Cedarburg Plein Air Painting Competition – Day Two: Main Event

Posted on June 16, 2011 in Blog Post, News, Plein Air Painting

After nearly falling asleep behind the wheel on the way home last night, I decided I needed to catch up on some sleep. The past few days have been so busy, getting things done for me, for WIPAPA, teaching, preparing for this event, etc., that I’ve been averaging 4 hours of sleep or so. So I slept in today, got moving around 9:30 or so. As usual, when I sleep in, I tend to be slow getting things going. I didn’t get to Cedarburg until around 1pm today. I immediately drove through the city, rubbernecking, trying to find a decent vantage. The weather was largely perfect, cloudy, variable light, big cumulus clouds, in the mid-70’s.

On Washington Avenue, north of downtown Cedarburg, just north of the diner on HWY 60, there are a series of barns that are remarkably dated and rustic, and have interesting buildings. I decided that these would look best with East light, so I kept looking for a decent spot. I ended up back downtown, and parked when I passed my painter friend Bill Suys. Bill does these tight renderings with excellent color and lots of detail. He has the hand of a surgeon. I stopped to chat with him for a few minutes, then walked around downtown to find the best spot. After seeing Bill’s piece, I was determined to challenge myself to the task of the downtown scene. There is a lot of recognizable detail in these storefronts and buildings, things that locals will recognize easily. I knew that if I were up to the task I would have to capture the personality of the places in view.

I knew, however, as is always the case, that the first painting in the main event is usually a wash, just something to get me back in the swing of things, build my confidence, and work out the colors, while adapting to the traffic and distractions. So I chose one of the two 8″ x 20″ panels that I prepared. I knew that I wasn’t planning to put these into the main event unless I came up with something very good, so if I screwed up, I wouldn’t be short on panels. I tackled a two-point perspective shot of the north part of downtown, on the East side of the road. I didn’t finish, as the light changed on me, so I won’t have a photo of this until after the event is done. I may go back to finish this later.

While painting, I had several distractions. Along with the usual passers-by and onlookers, I was accosted by two groups of Chinese tourists who nearly bumped me out of the way to see what I was painting. Not a shy group of people there. The first two, a mother and her English speaking daughter asked me questions about the event and why I was painting at that size. The other ones kept positioning themselves to stand in front of me while I was painting to get me in the photo with them…quite annoying. But, since I was nearly certain that if I started shouting, they wouldn’t understand me anyway, I let them have their fun and focused on the task at hand.

Later, I was greeted by my painter friend Brian Sindler, whom I met at last year’s event. A little after 6pm, my other painter friend Mike Nielson and I had a great conversation, while I packed up. We walked to the Washington Street Pub to have some wine and snacks hosted by the event coordinators (what a great deal). Had a decent conversation with artists Bonnie Paruch and Bill Suys. The one truth about plein air painting is that we are all alone before our easels. It’s a lonely bit of business, I’m glad for the company that these events bring.

By the time I got out of there there was less than an hour of sunlight left. So I decided to drive around some more, and am I glad I did. I have several locations planned for a late painting. I’ll need to be there around 6:30 pm, set up and mixing colors, on a day when there are clouds. The sunsets are spectacular out there, but they go fast. It’s hilly enough to get some amazing atmospheric perspective.

I realized last night that in preparing for this event, while I challenged myself to take on more complex scenes with greater amounts of information, I did not prepare myself for the rigors of back to back marathon days of painting. My shoulder is killing me tonight. Next year, part of my training regime will include some back to back 11 hour days and 3 starts minimum. It’s not just about getting faster, more accurate, but about lasting longer.

Tomorrow I’m planning to get up at 5am to get some early painting in. Hoping to get 3 finished pieces in before the light dies.