Painting Plein Air in Rosemary Beach
What a difference in the weather this weekend! After an ice storm paralyzed the Deep South midweek, I was so happy to be painting in my shirtsleeves on Saturday! And what a change from last weekend, when I was painting at the Chautauqua Festival in my snowsuit!
The Rosemary Beach Foundation offers a “Girls Getaway on Superbowl weekend, and plein air painters were invited to paint there. This made the third weekend in a row for me to be painting plein air. I painted for the sheer enjoyment of it. I was out in the open, near the road and near the sidewalk, so I had many visitors, making it a fun and interesting day. I painted the Town Hall and Post Office, at right. Those buildings actually are white, but what interested me was the face of the Post Office, showing the golden light reflected from the side wall of the Town Hall. From where I was standing, I couldn’t actually see the directly lit side of the Town Hall. I could see the shady sides of both buildings. To make the reflected light really obvious, I painted both buildings lavendar.
After lunch, I turned 180º and began painting the street scene northward on North Barrett Square, from Wild Olives towards the Hidden Lantern Gallery where our finished paintings were being displayed. I worked quickly, trying to catch the gist of the architecture. Clouds had come so the shadows and lighting I had enjoyed in the morning were diffuse. I could see that my perspective was warped, but I wasn’t terribly invested in the painting as a finished product. I continued painting in order to learn how to handle my brushes and make convincing architectural shapes.
A student on a bicycle approached and we talked a little and I learned he was an artist. I asked him his website, but he said he was not yet that “advanced”. So I told him he could see more of our work in front of the Gallery, which he apparently viewed and then came back to further engage me. He started by saying, “I disagree with what you are doing.” I should have bid him adieu right then and there, but I was intrigued, and gave him my attention. He offered his limited view of creativity, that there was no value in painting what someone else had already created, such as architecture. It sounded like this might not be the first time he had given this speech, and it sounded like some of the pointless arguments I had heard in college, as to what is “legitimate” art.
By this young man’s definition, I doubt that he would have appreciation for a musician playing a symphony written by someone else, or a dancer performing someone else’s choreography. I lad lost interest as soon as he said he didn’t paint things that were “already painted”. But he pressed his point until I actually started to get irked. It became clear that his intention was to dismiss plein air painting, and to elevate his style of expression, whatever that is. I abhor “exclusive” thinking.
One of the things I have so enjoyed among nearly all of the artists I have met at this “mature” (middle-aged) point in my life, is their support and encouragement of each other. an attitude of INclusion, not EXclusion.. I believe that no artist should be discouraged from whatever path they are on at the moment, and their work should not be judged as to its “legitimacy”, but rather that anyone making any effort to express themselves visually, should be encouraged, that all artistic expression should be supported and nurtured. In fact I think that everyone is an artist, and we ought to help each other retrieve that creative spirit, whether singers, or carvers, or painters, or poets. It is a shame that so many people, somewhere along the way, stop trying. I guess it takes a good streak of stubbornness to retain creative drive, because somewhere along the way, every creative person must overcome the energy of those claiming their expression to not be “good” enough, or expressive enough, or “legitimate”. It was when this student dismissed my protests by pronouncing “The truth hurts”, that I realized the depth of his arrogance. I told the young man that it was better to support and encourage other artists, and not to judge their efforts and try to discourage them.
I thought it was going to rain the next day, so I stayed in my studio, and I repainted the scene I had been painting the day before, using black and white photo references (above right). Later that day, I about dropped my teeth when I drove back to the Hidden Lantern to pick up the painting I had done the day before, discovering that the street was made of dark gray brick-pavers, not the red-orange color I had painted. It never even occurred to me that they might be something different — red-orange seemed so right! So there you are, a true enough representation of the shapes that interested me, coupled with my own sense of what the street “should” look like, Ha! Another fun thing about plein air painting, or even studio painting from photo references after doing a plein air study, is that if I paint the same scene again, even from the same vantage point, it would turn out to be a completely different painting.