Door County, Day Two

Posted on July 26, 2011 in Blog Post, Exhibitions, News, Plein Air Painting


After a long night without much sleep, I managed to get up early enough to pack up and turn in my keys and get to the park in time to find a great spot, right across the street from the tent used for registration for the Dockside Quick Paint event. This event gave us ample time to set up and sketch, within a two block radius of the park, but only two hours to actually paint.

I took a protein shake with me for breakfast as I scouted possible locations and greeted some of the other artists who were just arriving to do the same. I spoke for awhile with my friends Larry Schultz and Jason Prigge, then went off to look at some possible vantages for the day’s events. I had an hour before I could get my panel stamped, and another two before the event started. We were all looking at the overcast sky and judging the winds to estimate what the light would do between 9-11 am.

Here is the first location at which I set up. In front of me you can see a boat launch for the marina which lies to my left and behind me, the park is on my right. On my immediate left were racks of dingies and small craft, which offered some interesting shapes, but also nothing terribly descriptive of this location, which I thought would be important for judging. I wanted my painting to have something of Fish Creek about it. I decided to try the shop that was across the street from the park. The blue door and the odd shape of the eaves above it caught my eye, and I decided it would be recognizable enough to warrant the risk of rendering architecture in such a short amount of time. The way it was situated among the trees, with the open field and fence behind it would work well in the composition.

After setting up, I got my panel stamped, and was given a token gift bag with some artist goodies. I had a peanut butter sandwich then returned to my setup. I was greeted by my friend Kyle Martin, and another friend of mine from online, Mr. Daniel Corey. I met both of these artists through the Plein Air section of Wet Canvas, an online community for like-minded artists. I was quite surprised to see Dan, who had driven for two days from Maine to participate in the event. Both he and Kyle are exceptional painters, and looking around at some of the others setting up whom I recognized, today would not be an easy win for anyone.

With about 20 minutes to go, some jackass who worked for the marina decided that the infestation of painters was unacceptable, and he began making noise about us having to move. Since I was one of those artists, this was particularly annoying. The event would take all of two hours, yet he insisted that “people had to have access to the dingies” in front of which I had set up, even though most were covered in cobwebs and had clearly not been used in weeks.

So I moved across the street, setting up next to Dan. You can see my vantage here. It seems we were going to go head to head, painting the same subject matter. I was glad for the chance to get to know him, he’s a soft spoken person with a subtle sense of humor and a lot of plein air experience. Ambitious too, as he set up perhaps one of the largest paintings done that day. After a few last minute adjustments I was set and ready to go, just waiting for the horn that they sound to begin and end the competition. I decided to go with a vertical format.

At 9am sharp the horn sounded and we all set to work. There were passers-by, some were inquisitive, making the usual assortment of comments, most were respectful of our space and our efforts. I was glad that most opted to talk to Dan and not me (heh). I decided to use my phone to take shots of the painting as I went along, every 10-15 minutes or so. I’ll be posting a step-by-step in my next post so you can see how I tackled this painting. Aside from the occasional interruption from passing cars and people launching their boats, the session went well, I came to a finish with a couple of minutes to spare.

Here is the final piece. Malibu Moo’s Frozen Griddle 11″ x 14″ oil on panel, SOLD.

After the second whistle, signifying the end of the competition, we had some unspecified amount of time to bring our finished paintings to the registration tent to have them stamped again, this time with a dated stamp. I’m not sure what this was meant to prevent, but they seemed to think it was important. The logistics of holding the fragile wet surface of an oil painting while someone else stamped the back of your canvas or panel was more than ridiculous. Fortunately I was able to put my panel in my panel carrier, which allowed them to stamp through it. I put the carrier in my truck to prevent disaster, then went back to tear down my kit.

As I was doing this, the featured artists were in the process of setting up their easels at the edge of the tent, along the long side, facing outward. Their paintings were then hung on their easels, in alphabetical order, allowing the public to get a look at what they accomplished in two hours. I believe there were 38 featured artists, including my friend Brian Sindler (who took best in show), Tom Nachreiner, Colin Page, Ben Bauer, Frank Gardner, Shelby Keefe, James Hempel and many others.

After packing up I carefully framed my piece and sat it in the truck out of harm’s way, then went to get a hot dog and bottled water. I felt pretty sharp while painting in spite of not having a substantial breakfast, by now I was famished and exhausted from a lack of sleep.

Inside the tent, people were busy setting up lawn chairs, packing in for the Quick Paint Auction. The tent was huge, there were easily 60 people inside, and more outside. At the front of the tent volunteers would bring in paintings five at a time to set up on easels. Cinnamon, one of the organizers, would give a brief introduction for each artist, talking up their accomplishments, then handing over the mic to the auctioneer as a volunteer would walk the painting through the crowd, allowing everyone to get a decent view. This format was incredible to watch, the auctioneer really worked up the energy in the room, and some of the works went for as much as $1900. There were more than a few bidding wars. Once a painting sold, the volunteer took it out the back to a table where it was boxed up and handed to the winning bidder. A lot of money changed hands, and I decided that here at least, appreciation for the arts was alive and well. After an hour of this I was exhausted and decided to take a nap in my truck. We had until 3pm to turn in our paintings at the Peninsula school, then had three hours to kill before the show was opened to the public.

After half an hour, I decided I had slept as much as I was going to, and went in early to be on the safe side. At teh school, they had another smaller tent for us to set up our easels and hang our work. Apparently there were 60 artists in the Dockside Quick Paint, not including the featured artists for the main event. With a few hours to kill, I wasn’t sure what to do. I decided to check out Ephraim, and ended up driving much farther north. There were some decent vantages, but there were a disappointing number of great views of the bays and their marinas that were on private property or nowhere near decent parking. After 45 minutes, I turned around and headed back to Fish Creek to get some food.

I settled on a place called the Cookery, which was pricey but worth it. A chicken sandwich, one beer and a slice of cherry pie later, I was feeling a bit refreshed. I read for awhile on a bench at the beach, then headed back to the school in time to get in a long line waiting to get into the show. By the time I got in, the place was already quite packed. I would say there were easily 200 people milling about, between the artists, the volunteers and the viewers. It took about 20 minutes just to get to see my piece and put some cards out, the line progressed slowly. Staff members were standing in the tent ready to help people with purchases which would be picked up at the end of the show. You can see the tent we were in in the back ground here.

I went into the main gallery, where the featured artists had their remaining work displayed. This building had a cupola and skylights along the top. Each face of the building held several rows of artists, with 4-5 paintings from each featured artist hung in a vertical line, under their names. As people would purchase paintings, they were taken down and replaced immediately with one from the back. Apparently featured artists were required to have around 8-10 paintings, which were first offered to patrons who paid for the privilege of a private first-viewing. What remained was sold then throughout the rest of the event. Again, a lot of money changed hands here. I wish the rest of the events in the state were run like this. You can see the entrance to the main gallery in the background.

As I made my way into the main gallery, I was greeted by friends and fellow painters, many of whom complimented my work. After meandering about for awhile, the space was getting entirely too claustrophobic for me, being packed with viewers and artists (interior photos courtesy of the Peninsula School of Art)

After making my way back outside, I joined some friends under a large gazebo, sitting in chairs at glass tables. It was a good way to get out of the sun and just watch the spectactle of this crowd. I had very little interest in small talk at this point, it was already a long day. By around 7:30 they made the announcements about the winner of the Dockside Quick Paint, and unfortunately I was not one of them. The person I did vote for, however, took first place and will be in the main event next year — Katie Musolff, who did a very sensitive painting of a crosswalk and sidewalk. I didn’t find out until after I got to the show that the judging would be done by popular vote, which was a little disappointing. I don’t generally trust the eye of the public, as most times it devolves into a popularity contest, or they are swayed by overly sentimental subject matter. Oh well.

I found out shortly after that my painting had sold. That would at least help me recoup the expense of the trip. when I dropped off my work, one of the volunteers said that the owner of the place I painted bought something every year, especially images of her shop. I had a little hope in that regard, and apparently my choice of subject matter paid off. (Thanks again to Bill Frazier for the purchase).

A little after 8pm I grabbed my easel, said my good-byes and hit the road, hoping to get to Green Bay before the light died. Here was the sunset on the ride home. It was a long, weary ride home.

All in all it was a worthwhile trip. One more chance to get my name out there, meet with friends, do some painting, and gain some experience. I’m confident that my best work could have hung in there with the featured artists, without a doubt. I really would have liked to have been out there for the whole week, but there were just too many obligations here, and it would have been too expensive. That’s got to change soon.