Thursday, March 24, 2016

A Better Angle: Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival

"Fish House Parking" oil on panel, 12"x16". Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
Sometimes it's hard to find exactly the viewpoint you're looking for. It was an overcast sky on the final day of painting at the Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival, and Kimberly and I were back at Port Salerno. Looking out into the harbor from the docks by the Fish House Art Center, everything looked a bit flat due to the grey day. I once again went out onto the dock so that I could face the Fish House from the the East and there was the composition I was looking for.

The dark of the building interior perfectly contrasted the lighter value of the catamaran. Adding to it all was the pop of the pink exterior, framing in the darks. It was once again, a very cramped space to work, but worth the effort.

"Fish House Parking" in progress. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Rising Tide Sinks All Easels: Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival

"Water's Edge" (oil on panel, 14"x18"). Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
Day four of the Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival, and I must admit that by this time I'm tired. During a short festival like this one I tend to paint from dawn to dusk. I was looking for a nice shady spot to relax and paint, and we found it while exploring DuBois and Jupiter Beach Parks. There's a beautiful lagoon between the two parks, and I found a spot on the sandy shore with a view of this tree with a trunk on fire with color from the sun hitting it just right.

It was perfect. Warm breezes, but not too windy because I was down low and protected by other trees. The painting came together very fast, and that's always a good thing.

Sometimes I don't know when I'm finished, but this morning was an exception. Suddenly, my entire easel started to tilt to the left. I looked down to find that the tide had risen and the shore was not underneath the easel. The left leg was rapidly sinking into the soft wet sand. Time to call it - perfect timing.

There was a lot more beach when I started. Both the shade of the trees and the waterline moved fast.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Benefits of Painting Quickly: Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival

"Hobe Sound Blossoms" oil on panel, 12"x16." Photo by Saunders Fine Arts.
Sometimes, the best things to paint show up unexpectedly on the side of the road, but you have to act fast to catch them. During the Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival, Kimberly and I explored the Hobe Sound neighborhood. As we got closer to the beach, and the homes became larger and larger, we came across these beautiful hibiscus flowers in someone's front yard. We parked the truck across the street and I set up to painting.

It wasn't long before I noticed the rather large police presence in the neighborhood. A local couple stopped to check out my work and explained why. "Tiger Woods lives nearby. Don't be surprised if they kick you out of here soon." I knew I had to paint faster.

In the meantime, Kimberly was being circled by locals suspiciously eying the truck. It was obvious that we didn't belong. I finished up as fast as I could - I think it was around one hour. As I walked back to the truck, I noticed a woman slowly walking by whom I had seen only 5 minutes earlier. She was taking a long hard look at our license plates.

Time to move on. Sometimes it pays to paint fast!

Painting in Hobe Sound, FL.

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.

Friday, March 18, 2016

My First Sailboat Plein Air - Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival

"One of a Kind" (oil on panel, 14"x18"). Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.
Continuing the theme of firsts, here is my first ever painting of a sailboat. One of the locations for the Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival was Port Salerno, Florida. It's an awesome fishing village founded in the 1920s filled with interesting boats both in and out of the water.

Believe it or not, I had never painted a boat en plein air before, and this particular scene called to me. I set up, once again in a shady spot on the shore and dove right in. There's quite a bit to consider when painting a scene like this - the strong shape of the hull, the reflections on the water, and the many shapes in the background created by other vessels. I approached it as I always do, forgetting about what I was painting, and just reacting to values, shapes, and colors.

As I painted, a number of salty characters came up to tell me the same thing - this sailboat is a "one of a kind." Someone had added a rear cabin after it was built, and this raised the bow much higher in the water. I was also repeatedly informed that this particular boat is for sale. Looking around, I noticed that almost every boat is for sale. Is that a thing?

Needless to say, I enjoyed the experience, and Kimberly and I returned to the port a number of times for more paintings which I'll share in upcoming posts.

In progress shot by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Windy Start - Lighthouse Artcenter Plein Air Festival

"First & Last Light, Juno Beach Pier" (oil on panel, 12"x16")

It was 6am on Thursday morning, the first day of the Lighthouse Artcenter Plein Air Festival. Kimberly and I arrived at Juno Beach Pier just before sunrise. It was early enough that the lights were still on and the sun had not yet come over the horizon to blast out the colors.

This was my first time ever painting on a beach, and I had not anticipated the wind. I set up on the pier itself, and during my entire time painting, I had to hold onto the easel with my left hand, and often use my right elbow to help hold it down as well. The wind was strong enough that my brushstrokes often landed in the wrong place. This became such a problem that I considered packing up and scraping down the painting. I decided to power through, chalking it up to a good warmup. I decided that I would finish the painting, no matter the outcome.

As I continued to paint, everything started to come together. The drama started to emerge as darks and lights created a nice design. The vibration of warms and cools added a zing to the piece. It seems you never know where a painting may lead. In the end, I was happy with the outcome, and it was a great way to start the festival.

As troublesome as the wind was, it was still a beautiful experience. Warm ocean breezes on a 70 degree morning aren't something one can complain about. This is what pleinairstreaming is all about for Kimberly and I. Visiting new places and capturing the beauty of them is a great way to spend our days. They're all unique experiences. While I painted, Kimberly explored the beach, capturing images of Portuguese man o' wars that had washed ashore. Another new experience for us and a wonderful start to the weekend.

The alien Portuguese man o' war. Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Lighthouse Artcenter Plein Air Festival - Quick Draw!

"DuBois Home In Spring" (oil on panel, 14"x11")
This past Sunday morning, the Lighthouse Artcenter Plein Air Festival concluded with a quick draw at DuBois Park in Jupiter, Florida. The forecast was initially for rain, but it turned out to be a gorgeous morning. Kimberly and I had previously visited the park a few days earlier, and I had painted the lagoon. This time I chose the DuBois Pioneer Home.
Built in 1898, the DuBois Pioneer Home is one of the last remaining historic homesteads of its type in unincorporated northern Palm Beach County. Located along the Jupiter Inlet in Palm Beach County’s DuBois Park, “the house on the hill” is an excellent example of a self-sufficient South Florida Pioneer homestead. Built atop of a Native American shell rock midden by the DuBois Family (one of Jupiter’s most notable pioneer families) this unique homestead is rich in both historic and archeological value.

The quick draw was scheduled to begin at 9am with an 8am checkin time. Keep in mind, I'm still on central time, and daylight savings kicked in that morning. After 3 intense days of painting, we were all exhausted.

I found a perfect shady spot, set up and waited for the horn to sound. I have to be honest, I wouldn't call this a "quick draw." At 3 hours, it was more of a "quickish" draw. Many painters did more than one piece during the time. I was set up near the parking lot and the restrooms, so I had a steady stream of visitors and gave a number of impromptu teaching sessions. Everyone visiting was a pleasure to meet and had a wonderful time.
In progress. Photo by Kimberly Saunders at Saunders Fine Arts.

In progress. Photo by Amber Palomares

In the end, I was pleased with the outcome of the piece, and ready for the final show of the event.