Monday, March 21, 2016

Best Laid Plans: Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival

"In At Dusk" oil on panel, 14"x18." Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
Before we arrived in Florida for the Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival, I did my research. I knew that one of the places I really wanted to paint was Port Salerno, a fishing village with all manner of boats and sailboats. I also had an early vision in my head of a specific scene that I wanted to paint. I wanted a backlit view of a bunch of sailboats, where all the hulls and masts combined together into a nice design shape. It seemed that it would be simple enough to find. 

When Kimberly and I arrived in Port Salerno, I knew that the perfect view would be from the eastern shore of Manatee Pocket looking west. We had easy access to the docks on the western shore, but it just wasn't what I was looking for. The colors at sunset were much more vibrant and lasted longer than the dawn. 

That's where I ran into issues. The problem was that all of the land on the eastern shore was private - mostly backyards of homes. I couldn't find a view that satisfied my vision. We drove up and down the residential streets looking for a way in. Finally, we found some docks on the southern shore that projected out into the harbor. They were all clearly marked as "NO TRESPASSING." One was occupied by a couple of guys securing a yacht. Always the optimist, Kimberly convinced me to walk out and ask them if I could set up shop, and thankfully they said "no problem."

The scene as I first encountered it.
It turned out to be exactly what I was looking for, although I didn't expect to be painting on a 3 foot wide moving dock. I'm really lucky that I still have all of my gear and that my easel is not at the bottom of the harbor.

The color gets more intense as the sun drops to the horizon, so I had to work quick, blocking in the mass of the boats. By the time I got to the sky, it was just as I had envisioned. 

That rarely happens. My paintings are normally a surprise. I'm not sure which I like more - getting exactly what I want, or the excitement when best laid plans go awry. - Patrick

© Patrick & Kimberly Saunders, Plein Air Streaming, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s authors/owners is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Patrick Saunders for painted works, or to Kimberly Saunders for photographs, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


  1. Nice! Thanks for posting the pic and sharing the story. I have the same types of experiences and problems painting outdoors and often wonder is it just me? Am I doing something wrong? Am I too timid? Helps to know this is common and I'm not the only one! Keep the paintings and the blogs coming.

    1. It rarely works out as planned, but I enjoy going with the flow.

  2. Quick Question: how do you photograph your paintings, especially when you are on the road and they are still wet? I just can't seem to get good pics of my paintings. Any pointers you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

    1. Hey Guy,

      Kimberly photographs everything for me. We set up outdoors in shade with a tripod. Never with the sun on the canvas.

  3. The search for "the" spot can be challenging and mostly time-consuming, but your efforts paid off-such a beautiful painting.