Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Try & Try Again: Plein Air Richmond

"A Window On Bentley's Backyard" (oil on linen, 18"x24").
Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

Now that we're in our second year on the road and returning to some of the same places as last year, I do my best to try new things and paint new subjects everywhere we go. Most of the time, there are so many cool places to paint, that I can be quickly overwhelmed with what to choose. I rarely if ever return to the same subject. While that was mostly true at this year's Plein Air Richmond, there was one exception.

We were fortunate to stay with the same wonderful hosts as the previous year, and I once again found myself drawn to the view just outside our window. It was the back of their home, featuring a beautiful staircase descending into their backyard. I had attempted to paint the scene a year before, and must admit that I had failed miserably. I was overwhelmed by the architecture and all of the competing elements, and after spending hours on the painting, I gave up. I had no intention of even attempting it again.

"A Peek At the Jame" (oil on linen, 16"x20").
Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

This year, I decided to start with the James River. The James River features beautiful rock formations emerging from the water, and I was drawn to the view of the river through the trees of Pony Pasture Park. We arrived just before dawn, and I was able to catch the sun as it broke above the trees on the opposite bank. The painting became more about the seclusion of the park than the openness of the river, and after experiencing the tranquil nature of the park, I liked that point of view.

A storm rolled in late morning, so we decided to leave the park. The forecast was for storms to continue all day, but the storm broke and the sun returned just after noon. We expected the sun to be short-lived, but I decided to take advantage of it. With encouragement from Kimberly, I set up just outside of our host home and decided to take another shot at the backyard stairs. I told myself, this was just for practice and expected the rain to end my attempt before things got out of hand.

As I painted, I was soon joined by Dudley, one of the dogs we met last year. Dudley lay at my feet and quickly fell asleep. That brought out Bentley, Dudley's bigger brother. Every morning, Bentley seemed to forget that he had guests and proceeded to bark in alarm at us. By the end of each day, he warmed up to us, but the next morning the cycle started again. This early in the day, Bentley was still wary of me, but he needed to make sure that I wasn't messing with Dudley. He laid down just ten feet from me to keep watch, and it was an amazing stroke of luck. Now I was excited about this painting. It was suddenly more than just a practice piece. I focused exclusively on Bentley for the next 25 minutes, knowing that he might leave at any moment.

"Bentley & Dudley" (oil on canvas, 12"x16").
Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

The rain held off for another hour, but not long enough for me to finish the painting. I returned at the same time the following day and was able to finish off all the areas of the piece that I had neglected in order to add the dog.

I was torn about the finished piece. It was very different from everything I had done in the past.

The following afternoon, I decided to paint along Monument Avenue for some familiarity. I had painted one of the large homes the previous year, but this time I decided to try something different and focus in only on the front door and porch.

"A Formal Porch" (oil on linen, 14"x18").
Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

Thursday, we were invited to paint at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens. I've painted a lot of flowers, and I was looking for something new. I found it in the conservatory. Orchids. A lot of orchids. I had never painted orchids before, so this was yet another new challenge. I had so much fun with the first, that I painted a second that same morning.


"Orchids At the Conservatory" (oil on linen, 14"x18").
Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

"Emerging Orchids" (oil on linen, 12"x16").
Photo by Kimberly at Saunders Fine Arts.

That evening, I delivered my paintings to the gallery for the final show. Out of all of my paintings, I could only pick two for the official judging. My first choice was "A Peek at the James." After that, I decided to take a chance on "A Window On Bentley's Backyard." After the extra work, it seemed like it deserved a chance.

The next evening was the biggest surprise of all. "A Window On Bentley's Backyard" was awarded Best In Show. Sometimes trying again pays off.

- Patrick

Patrick at the final show.

4 comments:

  1. Really enjoyed the stories behind your stunning paintings - Viewing and reading about this plein air event brought me right into a virtual experience of being there. Makes me want to "hit the pavement" painting around my little City. Glad you didn't give up on that first one because it was very deserving of being "Best in the Show". Congratulations!

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  2. Excellent artwork. I really love this one because I love architecture but the doggy just adds that special something.

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