And so it was that I came home from four very full weeks in Maine in time to do a Plein Air event in Waitsfield, Vermont on August 15th!
I was still really tired out from packing, moving a great deal of luggage and unpacking…but it was fun to go to this event with an old friend, Marian, who paints really lovely oils.
We got on the road early, and arrived around 8 AM.
Most of the artists were down by the river, painting the old covered bridge and objects along the riverbanks.
The brown covered bridge looked terribly uninteresting to me, so I decided against painting it.
I went looking for some more inspiring location to paint.
Due to a recent small study of an apple tree with green apples on it, when I saw an apple tree with red apples a few minutes later, it really stood out and called to me.
Here is Apple Tree Green:
Time was a’wasting so I put down my small stool, and laid out my watercolor supplies. I painted from 8:30 AM until around 10:30 AM, when a couple came to watch and speak with me.
The man stood directly in front of me while talking, which effectively blocked any view of the apple tree, so I figured this was my cue to stand up and take a short break.
After a few minutes of talking, this couple went on their way. I sat down again and continued to paint for another 45 minutes.
It was getting very hot outside, and I was sitting in full mid-day sunshine. I drank a second quart of water and decided Apple Tree Red was as done as it was going to get.
It just suddenly hit me, I was tired.
So I ate some lunch and joined the rest of the artists down by the riverside.
There was a little time left before all the paintings needed to be framed for the sidewalk sale.
Getting out my acrylics was just going to be tedious and I figured I would be getting wet pigment on my clothing…so I ditched the idea of painting on canvas and decided to begin another small watercolor.
Now I was sitting under the trees, in the shade.
It was after noontime and the sun was beating down…there was a group of people sitting on the grass in front of me – women with their children. I made a leap and jumped in, in a painterly fashion. I’m really very uncomfortable painting people as they move around!
Our Father in heaven made light and darkness, then grass, then trees, then animals, and lastly – people. I’ve progressed in my paintings thusly…and I guess I’m afraid by adding people to my landscapes, I’ll ruin an otherwise nice painting.
I wonder if there is some psychological reasoning here, too – because I rarely photograph people either, unless when in NYC and then it’s nearly impossible not to have them in photos of the city.
But it was a day to overcome fears and step outside my comfort zone. I began to quickly paint the women as they sat on the grass in front of me, on the riverbank.
Then they all stood up and walked away!
Inside I thought to myself, “What a dumb thing to try to paint! Why’d you do that, Elise? Now what are you going to do?!”
Despite my internal moaning, I continued to paint the background. I had sketched the two women with my brush, not taking time to draw them. I painted around them for awhile.
And I learned something! I don’t need a pencil. They were decently in proportion.
So my friend Marian kindly took her lunch break seated in front of me, posed as one woman had been, so I could try to see the light and shadow on her figure.
People were coming by and watching all the artists with interest. Some would say hello and converse as we painted. It was fun to be interrupted.
One lady who stopped remarked she was a bit jealous of my painting ability. So I asked her if she had ever married and had children. She affirmed she had a multi-generational family! I told her I have never married and feel our Father sometimes gives out unique blessings to balance other special blessings He perhaps hasn’t given…she agreed.
Then, surprisingly, the same group of women and their children and also husbands returned to the same spot in front of me!
I continued to paint, pleased because it was finally looking like it had some depth and was telling a story.
It’s not very detailed – my eyes need to do more of this distance stuff, outside; and it looks more like an illustration than a painting.
I’ve called it Riverside Chat:
Breaking through self-made mental barriers when painting is a freeing feeling. It was my big lesson for the day.
A big rainstorm came up, cutting down on the sidewalk sale. But Marian was happy to have a lovely little oil painting go to a good home, and we met some really pleasant people and artists.
We each went home very spent, but happy to have made the effort.
Painting outdoors is always an adventure – bugs, wind, sun, rain…and the lessons learned from real moving objects!
Have you subjects you feel you don’t know how to paint?
Are you afraid to paint certain things?
What are your painting weaknesses?
I realize I’ll never improve if I don’t try. Even when I’m in front of an audience and a “painting failure” looms, it’s good to just make an attempt.
If it doesn’t work out, I can always try again!
Your artist friend, painting near the shores of a Vermont Lake,
Not that I speak in respect of want:
for I have learned,
in whatsoever state I am,
therewith to be content.
I know both how to be abased,
and I know how to abound:
every where and in all things
I am instructed
both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need.
I can do all things through Christ
which strengtheneth me.
~ Philippians 4:11-13