Plein Air Event, Chestnut Hill, Sunday, June 12, 2016

All right, I’ll give you a rundown on this event!

We arrived nice and early, around 8 AM. The location is only about 10 minutes from home so it was easy to do this. My location was in the 8600 block of Germantown Avenue, and I chose this spot at the intersection of Germantown and Bethlehem Pike. The day was warm, sunny, and quite windy.

I had decided to do 2 paintings, since I tend to work better if I move between pieces – I don’t overwork the details and consequently muddy things up.  I had two boards, 12″ x 16″, coated with a smooth gesso. Since I didn’t want to move my work area, I chose two views that I could see from my location.

So, I got to work.

At CH plein air 6-16

Quite a few people were out visiting the event – there were 40 or so artists at work on the Avenue. (I’ll take this chance to say thank you to my friends John N. and David W. for stopping by!) Here is a look at the progress on Painting #1:

And here is Painting #2:

And here is where I finished with them. For the day, anyway.

End of day 6-16 plein air CH small

I had some extra time and I had brought a larger board with me, so I started on it, using a view looking up the street. I was tired and losing focus, so I left this painting in a much more unfinished state (and it’s already had some changes made, believe me, one day later!).

Extra plein air 6-16 small

At three o’clock, my husband and I took one of the paintings, the crosswalk one, to be displayed at the reception.

And that was the event!

I came away from it with some insights about how I like to work that I had not focused on before. Honestly, I don’t like painting in this manner – I mean in an official plein air event. I felt under pressure to stay with a depiction of what I saw in front of me, and no more – my painting was totally dictated by what I saw outside myself, rather than from what comes to me inside my own head. I realized that even when I paint from a photo, I feel free to make changes, to use it only to spark other ideas, and most of all, to access memories or feelings inside me. Here – I didn’t feel much connection to what I was painting and so I don’t like what my results were. Which is why I say the paintings were finished – for that day! But not finished, the way I feel something is finished.

I did enjoy being outside and working, though I would make sure to be in the shade, and on a less windy day – the paint dried as quickly as I stroked it on the surface. I struggled a bit with my materials, I guess I’m saying.

So what I need to be doing is, working outside but painting from the inside – of my own head. And if I can combine the actual world with the internal one, I’ll have a happier result, both in my feeling about my work and the actual paintings themselves.

This insight is nothing cosmic, but it did help me put things into perspective. I now have three paintings started off and where they will go from here – we will see!

17 thoughts on “Plein Air Event, Chestnut Hill, Sunday, June 12, 2016

  1. I am sorry we could not make it along. This rain date clashed with a Scouting event for my two youngest sons. You got a great day for it though, bright and sunny but not too humid and with a pleasant breeze. I am impressed with how far you took three paintings on the day especially with all the distractions and it not being quite your cup of tea. I think plein air might work for you if you see that as just one stage of many more so the response to the real scene is the mere scaffolding on which you add your imagination and style. However, I am with you on much preferring to draw things that are generated inside my own head.


    1. It was a really useful experience just for me to realize this, not to expect to finish, but to get a start, in a new way. But also, pick places I really like, not places that I am assigned – that’s why I stopped doing commissions. Guess we learn the same things over and over in life…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally get the pressure to reproduce what you see…is that what everyone else feels I wonder? Even when working “from life” we should always be able to edit to fit our own vision. At least that’s what I think!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think many people were fine with painting what was in front of them; in talking to some of the other artists, that seemed to be their definition of painting, reproducing a scene. I can see how a plein air event would lean this way – duh! But for me, I felt constrained – at home I will do things to these paintings that will take them away from the reality, I feel pretty sure.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Ohhh, before reading about your feelings while painting in this way, I wished to comment what happiness you have depicted and transformed the rather tame reality in comparison into something magic. I believe you when you say that you felt guarded and forced to paint what you see more than when you do it without supervision, but believe me that these are such happy works that I’m sure you’ll be happy with when finished. I can tell this kind of event is very challenging and you did splendidly.


    1. Thank you, what great encouragement! I did feel at a loss looking at these buildings, which are pretty ordinary, and also I am very familiar with, living so near, and when I got to work, the bright colors and so on just appeared. I will say passersby all remarked on the colors and liked them. I feel better about the paintings now, I’ve started to make some changes and amendments, and I’ll get there in the end. Happy is what I want them to convey!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Claudia, I applaud your willingness to share your process in public…(I could never do it)…I would have felt like someone was peering over my shoulder! Love the paintings….I’ll be looking for those “Claudia” additions in the final pieces!


  5. Yes, I with dorandana above, very brave and generous to share your process. I think perhaps people in general have rather conservative ideas about what art is when they see somebody out and about painting. As an artist what you’re looking at is there to inspire you and get you into your own ‘creative zone’ – there are no rules that say it should accurately look like the view. I know I shouldn’t really say this, but isn’t that what a camera is for!!! Now I have to apologise to all fine art photographers ‘cos they know there’s more to their creative process than that. It too is more than simply capturing the view.


    1. Well, it seems to me that in any medium, including photography, there are those that stay on the surface and those who see something more and then proceed to capture it. I also think the usual person on the street looking at art is not sure of their own judgement or else has not thought about art much to develop their own taste independent of what they might have heard or been told – so the “reality” of an image is something to fall back on. I always try to take time with people to explain why I do things as I do, and that makes for more interest in my and other people’s art, I think (and I hope)!.


      1. Well, I certainly believe that the best people to gently educated the general viewer is an artist. I guess how ever you feel about your personal experience of the day, you can count it as successful as far as enlightening and informing a new audience is concerned.


      2. Yes, I think one of the things I like most about showing my artwork itself vs. it being in a gallery or show of that kind is talking to people about art and about my work. Rewarding for me and also I hope sometimes informative for the audience!


  6. Kudos to you for creating your art while under the watchful eye of the public. I couldn’t imaging creating poetry on the spot, before an audience.
    A thought on the wind drying the paint… It appears that your painting on a horizontal, rather than an easel, so maybe a three-sided plexiglass shield, say 15 inches high, would block the wind while allowing people to see your work-in-progress at an event like this.


    1. It was less intimidating than you would think, I think – you do get absorbed into the work and the people looking on don’t make much of an impression. If they want to talk I just stopped and focused on them, which did mean having to get back into thinking about what I was painting again – that was not as easy. But I find, like shows, people who don’t like your work don’t stop, so the ones who do are encouraging, so that’s nice.

      Good suggestion about the shielding. I prefer a flat surface to work on usually because I also lean on it for my balance issues (!). But the shielding idea is giving me some thoughts. Thank you.

      Liked by 1 person

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