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 workspace. 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.

plein air painting of stream at Bryan Park by Jennifer Young "Morning by the Stream"  Click here for more info!

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 (shrug) 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!