Door County Plein Air

July 29, 2010

A Dock of Gibraltar, Oil on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

During the week of July 18 to 24th, The Peninsula School of Art hosted the 2010 Door County Plein Air Festival. The school had a selection of forty featured artists from around the country creating paintings at various events throughout the week (unfortunately, I was not one of them). On Saturday, the festival artists are joined by other artists to paint in a Dockside Quick Paint at Clark Park in Fish Creek.  In just two hours, all artists start and finish their plein air paintings. The works of the featured artists are auctioned at noon and the works by the other artists are placed on display at the school for a Saturday evening reception.

Prior to this event, on Thursday morning, Helen and I scouted the area in and adjacent to Clark Park to get an idea of which scenes might offer the best design options for Saturdays quick paint. We felt that we had four or five good possibilities.

As I have mentioned before, the weather is always a challenge for Plein Air painting. The forecast was not good. As we awoke, the sky was menacing. We checked the weather, monitoring several stations  on the television. Long and short was that we could expect rain starting at about 8:00am. We could expect intermittent showers throughout the day.

The Quick Paint was scheduled to start at 9:00am. It was raining as we arrived at Clark Park shortly before 8am. Helen offered to stay in the car and make sure that it stayed safe while I went out, in the rain, to submit my registration form for the event, remit my entrance fee,  get my canvas marked by one of the officials, and find a location for painting. Upon deciding on a location, I set up my easel to mark my spot (and hope that no one would set up right in front of my view – like the Ephraim beach incident). Back to the car to retrieve all my remaining painting gear and umbrellas. We made our way back to my spot and waited, with umbrellas opened to protect my gear and ourselves, for the 9:00am start.

I am not used to being on-time, let alone early. 9:00am came and went.  No signal from the officials to start our paintings. Did I miss the signal? Are others already starting their work? Whats up? About 9:15, an official came by to indicate that because of the weather, a few artists had trouble setting up on time, and they would be starting the event at 9:30am.

Good thing. By about 9:25, the rain was almost over (though we were told to expect some strong winds would start up soon). By 9:30am, the starting horn started and we were off and painting. The rain was over. As clouds rolled through, the light shifted constantly. I had a plan for completing my work on-time and, with Helen’s help, I stayed on track. My spot was such that I had a building on my right side, a parked car on my left side, and the bay in front of me. People would approach me from behind. Helen was able to offer a quick greeting which gave me a warning and allowed me to converse with the onlookers and answer questions which they might have.

With about fifteen minutes left, I was on schedule and focusing on the final adjustments and details. At a point where I was beginning to fiddle with my work, the horn sounded indicating the end to the competition. Stop painting and get the artworks over to the judges tent for a final stamp to attest that this work was started and completed within the two hour restriction at this Quick Paint.

As I was pulling my work off the easel, the canvas slipped and fell to the ground. Oops. A few smudges which were quickly repaired (another challenge of Plein Air). As I left my easel, I realized that it was starting to rain again. By the time that I was walking away from the judges tent, the rain was coming down steady. Fun to clean up in the rain – NOT.

Although my work did not win an award that night, nor did it sell (yet), we had a good time. The Quick Paint was a rush. It was great to see all the different designs, strategies and techniques used to capture the scenes from a small area. We were also very impressed by all of the art supporters engaging artists at the Quick Paint and purchasing works from the featured artists as well as the other Quick Paint artists.

My goal is to improve my skills and take on this challenge and other plein air competitions again in the future.


Scene for my Plein Air painting "A Dock of Gibraltar"

Me at work. Check out the new hat for painting.

Still at work. Staying hidden from the crowds.

"A Dock of Gibraltar" in progress

A Dock of Gibraltar, OIl on Canvas Panel 9" x 12"

A view of the Quick Paint at Clark Park.

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