En Plein Aire: When Nature Calls cont.

Part Two

I did it. I participated in my first En Plein Aire event. Not, the monthly get out and paint with others get together which I had been dodging until the days get cooler. No, this was an all day event.

Forget easing in. No…. I went all in. I would seize the day! Until it seized me.

I had my faithful cart (from Academy Sports) carefully loaded with what I thought I would need to survive a hot Texas day at the local nature preserve. I had a small ice chest with a little ice, fortified water, paper towels, cooling cloths, snacks (packaged for a toddler because that was the only thing I could find with sliced apples), hat, a small folding chair (golf spectator type), my pochade box with paints, the tripod for the pochade, bug spray, portable battery for my cell phone (yep!), and numerous other small items in a tote that I always carry with me whenever I go paint.

I left the wine, boom box, portable fan, and pack of Depends at home. Didn’t want people to realize it was my first time en plein aire that wasn’t in my backyard. I did however, bring my “square” card reader… just in case someone walking by couldn’t live without whatever I wound up painting. You know, just practicing positive thinking.

I got there, signed in, picked up my info and goodie bag and headed for the trail along with several others. Luckily for me, my friend Beth had arrived at the same time. Beth volunteers at this nature preserve, so I hooked up with her. She knew where all the best shaded areas were.

After a few minutes of walking, we had arrived and I was ready to get at it! My pochade box, however, was not. It got into a fight with my tripod. Took me about ten minutes to get them to make up and work together. Easy snap on feature, my arse.

Once that was worked out. I could enjoy the day. I was a plein aire painter! Nature sang it’s song through the trees, the birds, the grasses. I was loving it. The heat would be ignored. The bugs dropping from the trees would be ignored. I wasn’t new to tuning things out, I have …

Surprise!

Did I mention that we were there during the annual Dinosaur exhibit at the preserve? Moving, life size dinosaurs. There was one right behind us. I knew it was there, how could you miss seeing it? Lovely fellow. However, it was… vocal. Roared a lot. Must have been an art critic at one time.

Then came all the parents with their kids. Kids who were there to see, squeal, cry like they were being forced to sit with Santa, and to roar back at the dinosaurs. Isn’t plein aire painting great!!

Stay tuned for Part Three. Or not.

En Plein Aire: When Nature Calls

Part One

No, I’m not going to write about the need to find a place to empty my bladder when painting outdoors. Although I must admit determining where I wind up and how close it is to a “facility” is a high priority for me. Yes, I’m a wuss.

Now back to the tale. Or trail.

Several months ago, I joined the newly created local en plein aire group. I didn’t join because I love to sweat, fight off bugs, and haul painting supplies for a mile. In fact, I’m quite the opposite. I love air conditioning in the summer, heat in the winter, no bugs, and indoor plumbing. However, as a local artist, I wanted to support this new group and the amazing artists who love to paint outside.

So, I paid my dues and continued to paint. Inside. Paintings of landscapes and seascapes and things that are, of course, outside. At this point, en plein aire was only in my mind. My paintings continued to be from my imagination or photos and painted in my studio or at home. Like the one to the right which was not painted outside.

I LOVE nature, but not when it’s hot. You do not want to be around me when I’ve been sweating. My deodorant doesn’t want to be around me when I’ve been sweating. I guess if you paint outside with others it’s just something everyone gets used to. Or maybe that’s why everyone sets up so far apart. Actually, it’s not that bad. I just feel like it is.

So the group continued to meet and paint. Without me. However, I was on my way.

Stay tuned for part two. My first en plein aire event which was “all day”.

People Watching Is Like Bird Watching

The gallery where I have my studio is a co-op and one of the requirements of being in a cooperative art gallery is that you have to work there a few times a month. So, (in addition to time spent in the studio) I get a lot of opportunities for people watching… and unintentional eavesdropping. Ok, sometimes it’s not unintentional. I am, by nature, both creative and curious.

I have to admit, I do like to people watch while working at the gallery. It’s kind of like birdwatching in your backyard. Like the birds, some arrive by themselves, some with their mates, some in groups. Some come in with their young in tow. You can hear soft twittering to loud cawing. Some are from the area and others are just passing through.

Watching and listening tells me a lot about our visitor. For example, those who know their stuff from those who, in a word, don’t. Those that don’t know their stuff try really hard to get attention. They strut, they flap a bit, they make a lot of noise while they tilt their heads back and forth surveying the art… all while trying to impress whoever is closest. “Look at the definitive aspects of the piece in how it’s being interpreted.” WHAT?? Yes, that circle is interpreted very circular and that square is very square. And just so you know, I would never embarrass anyone by saying something. Unless asked. Even then, I am gentle as I explain what I know about the artist, their artwork, and their technique.

Or I totally agree with them. Saves time.

Like birds to my yard, some of their songs can be irritating at times. Such as: “these look like a little kid did them”. NOT A CHANCE, LADY! Ok, it might look simple, but it’s a developed technique, and a kid couldn’t do it. (Unless the little kid is an art savant… and they do exist, but not at our gallery. We wouldn’t want the competition.) Or the songs can be quite enjoyable, “I just LOVE how this was done. I just want to step into the scene” YES! That’s what the artist hopes you’ll feel. Or even songs that are sweetly amusing. Such as “Look how realistic this is! It’s amazing!” WELL, Sir, that’s a photograph in a frame.

So, as artists, we just smile and enjoy the sighting. An art critic now might become an art collector in the future. We definitely want the bird to come back. So we do our best to encourage and not discourage… unless they are an absolute looney bird.

Now… back to bird watching (I mean people watching) the visitors in the gallery. Like the birds that come to my backyard, I appreciate all the visitors that stop in. Okay, some more than others. What is important is that each is special and unique in their plumage and by their nature. Also, each comment or encounter can lead to one of the following: 1) a private laugh shared with another artist as we roll our eyes, 2) a teachable moment with someone who is truly interested to know more, or 3) an enjoyable conversation with someone who happens to really connect with a piece in the gallery.

Watching and listening. Whether it’s people or birds, it makes time spent around them much more enjoyable. Most of the time.

When Dragons Fly: The Symbolism of Dragonflies

Dragonflies. Colorful, delicate, fierce creatures. I love seeing them around my backyard. I mentioned in a prior post that I had one that used to watch me and appear to intently listen to my attempt at conversation with it.

As with many other creatures, different cultures have given the dragonfly attributes and characteristics that are symbolic with much meaning. Attributes and characteristics you won’t find in any natural science books.

The iridescence of it’s body and wings as it moves in the light causes changes to it’s colors. This ability to change and reflect the light is seen as showing us we have the ability to be adaptable, creative, and inspired. We have it within ourselves to end our self doubt and to open up to new thoughts, new ideas, new possibilities. To let ourselves shine.

In most parts of the world, dragonflies represent transformation, the ability to change one’s self. They are seen as a symbol of maturity of the mind and emotions. The dragonfly reminds us that age and wisdom give us the ability to transform. To be better.

In some Native American cultures, dragonflies have long been seen as a symbol of spring, rebirth, and renewal. They were also portrayed as the keeper of dreams to remind us, through our dreams, that we have the power within ourselves to achieve our goals. To dream of one is also interpreted to mean that change is coming.

To the ancient Celts, dragonflies were truly magical beings. To have one cross your path was a reminder to live life to the fullest, overcome fear, and let the light transform you.

The next time you encounter a dragonfly, maybe you will see more than just a “mosquito-eater”. Let it remind you that you have the power to change what might need to be changed. To see yourself in a new, positive light.

See the dragonfly, be the dragonfly. (Ok, that was corny. Bye.)

When Dragons Fly: The Magic of Dragonflies

Dragons have been a subject (or background) for a lot of fabulous artwork around the world for centuries. The image of one, in all types of forms, has a huge fanbase. I must admit, there is something awesome about how they are often portrayed.

Dragons may not exist, but dragonflies do. Thank goodness they’re small. A gigantic, dragon sized one, would scare the bejeezus out of me. They might not breath fire, but their mouths are killing machines… mostly to mosquitoes and biting flies. (Thank goodness.)

Oil and cold wax original painting

Being what they are, the size they are, and all the lovely colors they come in, I have a great affection for dragonflies. The delicate, intricately veined, often shimmery wings of these magnificent creatures are a work of art in themselves.

Last summer, one in particular loved to sit on the plant hanger and watch me. I would talk to it and, like a dog, it would tilt it’s head from side to side as I talked. I like to believe it was trying to understand what I was communicating and not sizing up it’s chances of getting a piece of me.

Like dragons, these little garden visitor “flying dragons” are a popular subject for artists, me included. Like artworks of dragons, artists have been capturing the beauty of dragonflies in many different forms from realistic to abstract from countries all around the world. For a very long time. Google dragonfly art and you’ll see what I mean.

I look forward to seeing them return to the backyard.

Magic of the Moon: Moon Glow

Once again, I was back to my favorite oils, cold wax, and palette knives. I sort of based Moon Glow on a previous painting that had sold back in June. Though I made several changes to the scene, the colors used are pretty much the same as the earlier painting. I don’t know about you, but I love pthalo blue for night scenes.

I have to say… I really like how this one turned out. If I were a wolf, I would probably live around here so I could howl at the moon every night. Fauna, flora, people, (even mythical creatures) are affected by the magic of the moon. Artists and authors often paint and write with the moon as part of the visual or verbal story.

So, what’s the story here?

As the viewer, you get to decide. Are you out on a night hike and discover the magic of the moon on the water? Are you dreaming of a moonlight encounter? Are you looking through the eyes of a bird flying through the night sky? Make it your story.

For me, as it developed, I see myself standing on the side of a small hill, experiencing the calming effect of a moonlit sky on the landscape below. I am bathing in the moon’s glow. I am feeling at peace with my surroundings. In the distance, I hear an owl calling out.

The magic of the moon is calling… can you hear it?

Magic of the Moon: Canyon Moon

Well, here we go again. I had been on a moon kick… sort of still am… because moons are magical! I will always find time to paint something with a moon in it.

So…. this painting got it’s start when I met up with some artistic friends. I had brought some slow drying acrylics (Golden, if you’re curious) because I didn’t want to mess with wax and oils that morning. Anyway, I got to thinking about 1) some images I had seen of canyons and towering rock formations as well as 2) using a touch of reds in cloud paintings which I had seen another painter do to their clouds. So…. I decided to see what I could come up with using a limited palette and (eek!) brushes. It was just playtime but I kind of liked the final result which happened several days later when I continued to play with it some more.

Magic of the Moon: Canyon Moon is how I envisioned how it might appear if I was standing somewhere at the base of a canyon looking up at the moon shining down. There are probably hundreds of paintings based on this premise or actual photos/renditions of a real place. Anyway… since I wanted to have some red in the sky, I painted the canyon walls using both reds and blues. The base of the canyon looked too empty, so after some debate with myself, (water? trees? water and trees? campsite?) I decided to just add the trees.

I like to imagine that somewhere in those trees, a wolf is getting ready to emerge and sing his night song. His own tribute to the magic of the moon.

The Magic of the Moon: Moon Flight

The second painting in The Magic of the Moon series (I guess it’s a series… or not) took me back to the mediums and technique I most love. Oils, cold wax, and palette knives.

Moon Flight is a painting purely from the imagination. All I knew for sure was that I wanted a moon, clouds, and water. As it evolved, I let the perceived magic of the moon illuminate the land, the sky, and bathe the water with bright light. The birds were added when I realized there should be more to this story. It wasn’t just about the moon. There needed to be a second subject. Birds. Birds on their way to a secure place to settle down for the night. Nature in harmony. I lowered the sky and added the limbs in the foreground.

Now my moon had a purpose other than just reflecting light to a sleeping landscape. It was the nightlight in the sky providing a safer passage to the creatures of the day as they made their way through the dark.

I really enjoyed painting this one and love that it found a home with a couple who enjoyed it as well. They also saw and felt what I did while creating it. The magic of the moon is more than just visual. There is purpose as well.

The Magic of the Moon: Moon Surf

There is something magical about seeing the moon.

Doesn’t have to be at night either. Even daytime sightings have an effect on me. Maybe it all goes back to childhood when stories and imagination made such an impact on me. Or maybe I am just a child of the moon. More drawn to this magical orb in the sky than I am to the sun in it’s various appearances. Maybe that’s why I often feel the need to add a moon to many of my landscapes… even if it is just a hint of one off in the distance when it hasn’t made it’s full exit or full entrance to the sky. The magic of the moon is real to me. Ok, let’s just say it’s very appealing. (I wouldn’t want you to think I dance around half naked at night waving and chanting. However, if that is something YOU do, I’m not judging.)

Science tells us that the moon does indeed have an effect on our natural world, including us. History tells us it has indeed been a subject of awe and adoration to many cultures. But this missive is not about science or history, this is about painting and trying to capture the magic of that reflective rock in the sky. The magic of the moon.

In the painting Moon Surf, I was remembering the many nights from various vacations on the Alabama and Florida coast. Nights with the moon shining down on the water, the soft glow of drifting clouds embracing the moonlight, and the glorious soothing sounds of the waves coming on shore. Maybe for you, it brings back a memory from another place, a different setting.

Unlike the majority of my landscapes/seascapes, this one was done using acrylics (gasp!) and brushes (double gasp!). If you don’t know, I prefer to use palette knives and now I mostly use oil paint. I rarely take a painting done with brushes and acrylic to the gallery.

Maybe the magic of the moon cast a spell on me.

Visitors to My Garden

When I hear the word “garden” I think of an area that was put in with a lot of thought. Something planned. Neat sections of either veggies or flowers, shrubs, etc. Areas that people admire and might say “Wow, that’s impressive!”

Not mine.

My garden areas are planned, but what’s actually planted in them are a bit haphazard. They need some work (always) and I wouldn’t use the words “neat” or “wow” in any description of them. No, someone would most likely say something more like, “Oh, how… nice. Must be a lot of work.” Which really means: “You don’t spend a lot of time weeding, do you?”

I put plants in flower beds with the hope that they live and look somewhat attractive. Attractive to me. Attractive to the birds and butterflies. As they get out of hand, I try to wrangle them in… the beds, not the birds and butterflies.

My flower beds are often the result of experiments in what will or won’t grow in a particular spot. They won’t attract any local Garden Club visitors or awards. However, no matter what the areas look like, I will have visitors that appreciate my efforts… visitors in the form of squirrels, rabbits, and the aforementioned birds and butterflies. (Other insects will not be talked about. I have declared them, especially those that bite, insecta non gratis.)

The birds enjoy plantings they can hide or nest in. The rabbits enjoy just about anything they can eat. I have had to say goodbye to many a colorful flower due to them being a tasty treat for the bunnies. (That’s ok. I like watching bunnies and have had several over the years who trust me enough to let me get close.) The squirrels enjoy digging in the flower beds and taking the occasional nibble at the roots of some of the plants. Then there are the butterflies who seem to enjoy everything.

Sadly, the many varieties that used to come have diminished over the years. However, the little white ones still love to hang around and keep returning summer after summer. I’m no expert, but they look like ones called “southern white”. These little visitors to my garden are quite active. They dance from flower to flower, and plant to plant, as they seem to explore and delight in what is out there.

Due to their continued presence and apparent delight in my yard, I included them in a series of paintings for an art show I had in June. It was my way of saying, thank you little butterflies, I appreciate you and you can be visitors to my garden any time you want.

And bring your friends.