of it off of the two vineyard pieces, but the Buffalo Mountain one was painted really thickly and I don't think that stuff is going to budge. Oh well...that's plein air for you! It was good winery soil at least.

I came home to a messy house and a bunch of dirty laundry, but it was a fair trade for having had time off from mommy duties to do my thing for a whole weekend. (Thanks honey!) :-)

The making of a commission

It's hard to believe summer is almost over. The move of my home and business, along with family matters, tended to completely monopolize my spring and summer, and yet there is still so much to do.   While we are slowly settling into the house, it will be some time before I have a studio. So I have "made do" with either painting outside in the blazing summer heat, or setting up a temporary studio with drop cloths in my poorly lit living room. For those reasons, my painting production has been down and it's been driving me a little crazy. Nevertheless, opportunity waits for no one, and commissions are a special kind of opportunity. Time to pull out the drop cloths and shop lights again! :-)  I have been painting for 20 years, and in that time, I've had a variety of commissions. Some are more "challenging", and some are pure delight. Of course, the latter are more pleasurable, but all commissions have been, to me, opportunities for growth as an artist.

My latest commission, in spite of my less than ideal work environment,  fell distinctly in the realm of the delightful. I met the client during a painting demonstration at the Little Gallery where my work was being featured in June. He happened to love one of my paintings in that show, called "The Potted Garden, Pienza":

"The Potted Garden", Oil on canvas, 12x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"The Potted Garden", Oil on canvas, 12x12" ©Jennifer E Young

The only issue was that the format (square) wasn't quite right. He was looking for a slightly larger, more vertical painting, and a companion piece of the same size to complement it in an adjacent spot.

I loved this little scene and I was happy to explore it again with a different format. So my first task was to convert my square composition to a vertical piece. Luckily, the architectural subject matter leant itself to the task naturally, and I was able to use Photoshop to render a "sketch" for a proposal in much faster time than I would have been able to do free-hand:

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As you can see, I didn't labor over rendering the upper portion. The purpose was just to continue it upward to demonstrate how it would look. (Photoshop is a very expensive program, but nothing beats it for working out compositional options for paintings!)

In all honesty, because the location of the focal point was in the right position for both the original 12x12"  and the commissioned 16x12" format,  I didn't have to do much to the composition of the original painting beyond extending it. That's not always the case, believe me, but this time things worked out really well. But because I was losing a window on the upper left, I did suggest that I replace the two flower pots under the window for a larger, single hanging basket, as this would give this area more unity.

Once I received the client's approval for my proposal of the first painting, I set to work finding a second composition that I would create as a companion piece. I'll cover that in the next installment. Stay tuned!

Watching the Waves

Here is the last plein air painting I did at the beach last week. It was a quickie, started around 4:30 or so and wrapping up around 6PM. Watching the waves is one of my favorite things to do when I'm at the beach.

"Watching the Waves" Water miscible oils on linen, 8x8"  ©Jennifer E Young

"Watching the Waves" Water miscible oils on linen, 8x8" ©Jennifer E Young

What is it about the ocean that calls us so? I guess it is the mystery of it. Or maybe it's the rhythm of the tides? Or maybe it's just that it is the place where we all originated, and it's depths are still unknown. My daughter once asked me, "When does the ocean stop waving?" Exactly! It never does, though it never ceases in changing either.

Incidentally, as I was painting this little vignette of our neighbor with her blue striped umbrella, I was photographed by Hidden Outer Banks!

Plein air painting at Nags Head. Image credit Hidden Outer Banks

Plein air painting at Nags Head. Image credit Hidden Outer Banks

Check them out. It was perhaps the one time when I actually didn't mind having a picture taken in my bathing suit. ;-)

Morning Surf

Immediately after I wrapped up painting my sunrise painting, I turned to look up the beach toward the pier and noticed how lovely the waves looked lapping up on the curving shoreline. So since I finally felt like I was getting somewhere with these paints, I decided that this would be a back-to-back session, one piece after another. Here' s the beach in early morning, post sunrise, around 8:30 a.m. or so:

"Morning Surf" Oil on Canvas, 9x12"  ©Jennifer E. Young, All rights reserved

"Morning Surf" Oil on Canvas, 9x12" ©Jennifer E. Young, All rights reserved

For this painting and the prior sunrise one I had to lay the paint on pretty thickly to manipulate the edges the way I wanted. Also I found the titanium white and cadmium yellow light were much less intense than what I was used to with my traditional oils, so the highlights were painted very thickly indeed. I hadn't noticed this in my first venture with the Water Soluble oils, but it became much more apparent with these beach paintings because they are pretty high key.  Overall the effect seems to me to be closer to a palette knife painting than one done with a brush, though hog bristle brushes were all that I used.

I really enjoy painting the surf. While I have done it before a number of times  in the studio, these pieces were my first effort done completely from life. What a rush! I feel like I could spend a lifetime studying just this one subject...I should be so lucky.

Back from the beach

Last week my family made our annual trek to the Outer Banks of North Carolina. It is a trip I look forward to all year, and it always seems to be over all too soon. For this trip, I brought along my water soluble oils.  Given all of the moving and excitement we had this spring and summer, I thought I would simplify things a bit with the painting gear I chose to bring with me, and eliminate the need for carrying turpentine. The only problem with my little plan was that, unlike my first foray into this medium, I found myself struggling. A lot. I don't know if it was the humidity, the painting surfaces, my overall fatigue or what. But every painting I did all week was a complete wiper, in spite of my most valiant efforts.  The paint seemed to completely lack body and intensity. It also seemed to do nothing but smear all over my surfaces when I applied them.

Finally on the night before the last full day, it dawned on me that I should try a more absorbent surface. When I paint with traditional oils my preferred surface is one that is quite smooth --a fine weave linen or a shellacked birch panel. It was my understanding that shellac wasn't going to fly with water soluble oils, and my linen wasn't doing the job at all. So I dug around in my supply of panels and came up with a couple of gessoed birch panels and a Pintura gessoed canvas panel and decided to throw the old Hail Mary on the final day.

Here is the  first piece I did that last day, at sunrise:

"Sunrise at Nags Head" Water miscible oils on panel, 9x12"  ©Jennifer E Young

"Sunrise at Nags Head" Water miscible oils on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

Finally I painted 3 pieces that I actually felt happy with! The paint was still harder to control than my beloved traditional oils, and I had a harder time mixing the colors I was aiming for, but at least the paintings actually looked like something I could show and/or use for reference when painting larger pieces. I will post the other paintings from that day in the coming days. Stay tuned!