Sunday, October 2, 2016

Trying New Things: Paint Annapolis 2016

"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.

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

© 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.