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.

Change is Good (on revising oil paintings)

I’m not afraid of anything in this world
There’s nothing you can throw at me
That I haven’t already heard
I’m just trying to find a decent melody
A song that I can sing in my own company
— Songwriters: Adam Clayton / Dave Evans / Larry Mullen / Paul Hewson (U2)

I've heard it said that there's nothing new under the sun, and that's probably true when it comes to painting. Nevertheless,  I never stop striving to improve, both in terms of technique and in how best to express myself. I want to make work that speaks to me and hopefully speaks to others as well. No one painting can say everything and I don't expect it to. The best paintings say just enough, with sensitivity, but without overstating. 

And then there are the ones that need re-stating. :-/  Often with such paintings it is easier to just wipe down or tear up my first effort and see if I can try again on a fresh canvas. Sometimes though,  it seems worth the effort to attempt a revision first before scrapping the whole darn thing. If the painting is fresh and new, reworking is a fairly easy and straightforward task, as there isn't an under-layer of built up paint to compete with.

But it may not occur to me right away exactly what change is needed, and it's only after sitting with it a while that I want to go back into it again. In these cases, a little bit of elbow grease is required, both to ensure proper adhesion of the new paint layers and to knock down any unwanted texture. 

My painting, "Rugosa Coastline" is a studio piece that was based on a smaller plein air piece I did when I was up in Maine. After a few months of thinking about it I decided that it lacked something that the plein air piece captured. I felt the studio piece was labored, overall too busy, and the colors, especially in the foreground greenery,  too intense for the time of day. So I set to work to see if I could make a few changes, to maybe loosen it up, and tone down the colors to ones more faithful to the time of day I was trying to capture.

First pass of my 24x30" studio painting based on the smaller plein air piece below.

First pass of my 24x30" studio painting based on the smaller plein air piece below.

"Day's End, Lane's Island", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

"Day's End, Lane's Island", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer E Young

My first order of business was to knock back some of the texture. Not all texture in the under layer is bad, but if there is  a lot of texture that shows through as a "ghost" image I will sand it down a bit. If it's really built up I may find I need scrape it away razor blade, very carefully, (and pray I don't poke a hole in the canvas). 

Next I will "oil out" to give the new paint layer better adhesion to the partially dried layer underneath. To oil out, solvents or medium (or a combination) is brushed in a thin layer on the surface of the portion of canvas you want to rework. Most often I just use a little Gamsol for this purpose. 

"Rugosa Coastline" (SOLD) Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

"Rugosa Coastline" (SOLD) Oil on linen, 24x30" ©Jennifer E Young

The resulting painting was still a bit different than the little plein air piece, but it felt truer to the time and place and to the feelings that I had when creating the painting on the spot. I felt significantly happier with the revised version of this painting, and wouldn't you know, someone else did too? It sold not long after the revision. 

Tune in to part two in my next post, where I'll share another revision I undertook, which ended up with more extensive and fairly dramatic changes. 

Upcoming events

Sometimes I am grateful for the cool rainy days of spring. It makes me feel like I can do things like clean my studio or prep my plein air panels and frames without the tinge of guilt and regret from not being outside in the thick of it painting all of that spring color. But without the prep work, the other doesn't happen, so hooray for rain and clouds and wind! :-)  

This week I am preparing for a couple of upcoming events that I am excited to share with you. The first is coming up speedy-quick. It's a plein air painting event called "Plein Air Unleashed" in Whitestone, Virginia. I have never been to this area but from what I have read and heard, it sounds like a location ripe with subject matter for plein air painting. 

pleinairunleashed.jpg

Starting this Thursday artists will descend on the charming, sleepy towns of Whitestone and Irvington and unleash actual havoc with flying paint and violent brushwork! Seriously though it should be lots of fun scheduled over a long weekend this Thursday, April 26th through Sunday April 29th. Please visit the Plein Air Unleashed Facebook Page for all of the information on the demos and events planned. The paintings from the event will be on exhibit at the Allure Art Center through May 26th.

"Charmed In Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14", will be included in the upcoming "April Showers Bring May Flowers" exhibit of flower-themed art at Gallery Flux.

"Charmed In Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14", will be included in the upcoming "April Showers Bring May Flowers" exhibit of flower-themed art at Gallery Flux.

Also this month I will be participating in a spring-themed exhibit at Gallery Flux entitled "April Showers Bring May Flowers". Come enjoy the color on display in this floral themed exhibit with works by over 20 artists. The variety of mediums, sizes and floral interpretations make an eclectic mix of artwork celebrating the beauty of spring. Opening Reception : Thursday, May 3, 2018 5:30-8pm. Exhibit continues through May 25th. 

I hope to see some familiar faces at one or both of these events. If you are further afield, follow me online on Instagram and Facebook where I'll do my best to keep you updated!

Rassawek Vineyard (plein air to studio)

There have been a number of occasions where my plein air paintings get stashed away for a while, only to be discovered when I can't stand the mess of my studio space any longer and (finally!) decide to instill some order. Such was the case with this little plein air study I did this past May at Rassawek Vineyard during its annual Spring Jubilee:

"Rassawek Vineyard, Study", oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

"Rassawek Vineyard, Study", oil on panel, 9x12" ©Jennifer E Young

It was a challenging session, as I recall, because those clouds kept morphing and changing the light and becoming more ominous as time advanced. In fact, I had to close up before I intended, in order to make a dash for my car before the sky opened up (and indeed, it WAS just in time.)

Nevertheless, there was something nice about this that I wanted to explore further, as it was such a lovely setting. For the larger painting I was planning however, I wanted to zoom out a bit to show the expansiveness of the landscape. So I searched my photo archives to see if I could find the view I had in mind. Voila! I found what I was looking for, which also  included the roses marking the end of each row on the vineyard, (something I failed to note in the study.) I didn't get any progress shots of this painting because it has (ironically) been raining non-stop here for over a week, making the lighting insufficient for photography. In any event, I took a shot of the final studio piece outside during an all-too-brief pause in the rainfall.

"Rassawek Vineyard", Oil on linen, 30x40". ©Jennifer E Young

"Rassawek Vineyard", Oil on linen, 30x40". ©Jennifer E Young

Charmed in Beynac

Well school's out for summer, so we are all transitioning into  a new schedule. I was able to get into the studio a bit last week, and finished up the little French village painting I had started on in my previous post:

"Charmed in Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer Young

"Charmed in Beynac", Oil on linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer Young

I am having a good time experimenting with some new Gamblin paint colors on my palette. My favorites right now are some from their "Radiant"  line and the "Brown-Pink" I seemed to be hearing about everywhere I turn. All I can say is, Brown-Pink, where have you been all my life?

This little painting brings back  a most memorable visit to the village of Beynac. I traveled with a group during this trip, and on this particular day I was to meet the others for a tour of the chateau. The Chateau de Beynac sits at the very top of a rather steep climb through the town, which basically is plopped onto the side of a cliff. 

I wasn't very popular on that day because I lagged behind. Hey, was it my fault the town was so utterly charming? I did end up making it to the tour of the chateau on time, but barely, and not without some exasperated looks darting my way. Oh well, in my tardiness I got some great pictures, so for me it was totally worth it.