Sun, Sand, and Paint
In Seattle, you know that Summer is waning as the evenings start getting cooler. Even if it’s a hot day, about 15 seconds after sunset, you reach for a jacket. Thankfully a “sunny so far” September is easing the seasonal transition.
This summer seemed even busier than usual, perhaps in contrast to the lull of the pandemic or perhaps because it was indeed well stocked with overdue adventures now that things are opening... The season brought a cacophony of travel, art events, home improvement projects, heat domes, and juggling the day-to-day of family life. Here are a few highlights from the art side of my life:
After participating in the Alki Art Fair virtually during the pandemic, I finally joined this beach-side festival in-person! This was my first large, outdoor festival too. It was a great first experience, and I also learned much! The weather gods were kind, my canopy did not blow away, I enjoyed many great conversations about my artwork, and many art pieces found forever homes! The take-aways were that I need some different bins, and that a tent with four sidewalls that zip closed for overnight security is a must! A couple weeks later, I planted myself in the Art in the Garden Festival at the Ballard P-Patch. Sharing my art surrounded by trees and flowers for an afternoon was a perfect pairing.
One thing I noticed at both events was that many visitors enjoyed detailed stories behind the paintings, probing for more backstory rather than less. Where was it? Was it one scene or a compilation? Was there anything special about the day? I realized that I often keep descriptions short, especially when writing about an artwork, perhaps because of art application word limits. But I may have to break that habit at art shows and online; I’ll be working on that soon…
Plein Air Painting
So far, this is the year of the “paint out” (a gathering of artists to paint outdoors aka “en plein air”). Outdoor painting is quite a different experience compared to that in an art studio - where I have multiple drawers worth of supplies, a table, a full size easel, an art cart, and a sink down the hall… Compressing one’s tool kit to what will fit in a backpack, satchel or small wagon and hitting the road, trail, or beach, finessing paint onto panel in the hot sun or, even more challenging, in the wind, yes, it’s difficult! And yet, all of those things are worth it, because you notice so much more while observing a scene in person and translating that directly. The light changes constantly, you are the only abstractor rather than the camera, and the full spectrum reference yields richer inspiration.
In August, I dove into the plein air spirit for two and half days of the week-long Whidbey Island Plein Air Paint Out. Thank you to the friend who suggested this event, which is like a convention for artists. I often create alone, so painting with others, as well as sharing notes for the best viewpoints, swapping tips for the best outdoor easel setups, and debating the merits of paint garages vs palette painting was a welcome change of pace. Days were long and full, from early mornings to late evenings as we sought the softer light of day's beginning or ending. The Pacific NW Art School exhibited our fresh painted works; it was inspiring to see the talents and skills of my compatriots and to get a sense of my own arc as a studio artist learning to paint outside. And my submission sold, which I found quite encouraging.
For those who have seen my Coastal series from last Fall, you will know that I love the Oregon Coast! I was excited to offer prints of that series at this summer's events, and experiment with different papers and sizes. This year's trip yielded yet more inspiration. A not-so-secret secret is that, as a painter, I love partly cloudy or softly foggy days. Give me a little moody atmosphere, please! On the personal side, I’m a sun seeker, and I love to swim even in cold water if it’s hot enough. If the clouds come out though, grab the sketchbook… So I guess at least that means I’m covered either way right? This year’s coastal excursion was further north, at Nehalem Bay. We explored the Nehalem river and estuary as well as nearby beaches, including the lovely little cove at Short Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park. We’d been to this beach years before, when a nearby forest fire made it dusky all day. The clear sky version was fun to wade in, and the craggy cliffs inspired some watercolor studies.
As we parents with students in the Seattle School District await/pray for school to resume (and for Washington State to adequately fund our public schools and special education programs), my thoughts are increasingly back in the studio even if I am not yet there physically.
Happy Fall everyone!