Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Plein Air in Monterey, CA

In April I'll be heading to the 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention in Monterey, CA. I attended last year as a field painter and I had a wonderful time meeting artists from all over the United States and beyond, listening to the variety of presentations and demos, doing my own demo, painting, and  sharing knowledge. One thing I discovered is that there is a plein air universe out there, a group of artists who go to outdoor painting events and competitions all over the world, and they know each other just like all the portrait artists at the Portrait Society of America conferences. I'm used to hanging with the other East Coast artists, many of whom paint outdoors, making finished paintings and/or studies for larger paintings in the studio, who show in galleries and call themselves simply "landscape painters." So, for me, meeting these artists was an eye-opening experience.

 There's something about outdoor painting that makes people relax. You can't worry about how you look when the wind is blowing your easel over or your palette falls in the sand or the mosquitos attack you or a thunderstorm threatens. I've had many days when the weather has been so uncooperative I'm happy to just have something down on my canvas.  By the time you have spent the better part of the day battling the elements, you are ready to roll. Yes, this is a lively crowd, in case you were wondering. They know how to enjoy life.

I'm one of those artists who has to know a particular landscape to do it justice in a painting. So I'm glad that, this year, the convention will be in Monterey again. One of my favorite children's books, A Spell is Cast by Eleanor Cameron, is set in Carmel, and the descriptions of the area are so evocative I wanted to go there myself to see if it was anything like what I had imagined. It was, but even better, more vivid. The huge cypress trees with their gnarled trunks and gesticulating limbs, the lush wooded areas, the deep turquoise of the ocean, remain in my head and I am looking forward to going back (after re-reading A Spell is Cast one more time of course) and painting there again, allowing the scenery to work its way into my soul.