Plein Aire isn’t as simple as it sounds!

I have always loved Vikki Fields’ work. She is perhaps the only painter I know who works exclusively from life, never from photographs, and her En Plein Aire landscapes are stunning. She sometimes spends hours in the outdoors at the same time every day capturing the light on a particular tree or mountain.

I own this small painting that she did of Arroyo Seco near Taos – it’s a treasure.

Taos by Vikki fields

So when the Witte Museum asked the Art League to partner with them in teaching a Plein Aire painting class to celebrate to opening of their new exhibition, Vikki was the first person I asked to teach it. She agreed!

Fifteen of us signed up and met at the Witte last Sunday afternoon (hot, hot!) as Vikki guided us through the plein aire preparation process.

Vikki Fields discusses choices and vistas

Most of us painted from the shady balcony overlooking the San Antonio River.

The view was beautiful — but, where do you start?? It’s sort of a green blur to me.

Some people used watercolors, some painted with oils, others, like me, started with a pencil sketch.

I hadn’t painted from life in about 20 years, so I had to try and remember how to “look” at the subject in a different way. For me, it works if I can flatten it out in my imagination, like an illustration. For a painter like Vikki and some of the others, it’s a process of starting with values and underpainting.

Three hours went by remarkably quickly. If it hadn’t been so hot, we probably would have stayed on, but we went inside the (air-conditioned!) museum to look at our work and discuss it.

The differences in approach were fascinating – take a look at some of the paintings. We weren’t expected to finish, nor to create a masterpiece since we were just working on studies, but I loved seeing the results.

So here’s mine – remember when I said I thought like an illustrator rather than a painter? Good thing we weren’t supposed to paint a masterpiece!

The huge lessons I learned were PATIENCE and OBSERVATION. It was really hard for me to slow down and truly look at what was going on with the rocks and the water since I don’t have a painter’s eye for suggesting many details with one brush stroke. It was also a relief to know that I could still draw – whew! But painting? Not so much.

Here’s my friend Lara Hye Coh – now this girl can paint!

A million thanks to Vikki for her encouragement and teaching skills. And many thanks to Mary Margret McAllen, Director of Special Projects at the Witte Museum, who cooked up this great collaborative workshop!

This Plein Aire Workshop was designed to compliment the wonderful exhibit now at the Witte called James Ferdinand McCan: A Texas Artist Rediscovered. It features more than fifty of McCan’s paintings—most of which are rarely displayed to the public. And we in the class got to see them even before the exhibit opened.

McCan was a plein aire painter, friends with Julian Onderdonk, and he captured the incredible change in animals and landscapes that occurred in the 30 short years (between 1895-1925) he was painting in Texas. Please go see the exhibit! It’s open until October 2nd at the Witte.

Here’s an example of one of McCan’s remarkable paintings.

Mossy Oak and Bluebonnets, James Ferdinand McCan

Want to give plein aire painting a try? One of the things I did before the workshop was to set up a suggested materials list for those who signed up. For those of you who would like some guidance with materials, here is a link to a list of suggested supplies to purchase online. They are portable and not very expensive. Go for it!

I am so glad I had this learning experience!! It was humbling and exhilarating, all at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wax on the Water (California Dreamin’)

Morro Bay, CA

It really does seem like a dream. I was somehow at Morro Bay on the coast of California with my heroes, friends, and mentors.We were at an in-person gathering, talking about the art of encaustic and learning so mych from each other. People I had known only from Zoom were giving me real hugs. Even Lora Murphy, founder of Painting with Fire, was there from Ireland.

Me with Lora Murphy – what a brilliant artist she is –

But wait! It was real! My first trip out of Texas in almost three years really was to California to the Wax on the Water Convergence, hosted by the International Encaustic Artists.

Juror Pamela Smith Hudson discusses the work in the IEA Convergence Exhibition of encaustic art.

My dear friend Michelle Belto went with me and gave a wonderful opening program on creating authentic art. It set the tone for the amazing conference.

I brought home lots of great memories – a wonderful workshop with Jay and Ann Bonestell, the swanky dinner at Windows on the Water honoring Trish Seggebruch and Lora Murphy, meeting fellow Enso Circle residents in person –

One of my favorite stories is meeting Barbara Sitar, the former Morro Bay Art Center Gallery Director. Barbara has exhibited and been a featured artist in galleries and other installations in Europe and the USA. During her thirty years as an art professional, she has been a curator, mentor and artist in her native Slovakia in Prague, Vienna, Germany and America.

Talking with Barbara, whose work was in the IEA Exhibition, I found out that she was a native Czech speaker. I introduced her to my husband Bill, who also speaks Czech, and they carried on a happy conversation about Prague and families and all kinds of Czech-related topics. It was fun to watch (even though I didn’t understand a word of it).

The nicest coincidence, though, was that in the IEA Members’ Art Exchange, I won Barbara’s work! It’s an encaustic piece depicting a beautiful Morro Bay white heron. It has a new home in Texas 🙂

Barbara Sitar, 2022

If you would like to see an overview of this wonderful gathering, please view the video – Sean, our videographer, did a stellar job capturing the joy of ConVergence in just five minutes of film.

Master.mp4 from Seannie Cameras on Vimeo.

There was also a good article from San Luis Obispo New Times about the Conference. Many thanks to my fellow IEA Board members whose hard work made this an unforgettable experience. Here’s to next year!!