The weekend started out a bit of a disappointment but ended up great. Saturday was the opening of the Gwinnett Parks Plein Air Exhibit. I was a bit put off because this was the same weekend as the Blue Ridge Plein Air Event and it’s the only local event all Fall. I usually participate in this twice-a-year event and last spring I won second place and sold my painting so I was eager to get back up and give it another go. But with the Gwinnett show on Saturday afternoon, I decided to skip Saturday and just go up the 150 miles for Sunday.
The Gwinnett opening was early at 3 PM and I got there right on time. I had two paintings entered and was hoping to finish in the money with my Lawrenceville Courthouse. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback on this 11 x14″ and when I saw it hung and lit I was confident—especially after a tour of the other work. Not an ego thing here, just a well-tuned eye for what’s good Plein air. Unfortunately, I did not finish in the top three—although I did make the traveling show of the top ten that tour the county for the year. That’s just the way it is sometimes, I’m usually upset, but not for long. So I drove home a bit miffed and when I told my wife about my plans to drive to Blue Ridge the next day she said that it might not be worth it. But I love to paint and it’s not really about the winning —in the end, I decided that I’d be painting anyway so why not do it in Blue Ridge.
Sunday I got up early but still did not get everything ready till about 10:30 so it was just before noon when I arrived at the Blue Ridge Arts Association building. I ran in and got a few boards stamped and headed for the downtown area and my intended victim—The Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. When in Blue Ridge you have to paint the train, in my estimation. Although the countryside is gorgeous, it’s just like any north GA location and I get plenty of that—I’m also not a tree in the field painter. I’ve been working 12 x24″ as of late too so it was just the right proportion for a long subject. It’s a big size for Plein air but with a bit of practice, I’ve gotten to the point that I can pull it off in about four hours.
I did some pre-planning using photos that I took last time so armed with a few thumbnails I set right to work. I had pre-colored the canvas board with a red wash but I found the finish too slick because of the medium I used to thin the paint with. This inhibited my wash in and I fought all day to get the paint to stick. Using Sight Size really helps with subjects where you have a lot of foreshortening and it was instrumental in getting this train in the picture properly. It’s a bright blue color and I changed a few of the trees to an autumn orange just to boost it up a bit. I also used a small thumbnail to help with the figures of the ticket taker and the passengers. I worked like a mad man and finished up about 3:30
Honestly, I was not expecting anything with this piece. I came to enjoy the nice day and interact with all the other painters many of whom I know. When they called my name I was floored and gratified. The turnout was high as was the quality of the competition. A lesson learned too —keep your chin up. It was an extra nice drive home.