Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Plein Air Event

Though I paint on location a fair amount I had never participated in an official plein air event until last weekend.  I entered one in Georgetown, SC that was part of the annual Pawleys Island Music and Art Festival.  Almost 30 artists were there painting for a competition and wet paint sale at the end of the day.  The entry was non-juried so anyone could sign up.  We were allowed to pick our painting sites and could paint as many paintings as we wanted, but only one could be entered in the competition.  Our blank canvases were stamped at 9:00 a.m. and the painting time concluded at 3:30. We were expected to have our wet panel framed and ready for display and were asked to bring display easels for the reception which was outdoors.

This was an enjoyable way to stretch myself and I'm glad I gave it a try.  I painted 2 paintings and took a short lunch break to cool off in the shade.  It was very hot but fortunately not buggy.  That said, it was stressful knowing that the pressure was on to have something framable within a specific time frame for a competition.  There was a considerable crowd and painting without interruption was not an option.  The press was there interviewing us while we painted.  By the end of the day I was exhausted, more so than after any other day of plein air painting or workshop I have ever done.

This experience caused me to have an epiphany.  I follow many artists on Facebook and frequently see posts about prestigious plein air events all over the country.  I have attended the one in Door County, WI as a spectator.  I never thought it would be easy, but after just one day of the experience I gained a huge amount of respect for the pros who go to these events, produce 2-4 paintings/day for up to a week (sometimes even adding a nocturne when the day is done) and framing them for a big show at the end of the week- all while competing against their friends/peers.

I recommend this to any outdoor painter who wants a challenge.  Before committing consider the following-

1.  Keep your set up as light and compact as possible and use the most limited palette you are comfortable with- paint is heavy!

2.  Be sure that all of your equipment is in good working order and that you can set up without assistance.  Take a careful inventory of all supplies when you pack and don't forget extra consumables such as paper towels and mineral spirits (in case of a spill).

3.  Bring frames that are already wired and ready to hang and the tools to finish the job, such as a point driver if you use panels.  I used 9 x 12 panels and brought 2 frames- one wired for a vertical format and one for a horizontal so I would have that flexibility.

4.  If possible, visit the site(s) beforehand.  Take photos and do some sketches to see what feels right for you.

5.  The more you paint out before the event the better.  It's like going to the gym- you want to be in shape!

For fun, read the hilarious article by Scott Freeman-  "The Perils of Peeving a Plein Air Painter". https://artandlifenotes.wordpress.com/2013/05/31/the-perils-of-peeving-a-plein-air-painter/
Link is to the right on my blog site.

Next time I'll show my outdoor set up which I have refined over a period of several years. I think I have it about right, that is until the next "must have"easel comes along...

Thanks, and get out there!

Friday, September 2, 2016

Photographing Your Work

Though I have taken photographs my entire life I am embarrassed by my scant knowledge of photography.  When I was young I took photos of my friends.  Later I took travel pictures.  Now most of my photographs are reference shots for paintings.  After I started painting I realized that I also needed photographs of my work.  At first this was just to keep a record of everything I had painted because, as previously discussed, I regularly discard the older unsuccessful ones.  I look at these periodically to remind myself of where I started.  Now I need photos for my website and to enter juried events.  After a few years of frustration and many failed attempts to understand technical discussions online I came across a very straightforward "how to" article that completely changed my approach and results.  Rather than parroting the process here I recommend that you click on How To Take Great Photos Of Your Artwork in the right hand column under favorite blog posts/articles and start reading.

I now own a very good Canon digital camera and I set it on "automatic everything" including white balance.  I use ISO 200.  I rarely do anything other than cropping the photo once I have downloaded it.

The equipment needed for lighting can be bought inexpensively on Amazon.  At the time of this writing this kit by Emart is available on Amazon Prime and costs just under $60.  It does not come with assembly instructions but I was able to figure it out so it can't be that difficult.

Here it is in my studio-

Important features- the white umbrellas diffuse the light of the natural light fluorescent bulbs which come with the set up.  This eliminates both glare and excessively warm or cool light.  The camera is on a tripod to avoid movement and is not extremely close to the painting.  It is better to zoom in.  Set the camera on the highest possible photo quality. Don't use the flash.  Take the painting out of the frame if it is in one.

I had heard of all kinds of ways to get natural light, such as photographing outside in the shade.  I never found a way to eliminate glare until I used this set up.

So you can see the difference I have included 2 photos of the same painting.  The first was taken with natural light coming in the window of my studio, a north exposure which should be good.  I held the camera in my hands and got close to the painting.  The second is with the set up shown above.  Click on each photo to get a better look.

Actually I got kind of lucky with the first one this time, but if you look closely you can see a fair amount of glare on the left side of the painting and also a bit in the distant mountain. But also notice that the rock formation on the right is almost completely dark.  You can't see the half tones that are visible when the panel is evenly lit.  I did not have the ceiling lights on when I took the first photo but if I had there would have been a lot more glare though the lighting would have been better on the right.

I hope this was helpful.  Be sure to read the article I referenced above for a more detailed explanation.

Thanks for reading!