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Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Umpqua Plein Air- Blue Ribbon!

Tricks of Light  14x18 pastel  First Place
My trip to Roseburg last week for the Umpqua Plein Air event was fantastic.  I had a wonderful time and was shocked and surprised to win first place for my painting "Tricks of Light".

I drove my own car to Roseburg with my dear friend and fellow painter Rosemarie Caffarelli following along in her car.  We would normally carpool but we had each signed up for different painting locations during the event.  It worked out well since we both had our cars packed to the rafters with painting stuff.  I had made reservations at the Rose City Motel in Roseburg based on recommendations on $50/night for a room with two beds.  When we unlocked our room's door and walked in, we were very surprised to see a suitcase and shoes on the floor...oops, occupied.  We went back to the office and after a few minutes of head scratching the manager decided to move a frequent customer into another room so we could have his room with two beds.  We had to leave for an hour while they cleaned the room, but it all worked out fine.  We drove out to the next day's painting locations to check them out.

When signing up for the event, we had to pick between winery, farm or urban locations.  That was all we knew- no details.  I picked farm, and Rose picked winery.  My farm was gorgeous.  It was owned by a retired veterinarian, and had lots of out buildings, rolling golden hills with oak trees, and some lowland along the Umpqua river that was planted with food crops.  They had a very nice farm store with a bakery out by the highway, with the home and barns about 1/3 mile south of the store, down a gravel road.

The event was great.  All the details were spelled out ahead of time.  All artists had to have their blank canvas/paper time stamped before painting.  Start time was 8 am and you had to stop painting by 4 pm.  All work then had to be stamped out of the location, and they shot photos of each painting with the artist.  You then had until 5 pm to deliver your framed and ready to hang (D rings and wire) work to the art center in Roseburg.  If you finished early you had one hour to get your work to the center.  You could submit up to three paintings.

I had three frames with me, two of which had glass for pastels.  I wandered around the farmhouse area for a good hour and a half taking photos, and trying to decide what I wanted to paint.  I'm a slow starter, and really have to feel like I know what I'm going to do before I jump in to the painting process.  I did a few thumbnail sketches, and kept going back to an area to the north of some golden hills with interesting tree groves curving over the slopes and a farmhouse.  For some reason, I decided to start with a 12x12 piece of Wallis paper mounted on a board.  I realized about 30 minutes in that I didn't have glass for that size, so I would have to stick with oil on it.  I love to underpaint with oil paint on Wallis, so the start of the painting was the same whether I stuck with oil or made it a pastel painting.  I rarely paint with oil while painting en plein air, but decided to go ahead and go for it.

Four hours later (after 1 pm) I was still pushing oil paint around on that first painting, and it wasn't pretty.  The morning clouds had burned off, and everything looked different from when I started.  I knew that the painting I was working on was a stinker, and that I needed to get my act together.  I decided to put the oil away and get my pastel box out.  I had been painting out of the back of my car in a little parking area by the house, and had several potential scenes available just by turning my head.  I moved my easel about twenty feet so I'd be in the shade of a shed, changed the playlist on my ipod to a dance mix, and got out two prepared boards with Wallis paper that would fit into the two pastel frames(an 8x10 with no mat and 14x18 with a white mat).  I quickly pencil sketched in each painting, and used the leftover oil paint to underpaint both paintings.  It was nice and warm in the sun so the thinned oil paint dried in just a few minutes.

Once I got to the point where I could use the pastels, things went very quickly.  It was after 2:30, so I knew I didn't have a lot of time to mess around.  I figured I'd just have fun since I had wasted most of the day on a painting that wasn't good.  I was in love with those golden grass hills with their scattered oak trees, and I'd been watching the breezes move across them all day, making patterns in the grass.  I did an 8x10 of a couple oak trees with those overlapping golden hills.  The larger paintings was of the farm fields looking towards the river and a little break in the trees where I could see the distant blue and purple hills peeking through.  There were a lot of different types of food crops growing there, so there was a lot of variety of color and texture in the field.  I didn't have time to get much detail, but tried to keep things cool in the distance, warm in the foreground, and keep that split in the trees.  I really was just trying to get the pastel on as fast as possible.  And have enough time to get both paintings into their frames within the time allotted.

I was the last person to check out of the farm, and second to the last to check in to the art center at 4:40.  The organizers had a nice catered dinner for the 70+ participants and a band out on the lawn of the art center.  It started at 5, so I had a few minutes to clean up.  The band was great, the dinner was nice, and we were happy to be able to get back to the motel before 9.

The next day was the reception at 5, so while the judge (Mitch Baird) doing his thing and the show was being hung all the artists had the option of watching painting demos in oil, pastel and watercolor at River Bend Park, a few miles out of town.  We stayed all afternoon and painted since we had checked out of our motel that morning.  After a quick stop at the Fred Meyers restroom to change into clean clothes, we went to the reception.  

There were 71 registered artists, and almost 200 paintings submitted from the one day paintout.  Out of those paintings, 40 were chosen to hang in the main gallery.  I was thrilled to have both of my pastel paintings chosen for the gallery.  Rose had a beautiful painting from the winery in the gallery too.  It was funny, but they hung us side by side.  My other painting was hung on a glass dividing wall, right as you walked into the gallery.  There were a lot of really nice paintings, and it was amazing that they had all been painted the previous day.   I had no idea that I had won anything, and I was really happy to have made it into the gallery.  It was such a fun couple of days, and I had met so many nice people,and the weather had been perfect, and the motel was awesome...  The winning part was great, but even without that part it was a really fun time.

Old Friends  8x10 pastel
I'm very grateful to the organizers and all the volunteers who made the event such a joy to participate in.  Everything was great, and my only suggestion would be next year to extend or change the hours to be able to paint in the evening when the light is more interesting.

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