Finally, it is plein air season!
The 10,000 hours rule postulates that one cannot become truly proficient at a study or skill until they have spent a lot of time at it – the “10,000 hours rule”. Now that the weather is warm here on the coast of Maine and I am comfortably able to be painting outdoors, I have 5 hours down and 9,995 to go, on my mission of learning to paint the rocky coastline.
There are winter plein air painters, but I think I might be just a fair weather painter. Much of my time outdoors this past winter in Maine, my first winter, was spent scouting out scenic locations and taking reference photos to document places I might want to paint. I probably can count that towards my 10,000 hours, since observation is key.
While I could have been using my photos as reference for painting rocks all winter, I have discovered that most of my motivation to paint comes from spending time with my actual subject rather than just using a photo of my subject. Beyond the initial attraction, it is by being present with it that I fall in love with it and want to paint the excitement I feel. Painting en plein air and drawing from life give me that direct connection to what I can only describe as the spirit of the imagery. I lose track of time and self-awareness (if the bugs are cooperating); that is when it is easier to pass into the state of consciousness where there is no separation of existence.
Last week the weather turned shirtsleeve-warm. I invited a couple of other plein air artists to paint with me at the part of Acadia National Park that is closest to my apartment, Thompson Island, the gateway to Mt. Desert Island. The painting above was painted en plein air.
The next day I went to the same location again by myself, this time trying to paint the rocks using just a palette knife. Some paintings you keep, and some paintings you scrape off and salvage the canvas, and that’s all I will say about that.
And the painting at the top of the page and at left was painted a few days later, with a rapidly rising tide requiring two relocations of my easel further up the shore. There are countless glacial erratics on Mt. Desert Island, rocks transported some distance by glacial activity 16,000 years ago during the last Ice Age. Balance Rock is of particular note because of its prominence on the shoreline. It was part of a granite rock formation some 25 miles north, quite obviously a different composition than the sandstone ledge it is balanced on.
Balance Rock, Bar Harbor, 6×12 oil, $250
On cold weather days I am practicing sketching rocks from the many photos I have taken. I’m learning to simplify, especially the myriad of surface textures.
Rocks need to be described through the planes of the surface. When painting them, I will have to be very sparing if I paint textures at all. I made the mistake of trying to paint the textures with a palette knife, last wek. After several hours and copious amounts of paint, I ended up scraping it all off, to salvage the canvas from the resulting mess. I’ll spare you that photo!
Presently I am exhibiting two works in the Acadia Senior College Members Exhibit, including the new painting above, “Shoreboats”, painted after a visit to one of the working docks I found when I first moved here last fall.
Also The Gardener, at right, was accepted into the Bangor Art Society’s juried member exhibition. The Gardener was created during the time warp at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020. Our world had ground to a halt with a nationwide “shutdown” and my group plein air painting activities had ceased. So my friend Serena Robison, who supplies many local retail florists from her huge garden, invited me to paint there, a welcome respite from the forced isolation and uncertainty of the pandemic. At the back you see sweet Serena, tending her garden. This is one of my most favorite paintings.
The Gardner, 11×14, $750
The pandemic made me realize how just valuable newsletters and web-based platforms can be. Last month I volunteered to help out with the local arts organization’s website here where I live in Maine, helping to create a Member Artists page and an Exhibits page for their website. I am most proud of the virtual exhibit / slide show I made after our most recent Members Exhibit, for people who were unable to see it in person: Spring, Sprang, Sprung.
Moving Forward with Plein Air
A loose-knit group of plein air painters in the area communicate largely through text threads, but being new, I am not yet very-well-known here. So I also opened a group on Facebook for plein air painters interested in joining up with each other to paint here. It is called Plein Air MDI, Blue Hill, and Region. You are welcome to view it, though it is in its incipient stages, and most painters seem to be waiting for consistently warm weather.
I look forward to sharing more with you, now that I am outdoors painting again.