Next up – one of my favorite shows, and one I’ve been participating in since the 1990’s – Art-in-the-Park at West Park.
The show is held in an arboretum/city park in a historic district. It’s a beautiful location with a bandshell and elaborate fountain, plus many shade-producing trees, of course! If you are in the area this Saturday, I hope you might stop by. I’ll be showing my acrylic paintings.
This next weekend, Friday-Sunday, May 25-27, I’ll be at this show in Allentown, PA. It’s a revival of the long-running Mayfair Festival, now sponsored by Cedar Crest College, and to be held on the campus. I am really looking forward to the show and anticipate having a great time there.
Take a look at the website – Mayfair at Cedar Crest – to see the offerings – art, music, kids’ activities, arboretum tour. I hope to have some time to get around to some of these venues myself!
Art show hours are Noon to 8 PM (the overall show closes at 10 PM). Admission and parking are free. I’ll be showing my paintings here. Note – I’ll be in the indoor artists’ section.
You might enjoy a walk-through behind the scenes of this festival. I can give you a good picture, at least as far as my role in the production goes. There is a routine we go through at each show to get ready for our performance. This show is a good one to examine – we have a set-up afternoon the day before the event, plenty of time for me to take some pictures.
We always shop for food before a show. We take our own. Fair food is not easy to survive on for two hot July days. Although I do have a soft spot for a nice hamburger right off the grill, or maybe a hot dog… Still, it is better to have our own food and drinks.
Shopping done, we have to load the car.
Loading the car is my husband’s specialty. He decides and I put things where he tells me when we are packing up after the show; before the show – he does it all. For which I am really thankful. The car awaits:
We are taking only the tent, racks, table, and miscellaneous items today. We will take the artwork tomorrow and hang it in the morning. I don’t like leaving it overnight. So, the car is not that full.
Loading up done, we drove out to Tinicum Park and arrived about 1 PM. Most shows assign a specific space, but this one puts you in an area, and you choose your location. We have been in this section for years and know it pretty well, so we don’t have trouble deciding on a space.
Lots of room. We park the car right in front. It’s not always possible to be this close to the booth, as many shows don’t have so much room.
Another person’s setting up across the way. Otherwise, it is really pretty quiet around our area.
We get to work. First the tent gets set up. Then we attach the sides. Then we set up the racks. I have covers for them but I’ll put them on tomorrow.
Finally, we zip up the front. The tent is all ready for the night.
Since we were not in a hurry, we decided to take a walk around. Tomorrow this field will be full of people but right now it’s quiet.
The music stage is ready to be opened for tomorrow’s performances. We can hear the music from our tent. I like that.
Next to it is the food vendor area.
A cheesesteak is a Philadelphia tradition. Thin-chopped beef fried with onions on a grill, put on a long soft roll with melted cheese. Yum.
The local garden club has always had a plant sale in the picnic shelter. I like the cactus gardens a lot.
We stopped to talk to a friend putting up her tent over on the other side of the park. Then we walked back to our car, completing a big circle around the show.
We will be back tomorrow morning.
Shout-out #1 to my husband: it is his birthday!
Shout-out #2 to my friend Diane: she has moved out of state and so is not here, but we did this show together for years and years. Good memories.
I participated in the 3rd annual plein air painting competition in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia on Saturday, June 10. Here is what happened…
Chestnut Hill is a neighborhood about 15 minutes from my house. Though part of the city of Philadelphia, it very much thinks of itself as an entity and has an active business association that puts on lots of events such as this one. The main street is Germantown Avenue, lined with all kinds of shops. On a Saturday, it’s very busy with shoppers and pedestrians all day long.
We arrived a little after 8 AM and went to our spot in the 8500 block of the avenue.
I chose a spot in front of the Wells-Fargo bank. I thought it would be nice because of the trees (offering shade) and the fire hydrant, which meant no one could park in front of me and block my view.
The bank was closed, unusual for a Saturday, so I knew that I wouldn’t have to contend with traffic behind me, either. Also, we got quite a bit of amusement all day, watching how people went about figuring out the bank was not open – shaking the door handle, pretty much every person, plus a lot of peering into the interior through the door. We started off trying to warn people, but most did not hear us, and so we just let events take their course.
But I digress. I brought a table to work on, two 12″ x 18″ cradled boards that I had gessoed the day before, a selection of paints, water, brushes, rags…sun screen…
As you may know, I don’t mix paints, I work straight from the tube, so it pained me to have to cut down my color selection just to these favorites, but I had to do it in the interest of space.
I chose two views from my vantage point.
I planned to work on two pieces at once. I do this every time I paint – since I work in layers, and I work quickly, I have to make sure the layers dry before I paint over them, or the result is – mud. I find that if I work on a couple of pieces at a time, I don’t get myself into trouble.
Plus, I like the focus-switching it takes to do things this way. I think it helps me step back mentally, even if for just a little bit, and then when I return, I have the benefit of coming back with increased freshness. Even that small amount of time is meaningful.
All right. I set things up on my table. (Several people asked me during the day why I did not use an easel like the other painters. I got used to working flat on a table when I did fabric and collage work, and that’s that I like to do, was my answer.)
And I started right in.
I’ll show you the progression of each work as it went through the day. Here is the first one, the view to my right:
And here is the second one, the view to my right:
And the pieces as finished – these are same as #4 in the above groups, but larger.
The event was also a competition, and so the judge came by during the afternoon. I did not end up winning anything, but I appreciated it that he spent time talking to me about my work. I think that’s very important, for the judge to interact with the artist; I do not like a judge who stalks in, silently sweeps a gaze over the work, and then goes out, without a word.
When I finished, my husband and I sat back in the shade for a while and looked over the work, shown here with our every-faithful picnic cooler, a staple of every show we do. By this time I had moved the table into the shade – for the last parts of the painting, I didn’t need to look at the scenes but at the painting itself. It becomes self-referential as it nears completion – it needs to look right as its own entity, I find, rather than referring back to what inspired it from the outside.
At the end of the day, there was a nice reception inside a branch of the local bank who was one of the sponsors.
When I started the day, I had a couple of goals.
Stay unflustered while working in front of people, especially when they stopped to talk to me. I am used to dealing with people in relation to my art from my selling experiences, so it is not that I shy away from their notice. I do not have stage fright!
No, it is that when I paint, I really fall into a deep focus, and for me to come out of it takes some effort before I swim back up to the surface. Doing it again and again all day has bothered me in the past. I was determined to stay on track and yet enjoy talking to the people who stopped. And I was able to do so on this day. I had a lot of visitors and good conversations, and I was also able to complete my work. That was good.
I wanted to edit the scenes I saw so that I stayed with the feeling that inspired me to choose them, to find the details or aspects in them that interested me, and to feel free to discard or distort the rest of it.
In the past plein airs I have done, I have gotten caught up in trying to depict the scene at the expense of enjoying painting. Since I don’t really care much about how much my paintings resemble reality in my usual work, I’ve been puzzled as to why such a thing becomes important in plein air painting. Pursuing that end has frozen up my fingers and mind in the past. I was determined not to go down that road again today.
I am pretty sure the majority of the other plein air painters would say that representing the scene is the major goal of the exercise. At least that is what I think from my observation of the work the other participants displayed at this and other events I’ve painted in. But for me, I wanted the scene to inspire me and to let me take it from there. In looking over my paintings, I feel that this year, I did meet this objective. And I felt more relaxed and happy while I was working. That was good, too.
I sold one painting right off my table – some people who had bought from me in the past came by, unaware that I would be there. I had not seen them in some time and I enjoyed catching up. We came to an arrangement for “Chance Meeting”. I named it for the occasion, and they took it home from the reception.
It is the experiences of such an event that matters. I rediscovered this truth at this plein air event.
I’ll be participating in this annual event once more – coming up this Saturday.
The way it works is – artists are assigned spots along Germantown Avenue in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. We create our artworks over the course of the day and there is a group showing in the afternoon. Passersby can go along the avenue and take a peek into the creative processes of artists working in all kinds of styles.
I’ll be located in the 8500 block, east side. The event starts at about 10 AM and goes until 3 PM. Look here for more info.
I’ll be showing my paintings at this great show in Allentown this Saturday. It’s a well-established show held in an arboretum/park in the middle of the city – a lovely green space created about one hundred years ago and well-cherished today. The event is organized by the West Park Civic Association.
I really love going to this show – I would say it is one of my two favorite events. I’ve come here for almost two decades, I think. I didn’t make it here last summer – my second cataract operation interfered. So I’m extra-ready to be back in my space (#108, if you are interested, and I have occupied this location since the first year I did the show!).
The park is located between Linden and Turner, 15th and 16th, Allentown, PA, 10 AM to 5 PM, and the weather looks just perfect for a show.
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.
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.
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!).
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!