Last weekend my daughter and I attended an En Plein Air workshop. To be specific an Outdoor Pastel Bootcamp at our local botanic park. Five hours of drawing with chalk pastels.
I signed us up for the workshop back in February after the great success of our two hour acrylic workshop held by our County Park system. I was so excited to continue to try new mediums. Two hours of acrylic painting had passed in a flash, so I figured five hours would be a comfortable, enjoyable amount.
But now it was the beginning of June, the Farmers Market was happening, the weekly Chef Series was happening. I was missing all of that to go sit on a little blue stool for five hours. And I am not a sit still kind of gal. Plus I have only used pastels in my art journal and mixed media pieces as little color accents, not drawing a whole landscape scene with them. My drawing skills are still on the Kindergarten level.
Still I had signed us up and paid the money, we were going to go. There is nothing like plunking down some cash to motivate the hesitant.
Until a couple of years ago, I had never even heard of plein air painting. But doing some research, I discovered it became popular in the the mid-1800's when artists became inspired to paint outdoor scenes in natural light instead of in the studio recalling from memory and charcoal sketches. The invention of paint in tubes and the box easel also contributed to the popularity.
We began the workshop with some instruction in the classroom. Perfect. A table and a chair with a back. That lasted for a half hour or so. Then it was time to gather our blue folding stools, our drawing boards, paper and box of pastels and set off outside.
We set up in the Japanese Garden, my favorite, after the Michigan Farm Garden. If I had to sit here for four hours at least the view was mesmerizing. Our instructor gave us a demonstration of sketching and drawing a scene with the pastels, so we would have some clue as to what we were doing. That blissfully took up another twenty minutes or so. Then it was time for us to start. I positioned my stool so I was looking directly at the bridge, arranged my supplies, secured my paper, whipped out my iPhone to take some "sketches", discovered the grid app to lay over photos in the App store, applied the grid to my favorite "sketch". I was ready to begin.
My daughter, meanwhile, had taken her stool and moved as far away as possible from me, knowing I would be a pain in the arse, talking all the time instead of taking the drawing seriously.
I had just gotten the lid of my box of pastels when I felt the first rain drops. The instructor quickly came around and reassured us that the light shower would be over shortly. We could get our umbrellas out, or move our supplies to the covered area by the tea house. I quickly carried my supplies over to the covered area. The rain didn't lessen. We decided to take our scheduled break a little early and go to the cafe for lunch.
While in the glass windowed cafe, it was clear the rain wasn't going to go away. The classroom assistant had had the foresight to gather everybody's supplies and transport them back to the indoor classroom.
Back to that lovely table and chair with a back. I had my "sketches". I was ready to work. And there were only 2-1/2 hours left to endure. My poor daughter though was stuck with me again.
|Artwork: Mallory Huizenga|
I had to endure my own hardship with my daughter, that being that she is very talented, and makes others wonder where she gets her talent from - certainly not her mother. Some of us are just more naturally gifted than others.
|Artwork: Sarah Huizenga|
Truthfully though, I had a great time, and learned a lot, including some patience. While my creation was no masterpiece, it wasn't half bad, thanks to the instructor's help. What I really enjoyed about pastels and what may encourage me to continue on, is that they felt like abstract drawing with color. I liked using my hands and fingers instead of a paint brush. Having handy wet and dry paper towels nearby, or a classroom sink are the perfect way to limit the messy feeling.