Since I have not been able to get together with my friends to paint during the week, I decided to do a little plein air painting on my own one afternoon after school. There is a fabulous green-gold colored tree across from the school that is just begging to be painted, and once again I could stand on the sidewalk and work.
I parked across the street. The crossing guard stopped the three lanes of traffic so I could make it safely across the street. Then I realized I left my canvas in the car, so back across I went. At least I got some exercise. There was a shady area to set my easel. After making a sketch, I began to paint
One never knows what will happen outside or who one will meet. The cross-country team from the high school ran by, and the coach followed on his bike. It turns out we were former colleagues, so we had a nice chat. When the cross-country runners passed on their way back they complimented my work. A student walking home from school stopped and showed me her art portfolio. The after-school detention group even spoke. I packed up before the traffic became too heavy to cross the street.
My painting was just a quick start. I may never complete it. Being outside on a perfect October day with cobalt skies and cadmium yellow wildflowers swaying in the field just for the fun of it may be the best reason of all to paint.
When I was very young, crossing the Tombigbee River Bridge in our ’55 Bel Air meant we were going on an adventure out of town. When I was older, crossing the bridge meant we were going to the Southernaire or The Club. (I never went to Bob’s. Really.) The bridge seemed so long and big, maybe just a little scary too.
I am so impressed with the Riverwalk. It is well maintained, safe, and has some beautiful vistas. The citizens of Columbus have good reason to be proud of it. When I visit my family, I often bring my easel along and begin paintings of local scenery. The bridge of my youth was covered in rust, but even so, it was majestic and would make a fabulous landscape. I worked on the bridge a couple of hours to get a good underpainting and completed it when I got home.
One of the reasons I paint is to capture the subject. Photos are fine, but there is nothing to compare to the work created by the artist’s hand and heart. Plein air painting is not for everyone. I started painting on location about twenty years ago. The results are not always good, but I enjoy it and love being outdoors. And, unlike some golfers, I have something to show after my morning outside.
Last weekend I accomplished something I have waited five years to do. Patience does pay off.
When I began teaching at Dutchtown, the school was situated in a rural area. There was a convenience store where one could buy fried chicken and a cold drink for lunch, a Texaco station where the owner would come to the school, pick up your car, wash it, inspect it and return it, a nursery/greenhouse, huge live oak trees and fields where cattle grazed and hay was baled. Now the convenience store is under new management, the Texaco is a self-service center, the nursery/greenhouse is a high school campus and some of the live oak trees were removed to make a parking lot at the Walgreen’s. The hay fields are still there, and I have been waiting years to paint them.
I started plein air painting many years ago. Not being an outdoorsy type person, it’s almost surprising that I will pack paints, brushes, camera, and an easel to spend several hours in uncomfortable conditions just to start a painting. The difference in painting from life and a photograph is difficult to describe. One must experience it. But like those who play golf every weekend, I love to be outside making art, and I have something to show for my efforts.
Back to the hay bales in the fields. I often saw them rolled up during the week and thought I may have a chance to paint them in the early morning or late afternoon light. I would ride by on Friday afternoon to find them already taken away, or there would be rain (the sun on the hay was important to me), or another event such as a Saints game kept me from painting it. OK, pure “I don’t feel like getting up this early” thoughts were a factor too.
But a few weeks ago, everything fell into place. The hay was cut on Thursday morning, baled on Friday, and still in place on Saturday. The early morning sun was brilliant. I took my new easel and set it up on the sidewalk across the street from the field and started working on a small canvas. I felt as though I was cheating because I was standing on the sidewalk in Geismar, Louisiana painting a rural landscape. People who were jogging stopped to see my work. Drivers blew their horns! (I am a rock star when painting in public!) I had so much fun I went back on Sunday morning even earlier to start a different canvas.
The morning light was losing its warm glow when I noticed a white Cadillac Escalade slowly drive down the center lane. Figuring that the driver just wanted to see what I was doing, I started wiping my hands and getting my stuff together to leave my site. Then I saw the vehicle parked behind my SUV and a young man getting out. I was a little worried that maybe I was painting forbidden hay.
He told me that he had baled the hay a few days earlier and noticed that I was painting the field the day before. He and his family were coming back from Mass, and he wanted his twin girls to see what I was doing. Well, of course! Turns out that his father-in-law owned the property where the hay was. He also invited me to check out his property further down the road where it would be safer to work. The girls seemed to like seeing a “real” artist at work.
So finally after so many years I have a couple of good starts on paintings and a future site to paint on. It was definitely worth the wait.
The Louisiana Art and Artists’ Guild Summer Judged Show is now at the BREC Independence Park Theatre Gallery. This is one of three abstracts I am showing. The reception is Sunday, August 11, 2013 at the theatre.