Sunday, June 9, 2019

En Plein Air

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.

I have been working on another piece at home. Carving out a half hour between breakfast and our morning walk to work on art. This is the result of four mornings of work. I worked on this in thirds, starting at the top, with each third I grew more confident in my ability. I am going to call this one done. I could keep worrying it to death, but I think it would be better to take my growing confidence and move on to a new piece. Thank you to Carola Bartz for the original inspirational photograph. I had initially planned to use the photograph for a watercolor paining, but that only got half finished. This is complete. It feels really good to finish!


Karen Lakis said...

Mallory is, indeed, talented - but yours is quite beautiful, also! I know where she gets her talent, even if you don't ;-)

This looks like a lot of fun and a great new experience. Too bad about the rain, though. It looks like it would be a beautiful place to sit and take in for a few hours. I love the colors on the piece you're working on at home - it is worthy of hanging on a wall!

Helen said...

Great job

Helen said...

Good on you for getting out there and being absorbed in something different and enriching your creative life. I don’t think I’d manage well with an easel as I’m clumsy - it doesn’t take much for me to trip over my tripod!

Cathy H. said...

You and Mallory are both very talented!! What a shame it rained. I'm sure you would have rathered been sitting out in the open painting away!!

Carola Bartz said...

I am not quite sure why you keep insisting you don't have enough talent? I think you certainly do!
That said - I truly love what you made out of that photograph. The atmosphere or mood (don't know which word would be more accurate) is so well caught and I so love that lone bare tree. Perfect to keep it in the pinkish-lavender-purple color range. I also like your "bridge painting", again a wonderful mood, a bit sombre but also calm and peaceful.
I personally think working with pastels is very satisfying. Using fingers and getting in direct contact with the medium is very different from working with a brush (I also do that with acrylics every now and then, but I haven't painted for such a long time that I almost hardly can remember). And your daughter's artwork is truly beautiful, but please don't feel intimidated.