Friday, August 06, 2010

My Plein Air Excursion

I took a two day vacation so I could try painting outdoors. Painting plein air is entirely out of my comfort zone. It isn't the painting part that makes me uncomfortable; it's the curious person who comes over to look and chat that bothers me. I've suffered much of my life from social anxiety and have found that painting, as a solitary activity, is a comfort. I gathered all my painting paraphernalia and drove to one of the loveliest parks in New Jersey.
I did a sketch and then painted for a couple of hours. My fears were unfounded, nobody came over but then it was 95° and incredibly humid. Apparently, I had the park to myself.

Sketch of maintenance building

5"x7" - Oil painting - sketch


Today was less hot and there was no humidity, so I headed out again to the park to paint. For me, sketching first before painting helps me figure out the proportions of what's going on in front of me, especially architectural structures.
I'm standing under a tree sketching when I'm approached by an adorable young Chinese woman and her little girl. She saw me sketching and slowly wondered around until she got the nerve to ask me if she could see what I was doing. She was so polite . . . she oohed and aahed and seem so impressed. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then she left. Then a neighbor and her family walked by and we chatted for quite awhile before they went on their way.
About 20 minutes later a woman and her elderly mother are strolling by and the woman yells over to me and wants to know what I writing about. I made the mistake of telling her I'm sketching so she asked me if she could come over. “Sure” I say. So what I am going to say, NO? She looks at my sketch book and yells to her mother, "Hey Ma, come here and take a look". So Ma, with her cane, comes over. . . slowly. Let me tell you, Ma was dressed to kill. I couldn't guess how old she was, but she had on a lot of makeup and was dripping in jewels. Ma looked great . . . like she was going to a cocktail party right after her daily stroll through the park. Ma takes a look at the sketch and proceeds to tell me that her granddaughter is taking private sketching lessons. She then tells me she gave her granddaughter $100 gift certificate to buy drawing supplies; there was also a coupon involved. By the way the granddaughter is 10 years old. This went on for awhile. The daughter then asks me if I taught myself how to draw and I say no, I've been to workshops and have been doing this for many years. She looks dubious, says hmmm, and then she and Ma depart arm-in-arm. Ooh tough crowd. Anyway, the creative moment has passed, so I pack up and also depart. Oh well.

Sketch of gazebo.