At the Arboretum

Into the Woods, acrylic, 18" x 14"

Into the Woods, acrylic, 18″ x 14″

During the last two weeks of May I participated in Stems Plein Air, an outdoor painting event at the Overland Park, KS, Aboretum.  This is an annual event which I did last year for the first time.  Artists are allowed to paint at the Arboretum and two other small locations any day during a two-week period.  Each artist may turn in three paintings for judging and those chosen will be in an art show at the Arboretum and at another location.  None of mine were chosen this year but it was still a very enjoyable experience.

I painted two days the first week and three the second and finished three paintings, including the one above, and had a good start on the fourth, which I have since finished.  I had an interesting experience with that one.  I began it on a Monday afternoon at the Arboretum sitting in front of a row of brightly colored pansies with a background of a dark hedge.  But flowers are ephemeral things.  I did not return again until Wednesday and they were beginning to look a little droopy but still paintable.  But then a hoard of master gardeners descended on the Arboretum, as I learned they do each Wednesday morning to tend to the gardens.  This made paintings a bit more difficult.  Then one told me the sprinkler system would go on in 45 minutes and I would have to move by that time.  But the crowing blow came when someone instructed the master gardeners who were working near me to pull up all the pansies and plant something else.

I thought this painting had the potential to be the best of mine from this event.  but it was not eligible to be entered because the rules state that the painting must be totally completed on site, and of course this was now impossible.  Fortunately, I had taken a photo of the pansies on Monday so I was able to complete the painting at home.  Actually, that is the way I usually work.  I do most of the painting on site and take photos.  Then at home I figure out what else needs to be done or changed and do it.  But outdoor painting to me isn’t ultimately about rules.  It is enjoying the outdoors and trying to create an impression of what I am experiencing in the hope that others will see the beauty of it too.

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Water, Water Everywhere

Irish Countryside, Acrylic, 18" x 24"

Irish Countryside, Acrylic, 18″ x 24″

When I’m doing a one-person show I like to have a theme and I’ve been painting long enough that I can usually come up with quite a few paintings that have something in common.  Some of the themes I’ve used are paintings with flowers, Midwestern country, autumn, spring, and Lawrence scenes.  Once I even did an exhibit of nothing but barn and shed paintings.

During July and August I have an exhibit of 25 paintings at the Classic Bean in downtown Topeka.  The theme I’m using here is one I’ve never done before and that is water.  I noticed that two of my recent paintings were of ocean scenes and I have also done many paintings featuring lakes, ponds or streams.  The exhibit also has three paintings of winter scenes with frozen water.  In fact, as I looked through my stash of paintings I was surprised at how many had water in them.  The photo above is one of them.  Stop by and have a look if you’re in Topeka.  The food is good here too.

I recently returned from being out of town and was pleased to find that my painting “Reverie” that I did at the Overland Park Arboretum had sold.  I remember when I was at the Rice Gallery to pick up my paintings not chosen for the show.  I asked when my painting that had been chosen  should be picked up after the show.  The man in charge said, “The paintings are all going to sell.”  Of course both he and I knew that wasn’t going to happen.  But at least mine did sell.  I won’t get much for it as it was a small painting and the artist only gets 60 percent of the price.  But at least I won’t have to make the trip into the Kansas City area to pick it up.

Alcohol and Art

June 16, 2013

Whether consuming alcoholic beverages encourages people to buy art is an interesting question.  I have donated paintings to charity auctions and attended these events.  Those who buy the pricy tickets are offered the chance to eat and especially drink as much as they wish before and even during the auction.  I think the organizers of these events believe that people who are relaxed and happy will be in the mood to bid and keep bidding.  And with the help of a good auctioner, some pieces  go for very good prices to benefit the sponsoring charity.

Last weekend I and 25 other artists and, I think, 10 local wineries participated in Winesong in DeSoto, KS.  This is a very popular event.  All 2,000 tickets had to be purchased ahead of time and the event sold out.  The weather was good and the event was wisely planned from 4 to 8 p.m. when temperatures weren’t so high.  The rain even held off until the event was over.  Ticket holders were allowed a certain number of samples from the participating wineries, who also sold bottles of their product.  The artists in their tents hoped that these relaxed and happy people would purchase some of their work.  Alas, that seldom happened.    While there were long lines in front of the winery displays, many of the patrons pretty much ignored the artists.  I sold nothing and two other Lawrence artists I talked to didn’t either.

But I’m not one to give up easily.  One result of my being at Winesong is that the Rowe Winery has invited me to have an exhibit at their winery in September and I said yes.  Will I return to Winesong next year?  I’m not sure.  Doing an outdoor tent show is a lot of work, not only for me but for my helpers.  However, one of those helpers enjoyed sampling wine and socializing with friends and would like to return next year, so we’ll see.

While I didn’t win any prizes at Stems Plein Air, I did have one painting, “Reverie,” which I mentioned in my last blog, accepted for the Stems show at the Tomahawk Ridge Community Center at 11902 Lowell in Overland Park, KS, which opens this week.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

Reverie, acrylic, 20" x 8"

Reverie, acrylic, 20″ x 8″

June 6, 2013

In the final week of Stems Plein Air at the Overland Park, KS, Arboretum I only painted one day because of rainy weather, of which we’ve had an abundance lately.  When one is painting with other artists in a plein air event it can be a challenge to come up with something that looks at least somewhat original, since other artists are painting in the same location.  Above is my attempt.  I had found a frame I liked that was 8″ x 20″ and I stretched a canvas to fit it.  The usual way to paint on a long, narrow canvas is horizontally.  So I did a vertical painting and I like the results.

At the end of the event each artist could turn in three paintings for judging to decide which ones will be in a show.  The above painting is one of three I turned in.  I also turned in the one of the lake I did the first week.  I haven’t found out the results of the judging yet.

In the meantime I am in another show that is not dependent on weather, since it is inside on the lower level of Drury Place in Lawrence.  I and several other artists are showing there during June.  Drury Place is an independent living retirement facility.  The people there live in small apartments and probably already have any art that they want, so I don’t expect any sales.  But it is still a good thing to do since even people who may no longer be driving can still enjoy and appreciate art.  I’ve had compliments from a couple of the residents whom I know.

But the weather is a big concern for Saturday June 8 when rain is predicted.  I have agreed to participate in Winesong in the DeSoto, Ks, area.  It is an event featuring wine tasting from local vinyards, food, as well as art by 25 different artists.  I’ll be there in my tent hoping some of the folks who have already purchased tickets will love wine and art enough to brave any inclement weather.

Stems Plein Air

Arboretum II, acrylic, 17" x 20"

Arboretum II, acrylic, 17″ x 20″

May 26, 2013

It’s been several years since I’ve participated in a plein air event and I’m so glad Stems Plein Air was available locally and that I have been able to be a part of it.  In the past I’ve had to drive some distance and stay in a motel to attend plein air events.  This one at the Overland Park Arboretum is only about an hour’s drive from my house.  I’ve even found a way to drive there that doesn’t involve rush hour traffic.

The weather has been just about perfect so far.  No rain or high winds and just a little cold weather one morning.  This arboretum is a huge place with both forest and flower gardens.  Fortunately, the flower gardens are near the entrance.  They are supposedly based on Monet’s gardens in France where he painted as a senior citizen painter.

This is a very laid back kind of event, which suits me perfectly.  Artists come and go as they please and there are not a huge number of them.  There are a couple competitive events, but I’m skipping those.  I just show up on the days that I choose, set up my easel so that it doesn’t interfere with visitors to the garden and paint.  Like Monet, I love flowers and there are a lot in bloom right now, poppies, irises, alium, peonies, etc.  There are also various water features, including a Monet style bridge.  When I go back to my car for lunch and a rest, I just leave my easel where it is.

A difference between this event and others I’ve attended, which were in small towns and the surrounding area, is that this is a popular public place so there are lots of visitors, who, of course, are intrigued by what the artists are doing.  On Monday a busload of school children showed up.  I didn’t mind them looking, since they pronounced my work awesome.  On Tuesday the Arboretum does not charge admission, so that day I saw a number of young families with children not yet old enough to be in school.  I overheard a parent admonish a little one, “You can play with ants and rolly pollies at home.  We are here to look at the beautiful flowers.”  In the restroom I heard, “Use three and save a tree.”  On Wednesday the gardens were swarming with volunteer Master Gardners who come each Wednesday morning to plant, weed, and do whatever is required to keep the gardens looking beautiful.

The above painting is just one of the souveniers I’ll have to remind me of a very special time.

What is Beautiful?

Wild Flower Sampler, acrylic, 18" x 14"

Wild Flower Sampler, acrylic, 18″ x 14″

Beautiful Weeds, acrylic, 14" x 18"

Beautiful Weeds, acrylic, 14″ x 18″

May 13, 2013

I’ve found that people have very different ideas about what is beautiful.  I paint with a woman whose husband is a farmer.   When we got together to paint last week, I saw a large swath of delicate lavendar blossoms on their land and just had to paint it.  I called the painting “Beautiful Weeds'” because my friend’s husband regards the hen bite with the lavendar blossoms that appears about this time every year as a weed that must be gotten rid of.  As I drove nearer to their house I saw in another field bands of yellow flowers that I hope to paint this week, weather permitting, if they have not been poisoned out of existence by then.  I was told they too are regarded as weeds.

Then there is the ever present dandelion which has appeared in a couple of my paintings.  I wonder who first declared them weeds instead of wild flowers.  Sometimes it seems to me that anything that grows easily and will survive almost any extreme of weather is automatically classified as a weed.  Plants that are harder to grow and that die quickly if conditions aren’t just right are more valued and are called flowers.

Next week I’ll be participating in Stems Plein Air at the Overland Park, Kansas, Arboretum.  I’m hoping for lots of genuine flowers to paint, along with an absence of rain, wind, and cold weather.  I can dream, can’t I?