This past week was pretty busy! I enjoyed participating in the second annual Paint Dexter Plein Air festival (see my paintings from last year). This time I didn’t paint solo though — I had a entourage with me (both boys, and grandma). My newborn slept, my toddler painted for a bit with grandma, then both enjoyed the outdoors while I kept working. Due to the weather, we didn’t go out to paint the first two days (while I wouldn’t have minded painting in the rain, I didn’t want to bring the kiddos along to get soaked).
So, I had two days to complete my two plein air paintings for the festival. Plus a third painting that was part of the “Quick Draw” event — but, honestly, they all felt like quick draws to me! I enjoyed painting so spontaneously, not really worrying about minute details, and rather going for an artistic representation. Although, I will say, these pieces were a little more realistic than the abstract style I’d briefly entertained using.
Day One – Painting a Caterpillar En Plein Air
We went to one of the Dexter metroparks and while I was deciding what scenery to paint, I found a curious little caterpillar. He had crawled onto my painting supply bag. I gently helped him onto a branch, and proceeded to paint him as the subject for the first day. I really had fun with this piece. The green background did start out as abstract circles, but then I melded the colors together. I felt like a kid for a bit while I was flicking drops of paint onto the paper — so freeing to make a mess outdoors (no cleanup!). And finally, the fuzzy white hairs of the caterpillar — sticking out every which way — were enjoyable to create too. Can you tell I had fun on this day?
Day Two – Plein Air Painting at Night
The evening after painting the caterpillar, I saw a most fantastic view out my son’s bedroom window. The moon was gorgeous, surrounded by ever changing clouds. I decided it would be fun to paint a night scene — and so I did! It was fun to use so much black in a painting (as an aside, my son would agree – his favorite color to paint with is currently black). The dark colors were a bit challenging too, as watercolors aren’t usually so low-key in nature. I ended up adding in our grass in the foreground, taking a low vantage point rather than including the lake and the trees on the horizon, which were all but silhouettes against the city glow of Ann Arbor in the distance. I enjoyed seeing my painted clouds shape themselves and change as I added layers of paint, ever shifting just as the real clouds do.
Day Three – Quick Draw Painting
The final day of painting was the actual Quick Draw event. I had three hours to complete this final piece — not too stressful, as the other two pieces were completed in that timeframe. Such is the life of an artist who happens to be a mother. Especially to little ones — time is precious, and all too fleeting! After going downtown Dexter to register, I returned home to set up shop. Grandma played with my toddler in our yard so he could be near mommy (someone likes to watch me paint). I sat out on our deck, accompanied by a sleeping baby, painting the lovely view of our trees.
I have to admit, working under a three hour time constraint turned out to be a little stressful. Some of my experimentation while painting did NOT turn out as planned, and I had to backtrack a couple times. I think it turned out for the better, in the end, of course. But I definitely could have worked longer on this piece, as I was originally envisioning much more detail in the final painting.
So, there you have it. My three plein air paintings from this year’s Paint Dexter event. I enjoyed participating. It will be interesting to see the other paintings that were created this week — all are on display in Monument Park until Saturday afternoon — for sale by silent auction (or “buy it now” price).
Thoughts on Painting and Creativity
I wish I painted more often. Every time I paint, I tell myself that. But then life happens.
This time, I am going to try and make sure I get my hands on a paintbrush again soon. Painting is so soothing, relaxing, inspiring. Especially when I allow myself the freedom to experiment and play, rather than trying to adhere to “what should be.”
Because, let’s face it, part of art is breaking the rules.
Of course, you have to learn and master the rules before you break them. Or so they say.