Plein Air Painting at The Chautauqua Festival – an Arctic Blast!
It was cold! The high last Friday was 38°! That’s cold for Northwest Florida! That’s cold for outdoor painting! I had made plans to paint at the Florida Chautauqua Assembly with other plein air painters. I was prepared for the cold, dressed in my quilted snowsuit overalls and two jackets, a fleece headband visor, and cloth gloves under my latex painting gloves. And I wore wool socks inside my beach Crocs. I looked like someone from the Arctic North, but I was toasty while I painted on the shore of Lake DeFuniak last Friday morning. But later in the afternoon, the chill set in, and I was pleasantly surprised when a dear friend, Eda Busby, brought me hot tea and a blanket and fingerless gloves, which gave me more dexterity. I gave her the painting I had just completed. Saturday was almost the same, but Sunday was a warmer, and I actually was in shirt-sleeves for a little while, painting the restored DeFuniak train depot and railroad tracks.
It was my first time attending the Chautauqua Festival, so I didn’t really know what to expect. I found the well-organized art exhibit on the second floor of the “Hall of Brotherhood”, also known as the Chautauqua Building, and I met some of the friendly and talented artists of the northern part of Walton County. They allowed me to bring in my wet oil paintings as I completed them. We also displayed completed works. Three other people painted plein air over the weekend. Several of the artists opted to paint indoors, in the gallery.
The festival itself had a number of historical exhibits and people dressed in period costume, with Civil War re-enactments accompanied by some unsettling firing of guns and cannons that made me jump and the geese honk. My favorite exhibit demonstrated a small part of the culture of the Muskogee Creek people, where a woman named Debbie Bush showed me her family’s fabric pattern on her skirt, and talked to me about herbs used in healing and she gave me a sharp piece of flint to carry in my pocket for personal protection. Another exhibit featured carved and assembled crafts and toys. i was fascinated with an assemblage of wooden “cards” strung together in a way that they unfolded in a strand and then each flipped over successively into a strand facing the other direction when the top card was flipped. The demonstrator called it “Jacob’s Ladder” — Click here for a 30-second video of the demonstration.
I also tasted my first (and last) Funnel Cake, paying about $5 for a dinner-plate-sized dollop of batter fried into bread and smothered with powdered sugar. I don’t think there was one redeeming quality — I managed to force down my 1/6 slice, and left the rest on the counter for my fellow artists to enjoy. I came back a couple hours later and noticed it was gone, much to my relief.
Friday evening was the opening of our A+Art exhibit of plein air paintings, “Outdoor Magic”. I showed 3 pieces I have previously posted (click picture for gallery view):
Below are a few pictures from the festival:
Lest I leave you completely disillusioned with the temperatures in Florida in January, here’s a warm studio painting inspired by the lakeside grasses in Grayton Beach State Park!