3rd Annual Plein Air Convention & Expo (Part 2)

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Paintout at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, CA

For a plein air convention, we sure spent a lot of time indoors! :) Close-ups of the demonstrating artists' palette and easel were projected onto big screens at either side of the stage, so everyone could get a detailed view even from the back of the room.

Unlike at the Urban Sketching symposia, where everyone constantly has their pens out, I noticed that very few people here actually sketched while watching demos or lectures. What I did notice (at least in the smaller watermedia track sessions) is that many attendees would use their smartphones to search for artists or books that the speaker mentioned in real time -- an interesting "second-screen" experience.

Wednesday's highlight was an entertaining demonstration by Vermont-based artist Charlie Hunter. His moody, monochromatic depictions of decaying New England infrastructure were a refreshing standout at a conference full of trees, mountains and crashing waves.

Hunter uses water-mixable oils, squeegees, hardware store chip brushes, and even Stim-U-Dents -- and his compositions are pitch perfect.

On the watermedia stage, we watched Baltimore watercolorist and contemporary impressionist Stewart White. His work is sketchy and spontaneous, and he works in a variety of media -- watercolor, oil, gouache. White's colors dance on the page -- his juxtapositions of complementary colors really make his images pop. Like Hunter, he sometimes uses unconventional mark-making tools -- a shaving brush for big washes, a golf tee to scratch out tree branches -- as he paints.

Following White's demo was one by Andy Evansen -- his loosely rendered watercolor of a farmyard scene looked like nothing until the very last strokes, when suddenly it all came together. Magical.

The evening's paint-out was at Carmel-by-the-Sea. It was interesting to actually see the town in the daylight; last year during our LA to SF drive we reached there in the evening and left very early the following day.

I probably should have picked something more urban to paint, but I ended up with most of the other artists, who were clustered on or near the beach. I was struck by the bright Ireland green of the sliver of Pebble Beach visible in the distance; I can see why it's a mecca for those who love golf.

You can tell that I didn't exactly plan the placement of the figures in advance, so they are rather unfortunately see-through.

Looking out at Pebble Beach, Carmel, California

Earlier, at the expo, I'd let "Guerrilla Painter" Carl Judson of Judsons Art Outfitters talk me into purchasing a multi mount collapsible umbrella, so I decided to try it out.

Suma painting on Carmel Beach, CA

It worked quite well, even in the light breeze. You can see how it's attached in this close-up.

Detail - painting at Carmel Beach, CA

Perhaps the most compelling session I attended was on Thursday: The dynamic Alvaro Castagnet charmed a packed house with his exuberant demonstration of a city scene in watercolor. His bold, evocative work is of course made possible by a very thorough knowledge of the fundamentals -- "edge, shade, value, color," as he noted during his talk.

After the indoor portion of the convention ended, we were supposed to go painting at Point Lobos -- but M. and I decided instead to take advantage of the weather and play hooky. We headed to Pinnacles National Park, about an hour and a half to the southeast.

It's the newest of our national parks, having been designated as such just over a year ago. To have its trails largely to ourselves was sublime -- on this Thursday afternoon we saw maybe five or six other visitors, tops. There are enormous boulders and rock spires and craggy peaks and narrow passings through pitch-dark caves.

This should give you a sense of scale (yes, that's me in the corner).

Sketching at Pinnacles National Park, CA

I was tired after all the rock-scrambling and knuckle-scraping but still managed to take a few minutes for a quick sketch.

Pinnacles National Park, California

Dinner back in Monterey at 1833 -- a dark, romantic warren of uniquely decorated flicker-lit rooms in an old adobe house -- was the perfect ending.

Our last morning was spent at Fisherman's Wharf, where all of us conventioneers (dozens? hundreds?) lined the esplanade with our easels and brushes as the sea lions barked and the buskers sang.

Plein air painters at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, CA

Suma painting at Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, CA

Here's my watercolor of the scene, done on Yupo synthetic paper. Although it's challenging to control the paint on the slick surface, color will lift quite easily, allowing for some interesting effects.

Fisherman's Wharf, Monterey, California

My suitcase barely fit all the stuff I brought back -- in addition to the umbrella and brushes, there were promotional giveaways of paint from Royal Talens and Golden, plus a set of Sennelier "vintage color" oils I won in a raffle. I have a swatch of Golden's new QoR watercolors to play with, plus a pad of Canson Mi-Teintes Touch pastel paper and a Ray-Mar gatorfoam panel.

Can't wait for warm weather so I can try out all the new stuff!


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

Sunday, April 20, 2014

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...]


Halfway 'Round the World: UK and India Sketchbook

Sunday, April 06, 2014

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