It’s too bad that October has only thirty-one days because it is one of the most beautiful months of the year. The sun has a special glow, the sky is intensely blue and the temperatures and humidity begin dropping. In Louisiana, this is the time of year of festivals, football games, and other outdoor activities such as plein air painting.
Painting from life in the open air doesn’t seen unusual today, but it is a relatively new thing in the history of art. Before the Impressionists revolutionized the art world by painting outdoors with brighter colors and heavy brush strokes, most paintings were completed in a studio environment. During the past decades painting en plein air has become a popular past time, with thousands of artists pursuing the activity because it is fun, not to make perfect artwork. Plein air painting is like golf for artists, so there must be a competition!
On October 19, 2014, FW Gallery in Baton Rouge, Louisiana sponsored its first Plein-Air Fest. The day was perfect with cloudless blue skies and no chance of rain. Registered artists picked up their canvases at 10:00 am. One of the assigned areas to paint was a former artists’ colony located behind the gallery. We hiked through some fairly heavy underbrush, looked for the perfect composition, set up our gear, and started working.
For me, painting outdoors is such a rush. I have to think and execute quickly, and since I am a rather slow painter, this pushes me from my comfort zone. I am a rock star when I am in front of the easel outdoors. I worry less about the results and enjoy the process.
We returned our canvases about 2:00 pm. Rozlan Fransen framed the paintings and installed them for the Wet Wall Reception that evening. Viewing the different works by the participating artists was a treat; even though we were in the same area, no one had the same perspective. The show was a lovely end to a beautiful day.
I wish there were more weekends in October so I could get out and push some paint around…
In her book, The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron suggested making dates to go out and experience art. Even though the time is not spent at the easel, computer, piano, or dance floor, seeing what else is out there is developmentally important. Plus, it’s a great excuse to go have lunch somewhere.
My Wednesday morning plein air painting group decided that it is too hot and humid to work outdoors during the summer months. We concluded that a visit to some galleries on Julia Street in the New Orleans Arts District would be fun. Call it a “field trip” and it becomes an educational experience.
Let me tell you, driving in New Orleans is not my idea of fun. I don’t know where anything is, there is always some kind of road construction/destruction, and I am very uncomfortable driving a Chevy Tahoe on some of those one way streets where there is very little parking. (We have had it nearly a year and I have yet to try parallel parking in it—not that any parking places would be large enough!) Anyway, I volunteered to drive, and with Ms. GPS we made it there and actually found parking on the street.
For the first week of July, the weather was not unbearable. We spent several hours wandering through the galleries and met several of the owners. We knew some of the artists exhibiting at one gallery, so it was like being home. There were venues with contemporary work, some with work in different (for us, anyhow) media, and others with more traditional work similar to what we create. The group ended the tour in a craft gallery and spent a little money on jewelry, which is an extremely important souvenir. We went on to lunch at a lovely restaurant and headed home. That was when the weather did become unbearable and we drove most of the way in a thunderstorm.
Taking time out for an Art Day (or morning/afternoon) can give one a new perspective on creating and marketing art. I am glad we arranged the trip and look forward to several more, at least until the temperature in south Louisiana returns to the not-so-uncomfortable range and we can get back to painting plein air.