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Plein Air – Rockford

November 14, 2010

Across Meyer's Field, Oil on Canvas 11" x 14"

I have been working on a project for a group. These folks have commissioned an original artwork to give as a gift to a couple that is moving to New Jersey. Commissions can be tricky, and this one is no exception. First, to give artwork as a gift, I believe that the subject should be of known specific passion to the recipient. That is, either the recipient should already be a collector of that genre, subject matter or the artist’s work. Why give a painting of a pumpkin, created realistically to a person that hates pumpkins, can not stand the color orange and only collects abstract artworks. However, if the person loves the color orange, adores still life’s and has always desired anything created by Tom Linden, then go for it. Your odds of giving the gift of a lifetime have risen exponentially.

These folks want a portrait of their church. The group instructed that they wish for the building to be a major part of the painting. This church is relatively new and was constructed on a site which only a few years ago was a corn field. No established landscape to soften or add interest. Somehow I have to look past the somewhat plain exterior to find an interesting slant to this situation. I want to keep the painting from being a vanilla gift which quickly makes its way to sitting in the back of a closet. Or worse.

I thought that a sunrise might help me create something of which I could be proud to present to this couple and yet still please the group that commissioned the work. A view which would indicate the front of the building, but showcase a different side to the environment. I wanted to create, what I call, a “Where’s Waldo” design. Create a painting which could allow the recipients to enjoy the work before realizing, “Oh look, there’s the church.”

So on Saturday morning, before sunrise, I ventured to a nearby parking lot which gave me a view that fit the parameters, but gave me some latitude to be creative. It was chilly. Temperature in the low 30’s with a wind chill in the 20’s. As I was setting up my gear, a van rolled up to my car. Who could this be and am I in trouble for trespassing? Turns out it was one of my former students who was on his way to work. I continued to set up my gear while we chatted. Once the gear was set up, I put on my insulated overalls, gloves on both hands and as soon as I finished getting everything ready to go, he was kind enough to let me get started. I started laying paint on the canvas just as the sun started to show itself through the clouds.

I had to move fast to get the drawing and then try to capture the effect of the cloud pattern and the quality of the sunlight. Tough. Thank goodness, no other interruptions as I established the design and manipulated the paint. About three quarters of the way through the painting, another car rolled up. Who could this be and am I in trouble for trespass… oh wait, it was Helen. Helen was on her way to her sister-in-laws and decided to stop by and check on the progress. While she liked the direction of the work, Helen made a good point about my choice of design. After a brief discussion, I did what any happy and content man does after 27+ years of marriage. I  started a new painting, although I did finish the work I was doing first – it’s an artist thing.

We both liked the feel of the painting, but realize that the painting showcased too much of the environment and too little of the building. Another design was sketched and is ready to paint. Now, I have to hope that I will be able to get another good sunrise to capture in the next few days.

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