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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Umpqua Plein Air 2013- Best of Show!

First Look   6"x6" plein air pastel  Best of Show- Umpqua Plein Air 2013

This was my third year participating in Umpqua Plein Air, put on by the Umpqua Art Association in Roseburg, OR.  As in previous years, the plein air event was wonderfully organized, with all the information spelled out ahead of time.  The actual schedule of events was different from previous years...this year, the quick draw was held for two hours on the afternoon of the first day.  

I arrived in Roseburg about an hour before the event began, so I had a chance to check in to my favorite little place to stay in Roseburg, the Rose City Motel.  It is the cleanest and most comfortable motel I've ever stayed in, and at about $50 per night, it is a real bargain.  The rooms look like they are straight out of Country Living magazine circa 1983.  I was in the garden room, and the bed was as comfortable as my own at home.  

The quick draw was held in the park outside the Umpqua Art Association gallery.  My painting was nothing to write home about.  It happens.  Plein air painting is hard!  
Quick draw entry- photo shot in the back of my car, complete with reflections on the glass and poor color choices.  It started off a pretty nice painting, but I killed it somewhere along the way.  Oh well.
There was a catered dinner in the park after the quick draw, followed by a nice talk from the show juror Brenda Boylan, who spoke on the Good, Bad and Ugly in regards to painting plein air. 

The next day dawned partially cloudy, with a high chance of thunder showers.  I had signed up to paint at the Norris Blueberry Farm about ten miles NW of Roseburg.  The farm was awesome.  I wandered around for about a half hour, taking lots of photos and trying to decide where to set up my painting gear. Once I got near the pond (complete with two swans), I knew my search for a painting place was over.  It was absolutely amazing. The swans begged to be painted- beautiful white feathers, exotic black lined eyes and beaks, and then those weird legs that looked like their flesh colored tights were falling down.  They spent over an hour preening themselves on a little island just off shore from where I set up my easel, and I was very tempted to paint them, but I just couldn't once I started to really soak in the territorial views.  

I couldn't decide which view to paint, so I started two paintings- one looking north, and one looking east. I could see both directions from my easel. Because of the chance of rain, I set up my big Eddie Bauer beach umbrella from Costco.  It's huge, it's beige, and it works.  

I am a fair weather girl, and I just don't paint outside when it's anything but dry and pleasant. That is, up until now.  This was a timed event, and I had until 4 pm to produce something for the show.  I was pretty excited about the sky show that was going on, and the constantly changing state of the light on the landscape.  A pretty major storm was moving into the northwest, and it was fascinating to be a witness to the subtle and not so subtle changes.   

I chose to do a 6x6 and a 12x12 painting for the competition.  I hoped that at least one of them would turn out ok.  I never know if my idea is going to pan out, especially with the added stress of being in a timed competition.  Painting outdoors is challenging under the best of conditions.  I settled on my compositions, sketched them in, and using thin oil paint, completed both underpaintings.  It was feeling pretty humid outside, so I did a little blotting onto the underpaintings to try to get them to dry faster.  I didn't want to put much pastel onto the surface before the Gamsol was dry, as it melts the pastel onto the surface, and gives a darker look to the light colors.
photo- the view to the north, Norris Blueberry Farm
The 6x6 almost painted itself.  As soon as I noticed the sun lighting up the edge of the treeline, I was interested.  Then I noticed the trees that were a bit further back, and that I could see through the trunks to the fields behind.  That was it. I was totally besotted with the scene.  I love it when that happens!

The 12x12 scene was almost as easy to choose.  The view up the valley was spectacular, especially with the storm clouds piling up against the mountains to the east.  Purple and blue. Delicious!

I had not really planned for inclement weather.  I had a fleece zipup, but I had neglected to bring long pants or real shoes.  I was fresh from Hood River, and it had been around 90 degrees there.  If not for that Eddie Bauer umbrella, I would have been up the proverbial creek.

As the storm blew in, it got colder.  The wind started blowing.   And then it started raining.  Hard.  I saw other artists make a run for cover, and I thought about packing it up, but then I realized that I was dry under my umbrella. My easel, cart, pastel box- everything stayed totally dry.  I was chilly, but dry.  I figured I may as well stay put and finish my painting.

I was amazed when, in the middle the pouring rain, there was a tiny break in the clouds behind me and a brilliant ray of sun lit up the trees I was painting.  It lasted about 45 seconds, and was absolute magic.  I've never seen anything like it.  Probably because I NEVER paint outside when it is raining. It was fun adding the bright gold sunlight to the back of the field in my painting, and made coming up with the title much easier!

Sunbreak   12x12 plein air pastel    N Equall

I had no problem finishing both paintings before 2:30, and was even graced with a break in the rain, allowing me to pack up and get back to my car without getting soaked.  I backed into an open shed, and got both paintings framed without incident, and then safely turned in at the art center.

I was totally surprised and thrilled to be awarded best of show for my little 6x6 painting First Look.  The paintings from the plein air event will be on display at the Hallie Ford Gallery at the Umpqua Valley Art Association in Roseburg through October.

I'm looking at these cloudy skies a little differently now, and actually had another opportunity to paint an approaching storm a couple of weeks later at the Hillsboro Plein Air event. More on that next time...

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