Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The Penn Valley Park Plein Air Fest Experience - Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

Friday began with an overcast sky, but Kimberly and I chose to head out to the park early and wait for the dawn to develop. I set up overlooking the Penn Valley Park lake, facing north towards downtown.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
There was something interesting about the softness of the light, and I knew that when the sun finally appeared it would light the downtown skyline first, which could make for an interesting painting.

Blocking in. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The clouds hung on, and by the time the sun finally broke through, I had missed the light catching the downtown skyline. I decided to continue working, knowing that I would need to come back the following morning to recapture the drama of the early morning light.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The beginnings of my weekend sunburn. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Kimberly keeps me well supplied with coffee. I can't do this without her. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The end of the first session. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
That evening, the second quick paint competition began at 5pm. Kimberly even brought our dogs, Barney and Betty, along to enjoy the beautiful weather. We gathered at the Kansas City Firefighters Fountain. In 1988, six firefighters died suddenly in a huge explosion, and the community was spurred to support the campaign to create a memorial tribute to all firefighters. The fountain was created in 1991 by local sculptor Tom Corbin to pay tribute to the men and women of the city's firefighters and memorialize those who have given their lives in the line of duty. It features two bronze figures surrounded by 48 streams of water falling into an 80-foot wide basin.
I chose a view of the fountain from the eastern side, facing into the setting sun. This created a nice graphic shape framed in by the sky and the water. The sun was bright enough that I had to place the lid of my palette behind the canvas to prevent it from shining through the canvas.
You can see the strong graphic shape with the initial block in. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Breaking up the shape. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The sunburn continues. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I always prefer music when I paint. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The painting was coming together nicely, but I felt that the water streams were not dominant enough. I decided to apply paint with my palette knife, something I had never done before. This accomplished the effect I needed to get the movement of the water that I wanted. The spray around the streams was accomplished by lightly dragging the brush over the area and letting the texture of the surface pull the paint.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
The finished painting. Memorial Waters (oil on canvas, 16"x12"). Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I was satisfied with the piece at around 6:30, and chose to stop, once again worrying that I might overwork it. At 7pm, the whistle blew and all of the artist gathered around Phil Starke for the judging process. There were some excellent works, even better than the evening before. It was obvious that everyone was loosening up and hitting their strides. After a brief discussion about what makes a painting work (composition, darks and lights, technique, color), I'm proud to say that Phil chose my painting as the winner.
Phil Starke and I with a full on sunburn. Look at that red face.
Immediately following the judging, I went back to the Pioneer Mother Memorial. The sunset was beautiful at this time, so I wanted to finish up the painting I had begun Wednesday evening. It didn't take long, and I was able to sit and relax after a long day in the sun.




In tomorrow's post, I cover the final day of the event.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Penn Valley Park Plein Air Fest Experience - Part 1

This past weekend, I participated in the 1st annual Penn Valley Park Plein Air Fest. It was a painting competition benefiting the Penn Valley Park Conservancy in Kansas City, Missouri.

After signing in and getting my canvases stamped, I started right away Wednesday morning with a quick warm up. I set up near the ruins of the Kansas City Parks Department Operations Building. This is all that remains of the building, built in 1910, which served for eighty years as the offices of the parks department, barn for the mounted police and storage for park equipment. Before it burned down in 1991, the building had fallen into disuse. The local quarried walls now surround the Just Off Broadway Theatre, which was built in 2011.

I loved the way the early morning light enhanced the limestone and cast shadows across the hillside. The light changes quickly at this time of morning, so I only did about a half hour block in. I'm sure I'll come back to paint this scene at some point in the future.
That evening, following an artist/patron get together, Kimberly, the dogs and I headed over to the Pioneer Mother statue in the middle of the park. There was a quick paint scheduled for this very same location the following evening, but the weather forecast was calling for severe thunderstorms and hail. I had an idea of how I wanted to capture the scene, but expecting the quick paint to be cancelled, I decided to go a day early.

The Pioneer Mother Memorial designed by A. Phiminster Proctor stands within a few hundred feet of a branch of the Santa Fe Trail and depicts pioneers traveling westward over the vast expanse of plains. The monument weighs over 16,000 lbs. and stands on a pedestal of Minnesota pearl pink granite with a concrete base. Presented to the people of Kansas City by Howard Vanderslice in 1927, the inscription reads: "To commemorate the Pioneer Mother who with unfaltering trust in God suffered the hardship of the unknown west to prepare for us a homeland of peace and plenty." Vanderslice's own mother had traveled across the plains in search of a better life. Proctor created the piece in California, had it cast in Italy and the molds and casts were destroyed after completion. 

We arrived around 7pm, with the sun already low in the sky. I chose to paint the statue from street level which I though would be an interesting composition. Plenty of grass taking up the majority of the canvas, enhancing the idea of the pioneer alone on the prairie.
Blocking in. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Dandelions! Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Barney and Betty hanging out. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
I realized early on, that I really likes the way the hillside was overrun by dandelions with the setting sun just barely touching the tops of a few of them, so my green hill quickly became more than grass. With the sun setting quickly, we stayed less than an hour, and I knew I would need to find another evening to return and finish the painting.

Thursday morning brought ominous clouds and the threat of severe thunderstorms. I chose not to head out early and paint - the light was very flat anyway, but the storms stayed away throughout the day. I was able to get out and paint at bit in the afternoon, but the light was so unstable, I didn't feel that I created anything worthwhile. That evening the first quick paint competition was scheduled, but we were all expecting a cancellation due to weather.

At 4pm, the artists began arriving at the Pioneer Mother statue for check in, everyone wondering if the rain would start pouring any minute.
Waiting for the whistle and the storm. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
If you're not familiar with a quick paint, it's very simple. The painters all come to a predetermined location with a blank canvas. At the designated time, a whistle is blown to signal the beginning of painting. When the whistle blows again (2 hours later in this case), brushes are down and the judging begins.

We were lucky, as the weather held out. At 5pm, the whistle blew and we began.
The initial block in. I don't draw. I find it faster to just paint the big shapes in very thin paint. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

Getting the shape of the statue more correct. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
 5 minutes in. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
With the high winds, the clouds were moving rapidly, causing frequent and extreme changes in the lighting of the scene. I had to make a choice and paint in the sky rapidly, knowing that it would look completely different in a matter of minutes.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Fixing the shape with the negative space. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Adding in the highlights when they appear. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Due to the changing light, I had to work quickly and finished in under an hour. With another hour to go until the whistle blew, I took a break, walked around the statue and came back to decide what to do next. I decided not to make any changes. The painting said what I wanted it to say, and going back into it would most likely overwork the piece.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
At 7pm, the whistle blew and we all gathered around the statue for judging. Judge Phil Starke carefully reviewed all of the great work and chose Craig Lueck as the winner with an amazing watercolor featuring the downtown skyline. Congratulations to Craig!

I'll continue with Friday's experience in my next post.