Plein Air means “Painting with both hands”for me

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This past weekend I made my first attempt at Plein Air painting (En plein air (French pronunciation: ​[ɑ̃ plɛn ɛːʁ]), or plein air painting, is a phrase borrowed from the French equivalent meaning “open (in full)air“.).    

We were heading out to Joshua Tree for the Easter weekend and it seemed like a good idea for me to sit and paint while everyone else wandered around – hiking or taking photos.  So I asked around for suggestions and got some great tips.  Thank goodness for that, and thank you to everyone who chimed in on that.

I packed a couple of canvases, brushes and paints in my travel bag.  And we lugged my French Easel out to the dessert.  On Saturday, in the afternoon, we drove around the national forest looking for a good spot.  It was just in the 70’s this weekend, but no one was prepared for how dry it was.  Now don’t get me wrong, I know it’s a dessert.  For that reason it was recommended that I bring a spray bottle with water.  We’ve been to Joshua Tree a lot over the last decade and a half.  At one point we would camp nearly once a month out there, so I thought I knew what to expect.  But we all agreed it was the driest I’ve felt out there.  And we had the wind to contend with.

There was a bit of discussion on where I would set up.  I had a view I really liked, but I caved to the wisdom of setting up in the shade of a rock formation and used a view I was much less impressed with.  (And maybe that colored my experience as well).

So it took me 3 tries to just get the sky in.  When I sprayed the canvas, it would get wet in spots and the rest would be dry.  So, as I would bring a big blue stroke across the canvas, by the time I would come back the other way, it was “digging a hole” (painter term – see below*).  100_3070.JPG

Eventually, I figured out it was better to use the spray bottle to spray the paint in my wet pallet.  And I had pretty much flooded the sponge and paper in the wet pallet and still the paint was drying almost as fast as I could put it down.  And I had to move fast to get the paint up to the canvas before it dried on the brush.

4+ hours later and a lot of frustration, I had something done.  And I was pretty much done with the experience.  And I never figured out what I wanted to replace the cars and road with.

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I may try this again sometime, but probably NOT in the desert.

 

 

*Digging a Hole:  In painting, if you try to take a brush with wet paint and apply it over paint on canvas that is partially dry it will start to lift off some of the original paint on the canvas – causing holes.

 

Bad Babysitters: Progress in pictures. .

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My Goblins (Bad Babysitters) painting, took me about 5 weeks.  Which is amazing for me, because that’s much faster than normal.  But when you look at it closer- there were a lot of very long days in there.  So it’s also the most intense push I’ve ever done to get a painting finished.

Either way I’m pretty darn happy with these creepy cute fellows.

These photos were all taken with my phone as I was working on this.  So forgive the quality.  We’ll get a better one of the final shot soon.

Goblin final - bad pick wartermarked

Distracted by Goblins

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I started the year with a few good plans.  Painting projects I was ready to start working on and hopefully finishing this year.  I mentioned one (Barry the Bat) already.  But then I took a friend out for her birthday.

Started with a great dinner of food she’d never had before (Puerto Rican – I can recommend a great place in North OC).  Then we brought her to see some friends at their gallery for a night all about celebrating David Bowie.

Watching The Labyrinth and then watching some amazing artists (the birthday girl included) paint from the inspiration of the night was great.   I found myself quite inspired as well.  But in truth I was not feeling up to joining them.  I’m a pretty slow painter still and that’s after I’ve thought about the piece for a while.

So, I thought about what I would have wanted to paint (if I hadn’t chickened out) over the next day.  And that night I sat down and challenged myself to just do a study as fast as I could.  I had hoped to get something in about 2 hours.  But in just under 1 hour I had this: goblin studyI think he’s so ugly he’s cute.  He’s inspired by one of the goblins in The Labyrinth and I just LOVED his expression.  “Listen, she’s going to say the words.”  Besides he’s a Jim Henson’s Muppet, based on Brian Froud’s design, from a movie with David Bowie and Escher-esque scenes . . these are a few of my favorite things!

I’m pretty proud of the bug-eyed little guy.  And so, I’ve put other projects mostly on hold while I work on a more detailed painting of him and one of his big goblin buddies.  I just can’t get them out of my head until I’m done.