Competition en Plein Air

I’m glad the Ohio Plein Air Competition was in Columbus this year because I wanted a chance to hang out with the experienced painters who do it every year. They produce amazing paintings over the course of two and a half days. I had no illusions about my skill level compared to the pros, but I was up for the challenge.

The rules stated that the painting must be completed during the time of the competition – September 24 – 27 and be painted at least 95% en plein air (no studio work or painting from photos). Painters were given a list of potential painting locations but all of Franklin County was within the boundaries.

I begin scouting locations. I had to check a county map because I live very close to the Licking County line. I’ve painted so much at Inniswood Metro Garden and Franklin Park Conservatory and it would have made loads of sense to go back to familiar scenes but I wanted to do a more ambitious subject and stick close to home. I knew lots of people would choose German Village, but Reynoldsburg has some spots that are very charming as well.

Thursday, September 24 from 4-6pm was the initial sign-in at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) to get your canvas, boards or paper stamped on the back. That assures that the painting was produced during the competition time frame. I showed up with plenty of boards in case I got ambitious or decided to start over on one.

Canvas board which have been stamped for competition
Ready to roll!

That afternoon I made it back to Reynoldsburg and set up around five. The house that I wanted to paint caught the western sun so its stone turned a golden color. I knew it had to be a late afternoon painting, but there was no way I could get it done in one short evening.

Yellow two-story house.
This was as far as I got before the light changed and the shadows on the side of the building got less interesting.

On Friday morning I had my eye on a spot within walking distance. The zinnias had been calling me for the last month, but the best composition would be the convergence of roof angles for three houses. I had a great spot in the shade and good morning light. A few neighbors stopped to talk and one took my picture.

That afternoon I went back to finish the stone house. There’s a lot of traffic on Lancaster Avenue, but not too many pedestrians. I was able to work without much interruption. The trickiest part was getting the right amount of detail.

On Saturday the Columbus Dispatch Metro Section had a nice feature article about the OPAS painters who went out Thursday night to paint a nocturne on the streets of German Village. They are much more intrepid than I am. I’m a morning person so that wasn’t an option I had really considered. As it turned out I don’t remember any of the nocturnes being entered in the competition

By Saturday morning I saw where I needed to refine the neighborhood picture so I headed up the street for an hour or so. My neighbor, Allen, held off cutting stone pavers for his patio until I was finished. I found out that he is also a painter and didn’t want me to have to worry about dust on my painting. .

Then I headed back to Lancaster Avenue to catch the morning sun on a house facing east. It was another beautiful morning and a most encouraging young mother pushing a stroller complimented my work as she passed several times. I loved the tree and the wrap-around porch but it was hard to get the grays right without looking kind of dreary.

By Saturday afternoon I was all painted out. I thought about doing one more but I just didn’t have the energy so I picnicked with painting friends and got everything ready for the grand finale on Sunday.

Painters gathering for judging
Painters gathered on the lawn of CCAD to locate their assigned spot and set up an easel with their competition painting.

Sunday morning was just as beautiful as each day of the competition had been. About 40 painters chose their best work to frame and be judged. While the judging was taking place, those who wanted to, could enter the “Quick Draw.” They had two hours to go out and paint another painting and return with it framed. They returned with some amazing urban scenes. I went up to the cathedral for Mass instead.

The public was invited to a wet paint sale from noon till two. Awards were announced at one o-clock. . Usually judging is done by a painter who conducts a workshop the next week, but that didn’t work with the pandemic. This year the judges were all affiliated with local galleries. They had a tough job. There were so many beautiful paintings with top talent from the local area and the state.

Award winners with their paintings

As you may notice I wasn’t in the winners’ circle. Oh well, more reason to keep painting and improving my skills for next year.

Art Will Make You Rich

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Sycamore Creek 2019

Do you want to get rich from your art? What is your definition of rich? Is it boatloads of money? Is it freedom from a boring job?

There are blogs and You Tube channels that will teach you how to sell you art.

  • Market Your Art in 12 Easy Steps
  • Promote Your Work on Pinterest!
  • Instagram Hashtags for Artists

One leads to another which leads to the next. Most of them contain some nugget that’s useful and some contain claims that have to make you wonder.

Putting your art out in the world for sale is a good thing. You’re using your gifts and other people get to enjoy your work. You will eventually sell some of it.

Here’s my angle on art and riches. Yes, I have sold my work. Back when country decor was hot, I painted country scenes, animals, fruits, flowers, and cute kids. Mostly I copied designs from instruction books. I sold a lot of it and did loads of commissions on milk cans and sawblades – pretty much any flat surface you can think of. A good bit of it was “trash to treasures”.

A berry bucket I painted for a hostess gift to take to Hiroshima. I filled it with locally grown popcorn and Amish jam.

Later I sold micro-miniature snow scenes on porcelain Christmas ornaments. Each one was unique and fun, because I painted intuitively using a wipeout technique to shape the landscape and the architecture. During the summers I cast the porcelain. Then all year I’d spend an hour each evening painting (after my students’ papers were graded). I sold at craft shows and on consignment. Most of my earnings went right back into more supplies.

porcelain Christmas bells
Porcelain Christmas bells

Lately I’ve sold some of my plein air work at exhibits or just on the street while I’m painting. I’m much too lazy these days for the hard work of art fairs.

What I do know is that I have gotten incredibly rich making art. I have met wonderful people and made great friends. I’ve painted in other states and other countries. I’ve spent time outdoors soaking up the sun and shade, serenaded by birds and frogs. Once, as I was painting a pavilion, a group gathered for beautiful religious chanting!

Leaf sketches in colored pencil, ink and watercolor
Art has given me a richer appreciation for nature.

My life is rich. I have a focus for my free time and I’m continually learning new skills in painting and in technology. I meet up with friends to paint and we share our work on social media. All of those things have made my life full and busy.

So keep on making art and you will be rich!

Oil or Water?

Painter’s Choice

Gloucester Harbor 9×12 oil

So we were going to Cape Ann for a ladies’ painting trip. After last spring’s trip to Brown County, Indiana, it was time for another pilgrimage to an art colony.

What to take? The online photos of rocky shorelines and fishing shacks shouted, ” Bring your oil paints!” But when you’re flying, that’s a royal pain. You have to check a bag and buy thinner when you get there. I knew if I didn’t take the oils I’d be so envious of my Marianne, who was definitely taking oils. (I’m always envious of her talent so adding envy of painting supplies would be just too much.)

My practical friends, Nancy and Wendy, were packing light with just some paper, pens and watercolors and maybe a few pastels. I’ve done that on our winter get-aways to Florida before and it does make life easy.

Indecisive as always, I took both a little watercolor sketch kit and a new Strada easel with a backpack tripod for my oils. All materials were chosen with the valued advice of Nancy, our painting gear expert.

I used the sketch gear and painting hear in about equal measures. Some locations were windy or involved too much effort for the easel. I sat on the ground with the Strada at Wingaersheek Beach. That was a huge mistake! Gritty sand in and on everything.)

Wingaersheek Beach (includes authentic sand) 9×12 oil

I sat on the ground again to paint the tulips. I wanted to get that low angle with the sun shining through.

Tulips Along the Annisquam River 9×12 oil

Our day at the old paint manufactory, (now The Ocean Alliance), was so windy that we used my backpack to weigh down Marianne’s easel! I didn’t even bother getting out the oils. I sat on a rock wearing all the layers I brought along my knit headband and sunhat.

Historic Tar and Wanson Paint Manufactory – 5×7 watercolor
Water soluble graphite 5×7

Most of the oil paintings needed touch-ups after the plein air sessions but I left the watercolors and pencil sketches “as is”.

Old Fishing Boats in Rockport 5×7 watercolor and ink

I pasted the sketches in a little travel journal that Nancy gave me. I included a few notes about our trip, mostly about the food I ate (especially the popovers at Passports in Gloucester). Sketching is more relaxing and I like having memory books of trips but I rarely go back and make a painting out of the little sketches. So in the end I’m glad I lugged the oils and paid for the checked bag.

Boats in Smith’s Cove on Rocky Neck in Gloucester 9×12 oil