The Plein Air Notes

Aug 16, 2022

I recently attended the Morristown Plein Air Competition in Morristown NY. I had not traveled that far for a three day event. I spent days preparing and packing my watercolors and oils. I made new panels with paper mounted in sizes of 8 x 10, 9 x 12 and 11 x 14. I used a variation of supports for my paper. Birch panel, MDO plywood and Gatorboard. The birch panel looks professional its it sealed or varnished. The MDO too has a nice grain to show off. Gatorboard is start white in contrast, however it is the lightest material.

The event takes place the first week of August with painting usually done Thursday thru Saturday. Saturdays we spend the time working within the hamlet at the request of the organizers. Otherwise its a 15 mile radius. Now, swing that radius north and you will be in Canada as Morristown is across from Brockville Ontario. We don’t wish to go there with our art.

I worked pretty much in town the three days. The weather was not promising sunshine but I hoped to get something done regardless. Day one I was interrupted for a time after nearly finishing my first piece. It was lunchtime so the AC in the truck felt really good as I escaped from the heat. Days 2 and 3 were successful in that I completed a painting each day. (all 3 are shown in this post.)

At the Sunday show and sale, August 7th, I was awarded 3rd place over all, which was a great surprise. I walked in the building and spotted my own art hanging together. Low and Behold, a white ribbon was affixed to my Morristown Vista. This was my third painting of the week. I stood in a gentleman’s back yard (with permission of course) overlooking the town and the river with Brockville in the distance.

Later that day at the awards, I also received the Artists Choice Award for Chapman Road. WOW. I couldn’t believe it. So many were curious about my mounted paper and varnishing in my presentation of my paintings. They really pop. Thanks to all my peers for voting for me.

Painting outside when one is prepared and comfortable is half the battle. Being organized is critical. Making sure all the necessary tools are in the box and one doesn’t have to fiddle is very satisfying. I made my set up easy to arrange and repeatable. Palette here, water here, brushes there etc. One has to be able to set up and break down efficiently. I saw many artists with piles of stuff along side them. I don’t like clutter and it can easily become a stressful thing for me if things are disorganized. I haven’t always been this way. (Right now my studio is a mess but I resist organizing it as a method of therapy. Eventually I will put things away.)

Anyways, I’m getting better and preparing and finding the scene to paint. That’s another thing. What to paint? You know I gravitate to water, boats and boathouses. Streets and roads have become a good subject for me too. If I feel I can get a decent drawing done, I can be confident in a good painting. For me its usually an instantaneous flash of a scene or perspective. However, if its in the hot sun and I can’t find shade, I’ll skip it. I drive a truck and it also complicates getting to spots that are small so I have a cart for my things. Back packing it can be necessary, and toting a heavy pack too far and be problematic. I have a tripod, pochade, panel staff, tool box with gear and an umbrella. The umbrella isn’t always needed though. The backpack I have is quite large thus I put alot in it. If I can, I strap it to my small dolly. For my bike, I have a nut and bolt connection to the cart. A child cart would be better as I can be sure things won’t tip over. Problems needing solutions.

A lighter tripod would be the first thing to change. Pochades can be heavy so a mount on palette shelf is the next best thing. I would say making a detailed list of items needed absolutely would make the job easier. Lay it all out first before every trip and sort, refresh and clean. And, which medium will it be this trip out? Having one only makes things cleaner.

The best part is just going out there. A quiet location is the best. If you don’t mind people, and an opportunity to pass out a business card, set up in a small town or street. People are always curious about us artists. Don’t be bashful and stay happy, smile and connect.  I expect to get out more this fall as the temps cool down. Perhaps you might find me someplace when you least expect it.

I’ll be waiting.