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