Monday, July 27, 2009

Plein Air-Easton! My Experience...the story behind the painting "Alleyway Angles"

"Alleyway Angles" 16"hx12"w ©2009 C.L.Burgess

...Well, I survived the heat, the crowds, the anticipation, and the Quick Draw.

But to say only that would be to mislead the reader about the 2 days I spent with my husband visiting this lovely small town on the Eastern shore of Maryland in Talbot County.
Plein Air Easton! 2009 was the town of Easton's Fifth Annual competition and Arts festival. I found it to be a well staffed and manged event.

For artists who paint outside the studio, en plein air, Easton is a visual feast of sunlight, "painted ladies" houses, fabulous gardens, interesting old churches and architecture. For this artist, it was a chance to see some of the work of the best plein air painters in the nation, attend their demonstrations and meet new people who love what I love to do.

My goal was to enter my first Plein Air Quick Draw competition and complete a painting according to rules set by others and then be ready for judging and in a frame ready for sale in approximately 2 hours. Set up time not included.
Actual painting time? One hour 45 minutes. The three block run for the roses? Husband and new friend Mary in tow, assisting with easel, painting, 50lb bag of painting materials, sun umbrella, etc. a quick step took 4 minutes. Total experience: Priceless.

We arrived early Friday morning to scout out a suitable and riveting scene for me to paint. We walked about the town for about 5 hours breaking for lunch and then settling into our Victorian BnB called The Bishop's House. We had a quiet, scrumptious meal later in the evening at The Local Restaurant which is housed at The Tidewater Inn. During our walk about town earlier in the day, I photographed my location from many angles, made sketches then dreamed about painting it. So, for the reader who is not an artist, the prep time includes all that and more.
The artist is not permitted to violate the surface of the canvas prior to the sound of the clock at 10 a.m. and must finished by noon.

I arrived at my spot on Washington St. at Thompson Park across from the Historical Society. I painted an alleyway.
Why? Because I fell in love with it at first sight. And anyway, it was somewhere I thought no one else would chose to paint. I was correct and am glad about my choice. If not an award winner, at least it made people notice the alleyway which is quite interesting. To me it spoke of of its former use as a church, with its Gothic arched red doorway. It also provided perfect contrast between nature and man made objects. But what caught my eye, besides the contrast in bricks and sky, was the slice of light on the bricks, a brilliant orange set against the turquoise roof of a newer building behind it. And it had straight lines and angles which was the challenge for this painter of curves, faces and flesh.

Now for the amazing part of my story.

Two women, my angels literally, came to my side to help me navigate these new waters. One, another quick draw painter who thought I needed her umbrella for shade(I did), gave it to me to use since she was in shade..I struggled with it, but it did not fit my easel! Which brings me to Mary Bishop, my new friend, who held said umbrella for the whole of the two hours of allotted painting time!
I did not know Mary before that moment she came to watch, and offered her kindness to me. Yes, this is an angel, I thought. Not only was Mary my saving grace, but a hit with photographers, my husband and the passersby. I include photos taken by my other hero this weekend, husband Roger. Mary graciously turned down my offer of dinner and drinks etc in exchange for her service, saying her payment was the free lesson in how to paint en plein air. What a gal! Mary, bless her heart, as southern expression goes, also relieved the attendant anxiety that comes with painting in public. As I began to paint and instruct her of my choices, I immediately forgot and was relieved of the competitive struggle.

Survive did I say? No, I floated with the compassion of others, challenges and goals met and a new found courage to continue the path as painter, both inside and out.
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