If an artist is near a lighthouse, she must paint it. We were on St. George Island after a few days of rain. The sky was clear and the air cool. Since I never have painted a lighthouse, it was time. The dunes lead to the structure, which stands magnificently against the deep blue sky. The deep shadow on the left of the lighthouse adds drama to the painting. I tried to get a sense of the loneliness associated with lighthouses posted at the far end of a strip of land, but this particular place was anything but lonely…many vacationers were on the site, as well as a number of painters participating in Plein Air South.
Visiting downtown Apalachicola, Florida is almost like taking a trip back in time. The buildings along the waterfront have such personality, even though they may be vacant. The huge palm tree in front of this building is what initially caught my attention, but the painting became more about the structure as I worked on it.
It’s October, the one month of the year when wearing orange with black is acceptable. The sky is usually a brilliant cobalt blue and the cadmium yellow flowers in the pastures and along the highway are in bloom (as those with allergies know only too well!). This month is one of change, from warm summer days to cooler mornings and a little breeze. It’s also one of the best months for painting outdoors.
Autumn is the best time of the year to visit the Gulf coast…the tourists are gone, it’s not so hot, and the beaches are just beautiful. I had the opportunity to attend Plein Air South in Apalachicola, Florida earlier this month. It was the first event held in that area in months, and even though it was smaller than the previous PAS events, it was great. There were new faculty members and events, new participants and locations to paint, not to mention more painting time. Everyone was just glad to be out painting, even if we were socially distancing and wearing masks.
One thing I have to say about painting outdoors: it’s always there. No matter the situation, no matter one’s ability, plein air painting is always open. I am not sure what I would have done had I not been able to paint outdoors during the stay-at-home orders earlier this year. I could have learned a new language, organized my closet, or binge-watched Netflix. Instead, I showed up at the canvas, painted my yard, and tried doing still life compositions outdoors. I looked forward to painting on the beach at Apalachicola and felt prepared because I kept up with my practice. Some of my paintings are actually keepers!
But back to October. This crazy year, the leaves are actually turning yellow in October rather than late November and December as they usually do here in South Louisiana. I am excited about painting autumn colors and hope to see orange foliage in the Corbet green trees behind all those cadmium yellow flowers in the pasture under the cobalt blue sky. And of course, I will be wearing orange and black while I paint. Because it’s October.
Every town has a famous or picturesque street, and in Baton Rouge, Louisiana it is Third Street. There are restaurants, bars, and music venues between office buildings which are nearly one hundred years old that have seen several renovations during the last five or so decades. Along the sidewalks are trees and flower beds, outdoor seating for restaurants, and the crosswalk of the street itself is creatively painted. Several of us took the opportunity to do some plein air painting downtown on Third Street during the stay at home order. Because so many offices and businesses were closed, we could almost get in the street to paint. Almost. (We may be crazy, but are not stupid.) The brightly colored awnings got my attention. I began five paintings during the stay at home order. Painting the urban landscape is a challenge for me, so I was happy to have the opportunity to practice on the streets of Baton Rouge. Those people who were out were happy to see painters, offering encouragement and compliments. I will take those any time!
After sixty days of what seemed to some as house arrest (stay at home order) people are finally emerging from the relative safety of their homes. During the last two months I learned how to manage Zoom, found that my twenty-five year old bread machine still works, and let my bangs grow out. There were a lot of things I did not do: learn a new language, binge watch Netflix, and clean out closets.
Spring in SoLa usually begins in late February, and there is a two or three month window of time when it’s actually comfortable painting outdoors. So when I complained about not being able to go anywhere to paint outside because of the stay at home order, my husband said, “Just go. No one will be around you.” And I did. And some of my friends joined me. And we distanced ourselves from each other, had a good time, and made a couple of paintings.
I particularly enjoyed the challenges presented by Baton Rouge Plein Air. Each week we were challenged to try something different, such as paint the same composition twice using different processes, or to make value studies and then add color. I guess these exercises appealed to me because there was not a lot of pressure to complete something frame-worthy in two and a half hours. My attention span is fairly short.
Besides going to the grocery store, Costco, and CVS, I went to my studio several days a week and worked on larger paintings. Staying close to home for two months was not a terrible experience for me. In fact, the last two months were not too different than my normal routine. With the exception of Zoom meetings.
For years I drove past this pasture filled with yellow flowers and thought how much I would enjoy painting it. I realized the property backed up to a subdivision near my home so I would get out for a few hours to paint. I met the owner as he was cutting the field as I was painting it. I asked if I could paint the front of the property, and he and his wife were happy for my painting friends and me to spend time working there. It has become our go-to place during the stay-home order this spring.
This property has become one of my favorite landscapes to paint. 11″ x 14″ $400
March 9, 2020: January and February are typically mild months in South Louisiana. The weather is comfortable enough to paint outdoors, but this year was different. If it was not raining, the wind was gusting. The skies were gloomy. My resolution this year was to paint outdoors at least once per week, but I failed. Failing is the easiest thing to do.
I spent more time in the studio painting portraits of pets, enlarging plein air studies, and working from photos. I find it challenging to paint from photographs, but since I have a bit of outdoor painting experience, it’s become easier and the paintings look better.
At least I think they do. I have also taken on a few students. Teaching is good for me because I have to think more carefully about my approach to painting. There can be no failed paintings in class!
As spring takes hold in SoLA, the lure of the outdoors is difficult to resist. The beautiful azaleas and Japanese magnolias have already faded, but soon there will be plenty of daylilies and hibiscus to paint. And lots of GREEN.
And then it will be summer, when painting outdoors in the heat and humidity makes one wish for the months of January and February, and painting in the studio is the only way to go.
March 31, 2020: Talk about this year being different!
Following the order to stay home to slow the Coronavirus spread means less outdoor painting and more home studio time. At least I can stay in the air conditioned house and don’t have to pack my gear!
The love a dog has for his/her human is second only to that of a mother for her child. Even though I don’t consider myself a dog person, I know this is true. Growing up, we had several dogs and cats, but we were not really a pet family. One of my sisters loved horses and dogs, and since we could house a dog more easily than a horse, we had dogs. My sister also likes cats but is highly allergic to them, which is sad, because her name is Cat. But I digress.
Dogs are loyal friends who think their owners are the Best Person Ever. “Be the person your dog thinks you are” is a great mantra. When a dog passes, a part of the owner’s heart is lost as well. I came to better understand this as several of my friends’ dogs crossed the Rainbow Bridge. I felt their sadness as well.
The first painting I ever did of a dog was part of a family portrait. Unfortunately, the person who commissioned the portrait thought the dog looked better than her children. I still have that painting. One day the children in the painting will look like her sons. Anyway, I found painting pets to be extremely satisfying, especially when the picture filled a space in the owner’s heart.
I commented to my husband that it seemed odd people would commission a portrait when there were probably hundreds of photos of their pet on their phone. He said (wisely) that having a painting was a memorial. A memorial to love second only to that of a mother for her child.