It’s always a risk with traveling to plein air events. Is the time effort and money worth it? Are there side benefits that coincide with the main event that would make it worth it regardless of the outcome of the event? Tough questions to answer, but crucial to your success and overall enjoyment of the event.
A nice salve for some of the wallet-sting when it comes to travel would be the availability of hosting. A nice benefit to social media is the ability to make real-life friends. That way you can reach out to those who are eager to help you in some way. I made friends with Liz Steinworth
and she let me stay in her lovely home. Super lovely and gracious of her! Not too far away from San Clemente so I didn’t have to travel too much to and fro. This is critical.
Ok that’s enough preamble, let’s travel to San Clemente!
On Wednesday I arrived in San Clemente at around 4 o’clock, after about an 8 hour drive. If you can avoid painting after an 8 hour drive in the summer heat, do it. I tried to get a groove going with this warm-up painting, but a fatigue headache started to come in and I threw in the towel after about 45 minutes. The sun was setting beautifully by this time, but I didn’t have the energy to do anything else this day so I packed it in and went to get rest for the next day.
The Sorolla Exhibit in San Diego
One of the main things that motivated me to participate in the event was the close proximity that I would be to San Diego, and therefore, the Sorolla exhibition at the San Diego Museum of Art. It had been a really long time since I’d been to San Diego. The Prado section of the city is an extremely beautiful interpretation of a Spanish city, so it made a perfect setting for a Sorolla show.
I wish we were able to take photos of the exhibition. Do I even need to tell you to go if you can?? It’s Sorolla, for God’s sake. I will say that there were a lot more paintings than I was expecting there to be. Such a great show. The only small grumble I have was that some of his portraits were comparatively mediocre when looked at in comparison to his overall body of work. His strong suit was definitely his understanding of shadows in sunlight. Such brilliance!
As a small consolation, here is a photo of an uncharacteristically moody Monet… Looks more like a Daubigny, doesn’t it?
This painting was done near the pier in San Clemente. I was influenced by the light in Sorolla’s paintings, and his way of creating volume with confident brushwork instead of underdrawing. I think the feeling of late afternoon light reads well here, but I wish I had started with a thumbnail drawing beforehand. The composition kind of sucks. The main focus points are close to dead-center and stacked on top of each other. I can probably crop a little off the left side, and it will improve it some.
When I’m in Orange County, I enjoy going to the Irvine Museum to get some extra landscape inspiration. I picked up two books, one on Hanson Puthuff and one on Percy Gray. Now, off to paint.
I’d been wanting to paint a scene like this for a while, looking downwards on to the Spanish-style rooftops. I didn’t do a whole lot of underdrawing in this one either, which explains why the building is dead-center again, for some reason it’s not as bothersome though. There are a variety of shapes on both sides of the center piece to make sure the composition is still dynamic.
"The Perfect Climate" 12x16 in. oil on linen board.
This painting took 2 days to complete, about 3 hours. It was a pretty narrow sliver of time that I had to work on this painting. The quality of light in San Clemente is interesting. The sun is intense so the light blazes through, yet the haze of the coastal mist scatters the light, washing everything in a gold, then orange, then pink and mauve. It’s a challenge to capture this time of day, but very satisfying when it works.
"Tonight’s Last Stop" 11x14 inch oil on linen board.
Between turning in our paintings and the opening gala, there was time to do some painting in between. I did 3 quick studies at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point.
Dana Point Study #1. 4x6 inches.
I gotta say, I’m really happy with this one. It has a few shortcomings but I think the overall mood and effect is pretty spot on. As far as these go, this is one of the more successful studies I’ve done in recent memory.
Dana Point Study #2. 6x8 inches.
One of the hardest things to paint is the ocean, especially waves. I think you have to pick a part of the wave and “freeze” it in your memory in order to capture it convincingly. I painted this on an old panel that I experimented with adding flake white into the ground to prime the canvas. I ended up giving this painting away to my hosts as a thank you gift.
Dana Point Study #3. 6x5 inches.
The opening gala was a fun time. They gave us good food, a couple of free drinks, and the ability to converse with patrons and fellow artists. We all wanted to see who won what. There were about 8 honorable mention awards, a 3rd place award, a 2nd place award, and Matthew Larson won the grand prize award and $5000 dollars.
Here is a small selection of award winners and other paintings I liked.
Grand Prize Winner: Matthew Larson
Bonus: Here is a photo of a painting I did that I won a 4th place award for back in 2010. I’m glad that the painting still holds up, and I might like it more than the paintings I did this year.
So this year I went home prize-free. Hey, it happens. I guess I was getting too used to winning awards lately :P
The Bob Peak Exhibition at Pepperdine
It was very much worth the detour out to Pepperdine University to see the Bob Peak exhibition. It was a nice little overview of his career. His early work was highly innovative with his use of collage and extreme shape-oriented design. Here is an example of one piece.
They had a couple of iconic pieces, the most being his poster for Apocalypse Now. Stunning!
There were also some amazing charcoals, obviously inspired by Fechin.
It’s free, so there’s no excuse not to go if you’re nearby!
Heading Back Home
I like to make a stop in Santa Barbara when I have the time. I love the area, and the Waterhouse Gallery downtown always has quality work.
This was my first time painting in El Capitan State Beach. I would like to explore this park some more, if people have good suggestions on where to go, let me know.
Another favorite spot to paint is Pismo Beach. This was the one I spent the least time on probably, but might be my favorite of the week. Maybe it’s because I was the most warmed-up by then? Not sure, but I was the most relaxed, comfortable and didn’t over-think it.
So, no awards this time, no sales either. Was it worth it? For certain things yes. I enjoyed going to the museum shows. I got some reference for paintings I plan on doing in the studio. I met some lovely people and had a great time staying with them. I think what happened this time was that I ended up spending a lot of time driving around and not enough time to get into a good painting groove. I would have ended up with better paintings if I gave myself more time to settle in. I think next time I do an open event like this, I will allot myself an extra day more than what I think I need. I will end up with better paintings at the end of the event.
Here is a shot of me painting at Dana Point:
The two paintings I submit to the show are on display right now at the San Clemente Art Gallery.
The paintings will be up until August 1st. Be sure to check them out if you make your way over to San Clemente.
Drawings For Sale
Prints For Sale
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