Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year of the Dogs

Some of the wonderful dogs we met in 2016.
All reference and paintings photographed by Saunders Fine Arts.

The year of the dog is not until February of 2018 according to the Chinese zodiac, but 2016 was a big year for dog paintings for me. It seems that almost every place we visited this year, there was a dog we fell in love with that I had to paint.

Pets are not only one of my favorite subjects to paint, but also Kimberly’s favorite to photograph. It’s one of the subjects we collaborate on best. It’s rare that any pet will agree to a sitting, but they do love the attention of a photo shoot. Kimberly is great at capturing their personalities, after years spent photographing literally thousands of shelter and rescue pets for adoption at various shelters and rescues across the country. She has photographed not just dogs and cats, but birds, rabbits, and many other small animals, even a snake or two. Her wonderful photos make capturing any pet’s likeness in paint almost effortless.

Dog Portraits by Kimberly Saunders of Saunders Fine Arts

There’s something about the joy in a dog’s face that brings a smile to mine the entire time I work on their portraits. We lost our own beloved dogs and cats in the last two years, due to old age and illness, so 2016 was our first year without any of them. Painting the pets of others brings back memories of all the great moments we shared with our fur kids over the years. Looking forward to meeting, photographing and painting many more four legged friends in 2017. - Patrick Saunders

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

16 Together In 2016

2016 was the busiest year of my life. Together, Kimberly and I traveled from coast to coast, border to border, through 30 States, attending 16 plein air events. I have to stress that word "together," as I couldn't have done this alone. After completing around 150 paintings, I have to say I'm better for it, but DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS ALONE. Without a lot of support, I would have lost my way.

While I'm painting, Kimberly is busy shooting her own work, and we usually find inspiration in the same locations and each other's work. It's great to be able to get a fresh perspective at a moment's notice.

Our first event of the year was Lighthouse Plein Air Festival in Tequesta, Florida. This was my first opportunity to paint boats of any kind, and I must admit I fell in love with it. There's something about the structure of a boat - the curves of the hull, the lines of the masts and rigging - and the balance created by the reflections in the water that add a sense of excitement to a painting. While my compositions started with single boats, I found more challenge and satisfaction in painting groupings as the year progressed. It's easy to get lost in the more complicated compositions, and there were many times when I considered wiping out a painting while Kimberly encouraged me to continue.

My 2016 progression of boats. Photos by Saunders Fine Arts.

In April, we attended the Outdoor Painters Society's Plein Air Southwest Salon in Dallas, where a paint out was held in a local park. I chose to paint a beautiful old tree at the edge of the water. Trees have always been a challenging subject for me, and I had never painted one that I felt satisfied with. Similar to my experience with the boats, Kimberly encouraged me to keep moving forward. That morning, everything felt right. It was the first time I achieved what I set out to accomplish in painting a tree. I was honored that the painting went on to win the Artist's Choice Award that day.

Some of the trees of 2016. Photos by Saunders Fine Arts.

After returning to a number of events and workshop opportunities in the Midwest that we had first experienced in 2015, we spent two months on the East Coast - Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, and New York, and I was fortunate to be able to participate in some of the country's most premier plein air events. It was my first time at Plein Air Easton, Easels in Frederick, Plein Air Richmond, and more. Museum visits in D.C. and New York for inspiration, and two visits to the Dog Fish Brewery made for a memorable trip. It always helps to have someone suggest what to submit for award consideration, and thanks again to Kimberly, some pieces that I would have overpainted won.

Some of the award winners from the East Coast portion of our trip.
Photos by Saunders Fine Arts.

Heading west, we attended the Door County Plein Air Festival for the first time. I hadn't been to Door County since I was a child, and this was Kimberly's first visit. The event covers a very large area, and while I worked on one painting, Kimberly was out exploring and photographing, letting me know if another small town had what I wanted to paint.

"Unintended Garden" (oil on panel, 16"x20"). An example of the abundant Queen Anne's Lace.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

We traveled all the way to Olympic National Park and beyond to Cape Flattery, the northwestern most point of the continental US to attend the Paint the Peninsula event. Neither of us had ever been to the area before, and we were blown away by the beauty. Driving to locations often took hours, and it was far more enjoyable and safer to experience together.

"Above & Below the Sol Duc" (oil on panel, 14"x18").
Winner of the Olympic Rangers Interpretation Award at Paint the Peninsula.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

After driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with the Airstream in tow (stopping in Sonoma, San Francisco, Laguna Beach and Palm Springs) we headed east again.

Painting our way down the West Coast. Photos by Saunders Fine Arts.

On our first visit to the Sedona Plein Air Festival, we were introduced to Jerome, Arizona - one of the most charming towns we have experienced. The view's not bad either.

"Hillside History, Jerome" (oil on panel, 16"x20). Best of Show at Sedona Plein Air Festival.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

Our last event of the year, and by far the most successful yet, was En Plein Air Texas. Great food, people and places to paint!

"Mustang Sally's" (oil on panel, 12"x16"). Second Place Award at EnPleinAirTexas. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

Looking back, I have to admit that I was intimidated by the thought of so many events in one year. I didn't know if I could pull off the grueling schedule. With each new painting, I didn't know if I could achieve what I set out to capture - and I must admit that many times I didn't. But with success or failure, I gained confidence. We kept each other excited about what the next event, the next town, and the next day would bring. I can look back and see the growth in my work. There are paintings I'm proud of and paintings I'm embarrassed by. Even so, with each new challenge, and Kimberly's constant help, I moved forward. Everybody needs their artistic confidant. Kimberly is mine.

I'm ready for more in 2017. - Patrick

P.S. I'm sure you'll get Kimberly's perspective on these events in her upcoming blog post.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Trying New Things: Paint Annapolis

"Morning After the Holiday" (oil on board, 16"x20") by Patrick Saunders. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

As the unofficial kickoff to our East Coast tour, The Maryland Federation of Art's Paint Annapolis was as good a place as any for us to try some new things and expand our comfort zone. Kimberly wrote about some of her own experiences on her blogpost "Yaaahhhr Not Fraahhm Maaaahhhhland, Ahhhhhrr Yaah?", and I stretched myself as a painter as well.

After spending Memorial Day scouting the area, we headed to Herrington Harbour North Marina Resort early Tuesday morning just before sunrise. I had painted my first boats during the Lighthouse Plein Air Festival in March, but this was a much more complicated subject - multiple boats and a completely overcast day. I decided to embrace the challenge and get moving.

About a half an hour in, I thought I was in serious trouble.

I almost gave up after only half an hour. I felt like I was rapidly getting lost in the painting. There was just so much going on, and I was desperately trying to make sense of it. Kimberly, who had been off capturing some beautiful photos of the scene, came to check on me. As is usually the case, she had a fresh eye on the situation. She encouraged me to keep going. I knew that I had to change my approach. At that point, I was no longer painting sailboats, I was painting shapes, colors and values, as if I was assembling a puzzle. The rest came together quickly, and it was a breakthrough painting for me - one that I still look back on. Don't paint "things" and keep moving forward. "Morning After the Holiday" even won an award.

That evening, the nocturne paint out was scheduled. I had PRK surgery back in 2007, and while my daytime vision is better than it has ever been, I have trouble with colors and values at night. Painting at night scares the hell out of me, but I decided to give it a shot. We set up with a great angle on the Maryland Inn. While we waited for the sun to set, I made a mental note that I should come back and capture this scene at sunset (which I did). As night fell, I started painting.

A confident start. Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

At first, things went very well. I blocked in the image with some strong value changes between the architecture and sky. I liked the mood that was quickly set by the piece. As I started to add more subtle color and value changes, I felt like I was loosing it. Once again, Kimberly was there to encourage me to keep going. I was able to finish, but I was not happy with the result and considered painting over the finished piece. It just wasn't what I had expected it to be.

"Night Falls On the Maryland Inn" (oil on panel, 12"x16).
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

I can't stress enough how important it is to have a constant confidant in your life. Kimberly and I can be each other's biggest critics, but we also encourage each other and provide that fresh eye that's needed in moments of self doubt. Despite all of my whining and self pity, she convinced me to submit my nocturne painting for judging, and once again, she was right. The painting took a second place nocturne award. In the video below, it's hard to hear me tell the story and thank Kimberly for all of her support and encouragement, but at the end you can clearly hear the judge say "Now you have to do everything she says." Yes, I do.

The next day, we headed out to Historic London Town and Gardens for a more relaxing day in my comfort zone. I found a nice shady spot and painted one of my favorite subjects, flowers.

"Pink Azaleas In the Glade" (oil on panel, 9"x12"). Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Painted at Historic London Town and Gardens. A bit of a breaking for me during the event.

At sunset we went back to the Maryland Inn, so I could capture the scene. I have to admit that attempting this at night made this painting seem effortless by comparison.

"In the Shadow of St. Anne's" (oil on panel, 12"x16"). Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

One of my goals for the year as a plein air painter was to paint larger. I'd moved from 12"x16" to 14"x18" during the Augusta Plein Air Festival and went up to 16"x20" a few weeks prior at Penn Valley Plein Air. I finally felt ready to go to 18"x24". Kimberly dropped me off at the US Naval Academy, and I wandered the grounds with all of my materials. It's an incredibly beautiful campus, and I was having a difficult time deciding what to paint when I suddenly saw the clouds reflected in one of the stained glass windows of the Chapel and knew I had found my subject. As I painted, a number of academy personal stopped to chat, informing me that this particular window of the chapel is known as Admiral Farragut's Window, dedicated to David Glasgow Farragut, the first rear admiral, vice admiral and admiral in the United States Navy. It sits directly above the entrance to the crypt of John Paul Jones. This was my largest plein air painting to date, and while I don't know if it was completely successful, I was happy to have once again tried something new.

"The Sky In Admiral Farragut's Window" (oil on panel, 18"x24").
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

The quick draw was held on the final day of the event. I found a sandbagger sloop known as the "Bull" moored at the dock in front of the National Sailing Hall of Fame. It was a gorgeous sailboat, but I just couldn't find an angle that I liked in combination with the background. Finally, I set up behind the boat. I knew that this would be extremely difficult from a perspective standpoint, but I decided to keep going with the theme and once again try something new. I used everything I'd experienced during the week and just went for it. A few hours later, and I was satisfied. I was very surprised and honored when the painting won the People's Choice Award.

"The Flag On the Bull" (oil on panel, 9"x12"). Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

I can't say that I approach any event or any painting expecting to push my boundaries - it just happens. That's another benefit of this lifestyle and this approach to painting. There are so many unknowns and uncontrollable factors that pop up that you just have to find a way to move forward. It also helps when you have someone to say "keep going," and you should always listen to her. - Patrick

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Surrounded By Inspiration: Marshfield, Missouri

"The Baked Potato" at the Young's Farm. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
In mid May, we were invited to Marshfield, Missouri, where I was asked to teach a workshop on a private farm by my good friend Desiree. The weather was perfect, we were surrounded by a beautiful landscape, and at every turn, inspiration beckoned to both of us.

Every morning we were greeted by a naturally occurring alarm clock. It seems the baby lambs had learned to climb into a food trough directly outside our Airstream window and start dancing (demanding food) at dawn. This went on until Mark, our host, showed up with their breakfast. We didn't mind one bit. It was actually an awesome view stepping out of the trailer door and finding the entire herd staring at us.

"Well...we're waiting." Our morning greeting from the sheep.
Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
One of our "alarm clocks." Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
After Mark and Desiree treated us to a wonderful breakfast, it was time to get to work. I set up in the shade of a large tree (both for me and everyone watching) to paint my first demo. I always start with a materials review and a full demo to give everyone a chance to see how I work and to get the group talking. I get an idea of what everyone is hoping to achieve, and then I can tailor the workshop for each artist. I really love to talk to others while I'm working. I find that it keeps me more relaxed, and I don't get caught up in unnecessary details. I also learn more about my own painting habits when someone asks me to explain my choices regarding my approach.

The group gathers for the first demo. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

The light moves fast that early in the day, so the demo had to be quick. I chose a small garage near the house as it had a number of elements for a good demo - clear light and dark patterns, architecture and lots of "stuff" (giving me the chance to demonstrate simplification).

"Young's Garage" (oil on panel, 12"x16"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

After the demo, all of the artists had the opportunity to choose a spot and start their own paintings. There were so many great subjects to choose from, and the group spread out across the property. No matter where they set up, the view was beautiful, and I found myself inspired by the subjects others chose to paint. Some of them even painted or Airstream - something I have yet to do, although this is definitely going to happen soon. I got my exercise that day, not just from walking around to work with each painter, but also from crawling under electrified fences. Kimberly had accidentally touched one the evening we arrived, and I did not want to experience that surprise myself.

I think everyone was inspired by the variety of scenes available on the farm, and we had a great time painting. The day ended with a group critique. We chatted about what we learned that day - insights, breakthroughs and mistakes, and what we all wanted from the following day.

That evening, Kimberly and I climbed up into the barn. Desiree brought us to this lovely sight the evening before, and Kimberly wanted to try to catch it before we left. She was able to get this great shot just as the sun was setting outside. It was kind of a magical scene, like a field of stars inside the barn.

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
The next day, I had the students paint in the morning (this forced them to work faster in the rapidly changing light), and I gave a second demo in the afternoon at the back of the barn. With the sun almost directly overhead, this demo had a completely different set of conditions. A few of the students set their easels up right beside me. We painted and chatted the entire time. Once again, this kept us all relaxed as we discussed our different approaches to the same subject before us.

"Young's Barn" (oil on panel, 12"x16"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
We ended the day with another group critique. After only two days, we were surrounded by paintings, and the improvements in the work from one day to the next was clear.  Everyone had a great time, and all of us left inspired, including Kimberly and I.

Workshops are the highlight of everything I do in my career. Since I began teaching in 2002, I've learned more from my students than anything else. It's a two-way conversation, and I get as much as I give. Not only do we trade tips, but their questions force me to analyze everything that I do. I learn to explain my actions to myself as much as I do to them. This all goes to working smart. We have to focus on recognizing and fixing our mistakes, but also improving on what we're doing right. As artists, we are all better together.

Thank you to Desiree and Mark Young for hosting this wonderful event. - Patrick

Susan takes home "Young's Garage." Photo by Desiree Young.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Revisiting" - Kansas City & Penn Valley Plein Air 2016

"The View Through Union Station" (oil on panel, 14"x18") by Patrick Saunders.
Best In Show - 2016 Penn Valley Plein Air
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

Penn Valley Park Plein Air takes place in our former hometown of Kansas City, providing us the opportunity to revisit some of our favorite places. Our first stop (after some Mildred's Snickerdoodle coffee) was the Kansas City NPR affiliate, KCUR. The previous fall, KCUR journalist Julie Denesha had written a story about us, just as we began our journey as Plein Air Streaming. We were asked to come back in May for a follow-up interview on the show Central Standard. The entire experience was a bit of a blur, and neither of us could remember much of what we said, so we had to check the playback later - you can listen to it too here if you missed it the first time. Or not.

Plein Air Streaming on the radio.

Listening to the playback, hearing ourselves talk about how much we love our new lifestyle, was a real eye opener as to how much had changed. Our previous Kansas City experience had been corporate jobs, chasing freelance work, and home ownership. Now, Kansas City was another fun stop on our cross country tour. The whole city felt different, and so did we.

With the interview out of the way, it was time for BBQ. There is no better town for it, and in our opinion, no better place for it, than LC's. Feel free to argue in the comments below. We will not be swayed. Sorry, but Joe's Kansas City isn't even close. LC's was everything we remembered it to be.

Nothing better than a slab of ribs from LC's.

It's a toss up as to whether I came to Kansas City for the BBQ or the event, but I should really talk more about painting. I've already written about a couple of pieces from Penn Valley - (Every Place Holds a Memory - Penn Valley Plein Air Festival and Check Your Rearview - Penn Valley Plein Air Festival).

The Friday quick paint was scheduled to take place on the north lawn of the Liberty Memorial. The park has a sweeping view of downtown Kansas City with Union Station as the centerpiece. I arrived a few hours early, and with time to kill, I decided to try my hand at painting a view of Union Station. I don't care to create the same painting more than once, but revisiting the same subject with a different point of view can be a real joy. The previous year, I had painted the station during a thunderstorm, continually stopping to dump water accumulating on my palette. This year, the weather was perfect. While I'm sure the extreme difference in conditions had an effect, I could also feel that another year's worth of practice had improved my confidence. It's startling to see the differences and similarities in the two paintings.

On the left "Union Station In Rain" (oil on canvas, 16"x12) 2015.
On the right "The View Through the Station" (oil on panel, 14"x18") 2016
Photos courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.
Painting in Penn Valley Park. Video courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

The year before during this same quick paint event, I had attempted to paint the skyline, and I was not at all happy with the result.  After my success with the Union Station painting, I was warmed up and determined to try again. This one was the real test. The conditions were all exactly the same as the year before - same bright sun, same time of day. The only difference would be me. An hour into the painting, I knew that my work over the previous year had paid off. Last year, I didn't feel that I had finished before the final horn blew. This time, I finished in half the time. The painting went on to take first place.

Patrick and his First Place winner "Path to the Station"
(oil on panel, 12"x16") with judge Michael Albrectson.

Saturday night was the finale of the festival with the show opening at Buttonwood Artspace. I was surprised to find that "The View Through Union Station" took Best In Show. This really capped off a great visit to Kansas City, filled with the old, the new and the unexpected.

Before we left the city, we also had to hit El Camino Real for the best pastor tacos in the entire country. So is this an art/travel blog or a food blog? Hey, good food fuels good painting. - Patrick Saunders

Patrick and his Best In Show winner "The View Through Union Station"
(oil on panel, 14"x18") with judge Michael Albrectson.
Photo courtesy of Saunders Fine Arts.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Sorry, It's Been a Crazy Summer

We have to apologize. We have neglected the blog. 

We promised to share every step of this journey, but when we hit a whirlwind of almost nonstop summer plein air events starting in May, we were consumed by the logistics of dashing from one beautiful place to another, focusing on participating in the events fully, and documenting our experiences along the way. We also took some time to explore, especially in places we had never been. The last few months have taken us from the Midwest to the Atlantic Coast, and then all the way across the country to the Pacific Coast. We did manage to squeeze in a week long trip to Yellowstone National Park on our way to the West Coast, but we are going to use the virtual lack of internet there as our excuse for in not getting back to blogging sooner.

As you can see from the collages above, we’ve been busy. The first group is most of the paintings Patrick has created since our last blog post. The second collage is just a handful of the thousands of stock photos Kimberly has shot during the same timeframe, including all of Patrick's paintings. And then there are her videos … we need a good video editor. We both like to shoot video, but neither of us has had time to edit much.

But now we finally have a short break in Palm Desert, California, before Patrick’s final two plein air events of the year, the Sedona Plein Air Festival and Texas Plein Air. So it’s time to catch up. and we will be blogging about all of the great events we were able to attend in truly stunning parts of this huge country: Paint Annapolis, Mountain Maryland Plein Air, Easels in Frederick, Plein Air Richmond, Plein Air Easton, Door County Plein Air, Paint the Peninsula and Sonoma Plein Air. 

We are going to try not to get behind again. One lesson this summer has taught us is the importance of pacing ourselves. It was a fantastic experience, but we are human, and we can and will slow down a bit going forward.

Watch this space. Lots of stuff is coming. We promise. 

- Patrick & Kimberly

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Every Place Holds a Memory - Penn Valley Plein Air Festival

"The Sun Rises On Barney's Tree" (oil on panel, 16"x20"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
One of the things I love about experiencing new places is the personal connection that we establish with each and every place we spend time in. When we revisit those places, memories can sometimes come flooding back. This was the case with our recent visit to Kansas City for the Penn Valley Plein Air Festival.

When we lived in Kansas City, we spent almost every waking moment with our two dogs, Barney and Betty. Every morning, rain or shine, snow or ice, we would head across Main Street and visit Penn Valley Park for our morning walks. As we headed up the hill toward the Pioneer Mother Statue, there was one tree that stood out. For me, it was the way the sunrise lit up its upper branches while the trunk still remained in the cool shadow cast by the Federal Reserve Building behind us. For Barney, that tree was his first stop every morning. He marked it every day.

Betty at sunrise on the hill in Penn Valley Park

I had always intended to paint this scene before we sold our home and left Kansas City, but then both Barney and Betty passed away a week apart from each other. They had lived long and happy lives, but age and disease caught up to them. Losing our constant companions of 15 years made it too painful to return to the areas of Penn Valley Park that we had shared together. Last year's plein air festival took place only a month after their passing, and I avoided our morning spot the entire time.

Barney rolling in leaves at Penn Valley Park.

This year, before we even arrived in Kansas City, I had committed myself to painting this spot. I knew what the light would be like. I knew the composition that I wanted. I didn't know how I would feel about the experience.

Thursday morning was cold for early May, but we rose before dawn and headed for the park. As we walked up the hill like we had so many times before, I remembered all the times the dogs had charged forward ahead of us. And there it was - the tree. The light was just beginning to touch its topmost branches, and I quickly set up.

Two crazy dogs patrolling their dog park

As I painted, everything around me brought back memories of the dogs running back and forth, tongues hanging out, sliding through snow in the winter, or rolling through leaves in the fall. This was our place. This scene holds memories for us all, and always will.

- Patrick

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Check Your Rearview - Penn Valley Plein Air

"Edge of the Lake" (oil on panel, 12"x9"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

It was the final morning of the Penn Valley Plein Air Festival, and all of the artists were gathered at 7am for the quick paint at Penn Valley Lake. We had been here before. Last year I had painted a view of the skyline across the lake and the year before that, a tree on the opposite shore.

My paintings from 2015 and 2014.

This morning I walked north to a small footbridge that crossed the creek feeding the lake. I settled on the bridge and set up my gear, considering how I would handle the stones, the water and the surrounding shoreline.

The scene I had originally been planning to paint.

As I finished up my coffee, I looked around the area, waiting for the horn to signal the start of the quick paint, and then I saw it.

The scene behind me.

Although far simpler, for me the scene brought to mind a painting I greatly admired by Dennis Miller Bunker. Weeds and grasses at the edge of the lake, swirling together and reflecting in the water. It would make a much better painting than the one I had been considering, and IT WAS RIGHT BEHIND ME!

I simply picked up my easel and turned it 180 degrees. When the horn blew, I painted quickly and efficiently. As I worked, the sunlight crested the hill and splashed across the scene and lighting up the tips of the tallest grasses. This was the most fun I had painting during the entire festival, and the painting was completed in under an hour.

Painting subjects are everywhere, sometimes even right behind you.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

SFA Design: Missouri Wine Country Inspiration

SFA Design: Missouri Wine Country Inspiration: We left San Antonio in April to stay in St. Louis for the Augusta Plein Air Festival . This event is right in the heart of Missouri wine...

Monday, May 2, 2016

"Working" for the Weekend

"Good Morning, Church Road" (oil on panel, 14"x18")
by Patrick Saunders. Photography by Saunders Fine Arts.
At 4am, the alarm started screaming. I lay in bed considering 5 more minutes of sleep, but knew if I did, I would never make it off the mattress. Kimberly and I both rolled out of bed and quickly gathered our gear. It was day 4 of the Augusta Plein Air Festival, and we had decided the night before where we wanted to be for the sunrise.

It was dark out, but warm for late April in St. Louis. As we drove out to Augusta, the sky began to lighten. It's a beautiful drive through rolling hills on a curvy Highway 94. The morning fog lingers in the wine country valleys revealing only the tips of the trees like rocks in a foamy sea.

We turned onto Church Road and entered Augusta proper, pulling onto a gravel drive next to a rustic barn I'm told has been up for sale for the past 12 years. The sun had yet to break the horizon, and in the dim light we walked around the back, admiring the silhouette of the barn in the soft glow of the sky just before the sunrise. Kimberly helped me get setup and then headed around the barn with her camera to explore and shoot.

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

I fell in love with the scene. The asymmetrical shape of the building, the offset windows, the hay bales rising out of the tall weeds - even the way the gravel road wrapped itself around the side of the barn created a perfect composition. As I blocked in the dark shapes, the sun rose just beyond, blasting out the tree limbs in the sky. I was lost in the act of painting, and when I noticed Kimberly moving around the property, I could tell that she was wrapped up in her work as well.

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts
It was such a peaceful, warm morning, and a reminder of why we do what we do - finding the moments where we both connect with a scene and make memories that last. Being there at the right time when the light is so perfect is like magic. We both felt it.

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

The light changes so quickly at this time of day, and in an hour and a half, it was all over. We packed up the gear, and drove back home. It suddenly hit both of us how exhausted we were. That was an intense couple hours of work, and yet we both felt like we had won the lottery.

Find what you love and do it.

- Patrick

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

It's the Little Things: Paint the Town, Marble Falls, TX

"White Roses On Main" oil on panel, 12"x16." Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
Our journey as PleinAirStreaming takes us to new places, and that's one of the reasons we love it. Everywhere we go, we have new experiences - a changing landscape, local foods, interesting people and mostly the small details that all come together to differentiate each part of the country.

That same desire for new discoveries is a big part of my painting. If you follow us, you know that I paint a lot of flowers. It's not a fallback subject, it's a constant challenge for growth. Every flower is different. Every arrangement is different. Flowers force me to paint quickly and loosely - otherwise, they look heavy and overworked.

The floral above was created at the Paint the Town, Marble Falls, Texas Plein Air Competition. Kimberly and I drove down Main Street and found a wide variety of roses planted along the street. The care that was given to these flowers along Main said a lot about the community. I don't feel that I have to paint big landmarks to capture the beauty of a location - sometimes it's all in the details.

The details are also what makes each floral unique, although they're easy to get lost in - the shapes of the flowers, the flow of the leaves. When it's finished the surprise is revealed when this collection of thick strokes of color come together to make something new.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Painting What's All Around: Paint the Town, Marble Falls TX

"Cacti On the Rocks" oil on panel, 14"x18." Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
I had a great time at Paint the Town in Marble Falls, TX this past week. Marble Falls is just a short drive from our stay in San Antonio, so I was able to drive up each day and participate. One of the things I commend the organizers for is the tour of the area that they gave us the morning the event opened. We were driven to a number of interesting locations that none of us would have been aware of without the tour.

After that, we're all faced with the challenge of what to paint. Should it be the lighthouse, the lake, downtown or maybe the marina? The one thing I noticed everywhere was the cacti. No, they weren't blooming, but there's still something beautiful from a design perspective about the way they grow. As you look closer, you notice all of the subtle temperature changes throughout their pads.

Set up and ready to go.
I found an area near the On the Rocks bar and set to work. I looked for a grouping that created a nice foreground middle ground and background to pull the eye through the composition. As I worked I began to notice all of the subtle temperature changes throughout their pads. The challenge became choosing what not to paint. I painted and scraped down some areas repeatedly.
Getting lost in the details.
Too much. You can see that I scraped
down and repainted the background to simplify.

This was one of those pieces that I was never quite sure if it was finished. There came a point when the light had changed enough that it was time to call it quits. In the end, this was the piece I turned in for the final judging. I'm pleased to say that the judge, John Pototschnik awarded it Best of Show.