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!

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  1. This convention & expo sounds wonderful with all the big-named people doing demos. Love the sketch of Fisherman's Wharf on yupo. I've never tried using it outdoors. It is hard enough to work on it at home. The sketch from Pinnacles is great! The colors of the rocks remind me of Sedona. I'll be interested in hearing how you like the umbrella. I was looking at that on their website the other day. It sounds pretty much like you can attach it to almost anything. Hope you will be back to fill us in soon.