Sunday, April 20, 2014

Just in from Monterey: 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo (Part 1)


Nametag - 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo (PACE14), Monterey, California

This is the third year that Eric Rhoads and his crew at Plein Air magazine have put on this massive extravaganza of all things outdoor painting. In previous years, we were always at London Book Fair during this event so I couldn't attend. Third time's the charm.

We flew to San Jose (about an hour north of Monterey) via Salt Lake City. I'm sure I've flown over Utah before, but wow, that was one stunning view -- and that's just the airport?!

At the airport, Salt Lake City, Utah

It's very close to downtown, and we had a long enough layover, but we opted out of the free Mormon heritage Temple Square tours from the airport ... figured we'd see the city another time, because those mountains just begged to be sketched.

Our flight was a little delayed, so we reached Monterey in our rental car with minutes to spare before the convention began. The humorous opening keynote was by master plein air painter Kevin Macpherson.

He described his recent work painting portraits and teaching in China and spoke broadly about the need to invest in yourself. Tip: Have your photo taken with someone shorter so you look tall in comparison. Here's Kevin doing just that.

With Kevin Macpherson at PACE14, Monterey, CA

The keynote was followed by Shelby Keefe's "Beats and Brushwork" -- part painting demo, part performance art. Grooving to her own original electronic music composition, she danced her brush across the canvas to render three bold, impressionist house fronts against a distant cityscape.

Shelby Keefe demonstrating - Beats & Brushwork - at PACE14

The convention had four stages, so I could choose among oil, water media, pastel and other demonstrations throughout the week. In addition, many of the expo vendors had set up demo easels at their booths, so there was no shortage of opportunities to watch artists at work.

Each day began with Marketing Boot Camp, where Eric Rhoads shared advice for promoting and selling art. Yes, he's relentlessly self-promotional and never misses an opportunity to market his DVDs and events and magazines but can you really argue with someone who preaches what he practices?

A lot of his advice is just good sales strategy, but he tailors it to the audience and notes that most of the people listening won't bother putting any of it into practice. Those few who do are likely to see their brand get a boost (not least because he'll promote them as his success stories in next year's conference: the few attendees who hadn't heard of Camille Przewodek, Lori McNee and Lori Putnam prior to the event sure know them now).

A highlight was watching Rosemary, of artisan brush maker Rosemary & Co., demonstrate how she crafts her popular handmade brushes. The hairs are never trimmed, she noted, to preserve their natural ends -- they are carefully tap-tap-tapped into shape.

Rosemary of Rosemary & Co. demonstrating the art of making brushes at PACE14

She didn't bring a ton of watercolor brushes as so many of the attendees were oil/acrylic painters but I did snag a few to try -- a goat hair mop, for washes, and a pure squirrel mop. The squirrel holds a lot of water yet still manages to make a fine line when needed -- I'm excited to use this one more.

Brushes by Rosemary & Co., from PACE14

All week, during the daytime (when we were indoors) it was warm and sunny. The evenings (when we went out to paint) were unfortunately classic NoCal coastal: cold, damp, foggy. A few of us snuck out to feel the sun on our faces at Fisherman's Wharf between sessions:

Tourist at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey California

Sketch of Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California

Paddleboarding break, Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California

We shivered through our first paint out, at Asilomar State Beach in Pacific Grove. Here's a shot of my setup, with the adorable tiny folding stool I bought a few weeks ago at Go Outdoors in London.

My setup at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

Between the chilly breeze and the sand, it was hard to stay focused. I struggled through a watercolor and then did a few opaque sketches with the addition of white gouache.

Waves at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

Overcast day at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

The surfers were having a better time than we were, that evening!

Surfers at Asilomar State Beach, Pacific Grove, California

[To be continued...]


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Halfway 'Round the World: UK and India Sketchbook


Country road in the Chilterns, Bucks, UK

Pausing for breath -- two trips down, two to go in this five-week odyssey. Last two weeks were abroad, for work; next up is a vacation week, thankfully!

Started with a few days shuttling between our two London offices. It was chilly but we didn't let the weather stop us from going out in the evenings.

Covent Garden is touristy, but the White Lion had surprisingly good food. I didn't care for their sticky toffee pudding, though -- I've had better elsewhere.

White Lion, Covent Garden, London, UK

Upstairs at the White Lion, Covent Garden, London, UK

On Saturday went off to visit our friends in Buckinghamshire. They treated us to a cozy pub lunch at the Red Lion in Little Missenden (nearby Great Missenden is known for being the home of the late great Roald Dahl).

Red Lion, Little Missenden, UK

The Red Lion offered loads of rustic atmosphere, complete with a fireplace, low ceilings and antiques. I had my standby ploughman's -- bread, cheese, chutney, pickle, salad.

We worked off our lunch by hiking through muddy fields in the Chiltern countryside for what seemed like miles. My shoes for done for by the time we reached our "goal": Pednor House, a timber-framed building with a dovecote, once used as a maternity hospital. So I perched on a little stepping stone near a fence and sketched the sheep and an old barn while waiting to be collected by car.

Farm near Pednor House, Bucks, UK

Sheep near Pednor House, Bucks, UK

The idea behind all the walking was to tire ourselves out for the red-eye flight to Delhi. It worked.

After landing in India we went straight to Khan Market to meet my cousin. On the Metro coming back to our hotel in Gurgaon, I amused myself by sketching fellow passengers.

On the Metro, Delhi, India

The days were packed with meeting after meeting but I did manage to get a sketch in, of the musicians at Diya, the Indian restaurant at the Leela Hotel.

Music at Diya (Leela Hotel), Gurgaon, India

On our way back to New York, we stopped in London again for the weekend and stayed in Maida Vale. We walked along the Regent's Canal, stopping to gawk at the colorful houseboats (I don't think I could live in one, though M. thinks he could). :)

Regent's Canal near London Zoo, London, UK

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Shoreway Bridge, Cleveland

Shoreway Bridge, Cleveland, Ohio
Upon landing in Cleveland, I took a half-hour to sit on the desk in my fifth-floor room at the Aloft hotel and sketch the bright PanAm blue span of the Shoreway Bridge. The furnishings in this hotel aren't so luxe, but the expansive views compensate. I never get tired of watching the river traffic on the Cuyahoga, hearing the ding of the RTA Waterfront line at my feet, feeling the room quiver temblor-style as the miles-long freight trains rumble-roll past.

(Pitt marker and watercolors in Strathmore hardbound watercolor sketchbook)

Friday, February 28, 2014

Rain Date

Rain Date no frameA rainy day (imagine that!) last April in London. The venue? Bibendum, the Conran mecca, erstwhile home of the namesake Michelin Man. I splashed in after a long, drenching stroll on Fulham Road and stopped at the Oyster Bar to give my umbrella a rest. Spied this vignette through the glass so out came the camera -- snap, snap.

The collaged paper on the watercolor is from the South Kensington section of Muirhead's Short Guide to London (1953). It was a flea market find; I adore old Baedekers.

From the introduction:
London is still labouring under the stress of six years of war : many buildings of historic and artistic interest have been destroyed by enemy action, and still more have not yet been restored to their normal condition ; so that the descriptions in the present volume must needs be provisional in many instances.
Just a few more weeks till I get my annual fix of the city across the pond.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Gouache? Yes, Gouache

Little red barn, Vermont

Little Red Barn in Vermont, from an original photo. Holbein gouache in Strathmore Toned Gray sketchbook.

Since we're not going to London Book Fair this year, I've decided to attend the 3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo in Monterey, California. I've been thinking about what materials to take besides watercolor. All the outdoor videos from last year's convention show painters dealing with a lot of wind (it is the coast, after all), so I'd probably have to invest in slower-drying acrylics if I went that route.

Gouache, on the other hand, seems to fit the bill nicely. It is compact, can be rewetted, and seems perfect for the smaller supports I'd be painting on given I'm taking two flights there and back. Feels like gouache (or even just adding opaque white to regular watercolors) flies under the radar a bit.

I've been looking at artists like Nathan Fowkes for inspiration, and playing with different papers. I'm really liking the way gouache looks on the Strathmore Toned Gray paper, and will try others.

What's your experience (if any) with gouache?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

A Long Time Coming

Boats in Rowayton, CT
Title TBD - abstraction of boats in Rowayton, Connecticut. From an original photo. Acrylic on board, 16x16.

This painting has been on and off my easel since 2011. I'm calling it done.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Caramoor in Winter, and Paper Experiments

Missed last Saturday's Worldwide Sketchcrawl but went crawling on Sunday instead.

Breakfast at Lorca, Stamford,CT

Had breakfast at Lorca in Stamford (who can resist that blueberry rooibos tea?) and then drove around the snowy landscape of Caramoor in Katonah, NY, to sketch from inside the car. In the warmer months the lovely garden and grounds play host to beautiful music performances.

Weathervane at Caramoor, Katonah, NY

Archway at Caramoor, Katonah, CT

The above sketches were all done in a Stillman & Birn Gamma series sketchbook (yes, the one I got at the USK Symposium in Lisbon - wow, that was a long time ago).

The following two were done in an Arches field sketchbook. I seem to have a hit-or-miss experience with this paper. It doesn't seem to be consistent (maybe it's the sizing applied to the paper), and I find that it sometimes "sucks in" my paint and dulls it.

Sun and shadows at Caramoor, Katonah, NY

Winter trees at Caramoor, Katonah, NY

Back home, I opened a pack of handmade-in-Catalunya 100% cotton watercolor paper I'd bought last year in Barcelona to test it out. The surface is quite rough. I chose a less-than-optimal subject (from a photo taken a while ago, probably an abandoned barn in the Adirondacks) but I like the way the paper takes water and paint.

Old green barn