About ten years ago, I went on a plein air painting excursion in Old Town Newhall, a historic western town not far from where I live in California. My artist pals and I scoped out paint-worthy architecture and cityscape scenes, and set up easels along sidewalks, under the shade of awnings, with our paints, cameras and water bottles. Some of my friends wrestled those plein air sessions into a regular activity, honing their skills with habitual, all-weather, outdoor painting adventures. A few of the hardiest souls stuck with it long enough to get very, very good at chasing sunlight while bracing an easel against the wind, or rendering verdant greens along a mountain path while dodging curious cows and fire ants, etc.
As a studio girl, I have enormous respect for the determination and fortitude of plein air painters. Have you seen Joaquin Sorolla’s (1863-1923) plein air masterpieces on huge canvases? Take a look at the historical photos, posted by artist/illustrator James Gurney. The images of Sorolla, capturing the scene in front of him with determined carriage, put me in my place when I have an un-successful day in the studio. There are no bugs, and it’s not windy where I paint. I have a temperature controlled room, with no visitors interrupting, and I can listen to a book while I work. Sorolla was a rock star painter, and I am a tad pole in an ocean of online artist practitioners. I’ve chosen an easier path to practice watercolor painting & printmaking, so I have no excuses to pout when a piece I’m struggling with ends up in the shredder. I love my job. And as I tape a new sheet of paper down to start over this afternoon, I raise my tea cup towards my plein air friends and studio painters, and the artists before them who marched on, hurdling every sort of obstacle – real or emotional – along the way. Here’s to you; Just Keep Painting.
What do you do when a day of art-making leads to frustration and you need a “get back in the saddle” pep talk?
Yesterday afternoon I was able to do quite a lot of work on the picture, so that I hope to finish it today, the feast of St. Peter. That will be the end of more than six years’ work, of suffering and struggle, with so much that was good and bad, especially at this stage.