This Sunday I will be at the Bloomfield Farm Day/Insider Art Show & Sale at the Morris Arboretum. Hours are noon to 4 PM.
It will be held at the Bloomfield Farm section of the site and admission is free (if you want to visit the Arboretum across the street, you will still need to pay).
I’m taking clay work – a table’s worth or so. Tiles and sculptures both. This show marks the end of the outdoor 2018 season for me, and it’s a nice way to do so. Last year’s event featured a lot of wonderful art and crafts, music, food…and there were farm animals and tours of the grounds and mill (or you could just wander around yourself!)
Yesterday, Sunday, October 15, my husband and I participated in the Bloomfield Farm Day Insider Art and Craft Show.
Bloomfield Farm is part of the Morris Arboretum, located about 15 minutes from my house. We are members, which is how I was able to participate – exhibitors are all staff or members of the Arboretum.
Bloomfield Farm is a section of the Arboretum that is not generally open to the public to wander, though it contains the education center in which classes are held. There is a historic grist mill which has been restored by volunteers on the site as well as research projects in progress on the grounds.
This event allows the public to see the site, visit the art and craft show, listen to music, and tour the ground and building. The grist mill also goes into operation and is open for tours.
OK. I’d never done this show before, so I didn’t know what to expect. I gathered that it would be a low-key day, given the location, the event’s multiple purposes, and the fact that it was to last only four hours.
We arrived – the weather was cool and gray, but not raining.
We exhibitors were arrayed near the education center. Set-up was peaceful and easy.
The show allocated a table for each of us. We brought our tent and another table. I had decided to exhibit just my small paintings today. Our set up was so pleasantly quick and easy.
Other things were happening. The 4H club from a local high school (in the city of Philadelphia but with an agricultural program) brought some of their charges to the show – 2 pigs, a calf, a black and white bunny, and 2 sheep. You can imagine how popular they were. The animals and the kids all seemed to enjoy being there.
There was music over by the barn. The barn was not open for tours – maybe in the future, as I think it is being restored. Originally it served as the dairy barn for the farm. Now the musicians had it for their backdrop.
The education center is LEED-certified and a really nice complex.
This building, and several others, had a green roof. You might not believe this, but this is a big garage housing farm and agricultural equipment. If you went on the other side, you’d see tractors and snowplows and so on through giant doors.
The weather never cleared, but then, it never rained or even threatened, either. There was a steady crowd through our area and the parking lot was full. The atmosphere was very relaxed; at any one time the people were very spread out over the grounds taking tours, viewing the trees, and so on.
I saw some really nice work and some people were also demonstrating crafts – there was a group of people weaving that caught my attention. I had a lot of visitors and yet had plenty of time to talk to each group. Unlike some shows, the visitors were paying close attention to what we were displaying and wanted to discuss it. I liked that.
Several friends came by – shout out to John G. and Penny and Rob. I also had time to talk to several exhibitors and I really enjoyed that. I guess you can tell I felt the show was a success and I look forward to coming back next year.
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.
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!
Background – this show is hosted by InLiquid, a Philadelphia organization devoted to the interests of artists. The event features art costing $199 and below and runs the whole weekend, but I did only Saturday’s session.
The show is held in the Crane Arts Building, a renovated warehouse from 1905. The building now houses art organizations, artist studios, art exhibition space, and offices for businesses, including architects.
It’s located in a section of town that was formerly industrial, fell into disuse, and now is being reborn as a residential section. It’s a coming place to live, especially for young people. I visited this part of town quite a bit when I worked for a bank 35 years ago, when it was already in decline, seeing customers in the factories and warehouses around here. I considered it an area in which to be cautious and aware at all times then. It is changing fast now – the new and the old are side by side. Decrepit warehouses, razor-wired lots, remodeled industrial buildings, and brand new (and expensive) houses stand side-by-side. If you see a vacant lot now, you can be sure it’s got an owner waiting for development.
I noticed several bikes chained up in front of the building, on the street. You would not have left your bike in the open out here, years ago.
One more thing, and then I’ll get back to discussing the show. About ten years ago, I visited this same location for a show, and I took a picture of a building across the street. I did the same, this year, and now I see it’s a craft beer brewing location. So, I’m telling you, things are changing here and I’m glad to see it.
My space was in the Ice Box Room, a section of the warehouse that was used for cold storage of seafood in the past and is now an exhibit space. We each got a booth area of 6 feet deep by 7 feet wide. Perfect for my table and two chairs. I planned my setup for simplicity because of the small space but it worked out great.
The show was crowded, lots of shoppers all day. True to the changing neighborhood demographics, there were a lot of young people. Sales were good and the people-watching opportunities were first-class.
There was an outside section to the show and the music stage was there – but we could hear the performances through the door opened to the outside. I was intrigued by one band, Kitty Rotten, who did the whole set (in 85 degree weather) in kitty outfits.
You know, I’ve done shows for a long time, and most of them are pretty similar. This one was out of my usual routine and I had a great time. I met some artists new to me and saw a lot of interesting work. I also got some nice attention for my work. Looking forward to next year.
The second half of next weekend, Sunday, June 5, I’ll be participating in a plein air event just a few minutes from home – in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia.
I did this event last summer – you can read about it here. And I’ll let you in on something – though I said the painting was finished after the event – a few days later I took it out and did some more to it. It looked pretty similar, and yet – not! So that goes to show you that everything is subject to revision. Here’s the finished painting, and if you like, you can compare it to what I did on the plein air day.
Anyway, I had a great time, and I’m glad to be going back. I have a different location to paint this year – I’m at the top of the hill on Germantown Avenue, the 8600 block (last year I was in the 8300 block). If you are around, stop and say hello. I’ll be there (unless it rains, in which case there is a rain date of the next Sunday, June 12) from about 8 am to early afternoon.