Thursday, June 4, 2015

Camp Hill Plein Air

This past week a few of the PPAP members along with myself took part in the 5th annual Camp Hill Plein Air event out in Camp Hill, PA, a very picturesque little town next to Harrisburg, nestled along the banks and rolling hills of the Susquehanna River.

Along with fellow former PAFA Alum, Charles Newman, Alina and William Sentman, I drove out from Philly to take place in the week long plein air event. For us, that was actually the hardest part-- the commute of two-hours each way along the turnpike, which added 4 hours to the long day of painting.

Even harder than that was the fact that on Monday, while driving out to have our canvases stamped for the event, my Jeep blew the 4-wheel Drive trans-axle on the turnpike as we neared Lancaster.

I hopped out of the Jeep as I pulled over just as a huge cloud of smoke billowed out of the engine! I popped the hood to see the engine or part of it on fire! Luckily I had plenty of bottled water in the back and Will and I were able to put the fire out.  The Turnpike Safety Patrol rolled up a few minutes later to make sure the fire was out and I attempted to inch the jerking and clacking Jeep down to the next exit, but it was no go. The engine ran but the 4 wheel drive was toast! So a tow truck was called and $300 bucks later the Jeep and Will and I were parked at my mechanics  2 blocks from my house in Upper Darby. It turns out that a bearing in the trans-axle went bad, super-heated and blew the drive. That part of the story is still up in the air as I am still seeing if I will get a new car or fix the old 1996 Jeep.

So I rented a car for the week and a little lighter in the pocket went back to work on the strip Monday evening. Luckily the Camp Hill organizers were super nice and allowed William and Charles to drive out the next day and stamp all of our canvases for the event.

On top of that I was still under the heavy deadline of producing the Judge Parker newspaper strip all week. So after rushing out to paint and then rushing back home I'd still have to work late into the night on the strip to meet my deadlines. Needless to say this made me a bit tired, especially toward the end of the week. It was a rough week that way. I wanted to be fresh and sharp to paint but I had to many times make myself stop when painting and really think about what i was doing and not plop paint on or get lost in details too soon--all pitfalls of the tired painter.

Many participants for the event were local or fairly close and many stayed in local hotels, which we did do Friday into Saturday to be there early for the Saturday Quick Draw event.  The Quick Draw--or really Quick Paint started at 9am, when you had to get your canvases stamped and then get  your spot, set up and ready to paint between 10 and noon. So we would have to leave too early from Philly if we hadn't stayed over--and we were all increasingly tired each day.

The weather was not the best for us on Wednesday, the first day I was able to paint, with big periods of torrential rain. Another disadvantage for us not being local was finding a good spot to paint meant driving around and burning painting time as we were not familiar with the area. The event gave us a map of the area with suggestions of places of interest to paint.

While we were exploring spots to paint and watching the advancing and growing storms on the radar via our cell phones. The first spot we visited and eventually went back too was  Negley Park. We meet 3-4 other painters there and enjoyed a little chat. Charles and William painted there on Tuesday after stamping our canvases and it offered many nice views and a large covered picnic pavillon. We drove around a bit more but it started raining  really hard. After it stopped, we dropped Charles off below and then Alina and I went up to the picnic area and set up to paint.

 On my phone I could see the storms building again and we could hear the thunder. Just as we found views we liked and I blocked out my painting--BOOM! I really came down.
                                                          The Passing Storm  12 x 16

So Alina and I painted under the picnic pavilion as the storms rolled past. I tried to capture the event in my painting and the storm made for some great atmosphere to paint. As the sun set and I rushed out to grab us some burgers to eat and then squeeked out this little painting in about 45 minutes.

                                     The day ended with a great sunset after the big storms.

                               Lunch with a bunch of our fellow painters and photographers

Alina and I drove back out to Lancaster on Thursday and searched for spots to paint, Will and Charles were not able to make it due to work. There were many beautiful sites we saw to paint as we drove around, but they were so often in spots you couldn't park or would have been set up 2 inches from the road with trucks  and cars flying past you.

Eventually with the sun now past solar noon we found a nice spot with shade  that offered a nice view of an Amish farm. When we pulled up there were also many cows, so we both thought-great!  But as we set up, one by one the cows all got up and walked off!

Oh well.

So Alina and I went to quick work on or paintings in the hot sun, both of us in semi shade. Soon the mother and one of the daughters from the farm came over to see us and ask a few questions. The daughter even liked to paint herself-so I gave a mini-painting lesson and talked as I worked. A little later they came back, this time with more daughters and some meadow ice tea and cookies! They were super nice people and the cold tea and cookies hit the spot!  I fought an constant barrage of spiders, ants and caterpillars in a steady pile-on as I painted away under the tree--I must have looked like I had some afflictions to those passing by as I was fencing and flicking bugs away. The bugs seemed to sense which paint dollop I was about to choose and plop right into it!

As we finished up our painting as the light had changed too much, the father came over with his son to watch. 

After we were done and eating our cookies Alina and a stray chicken made friends!

Friday we drove back out and took our framed paintings to hang in the show. We could only choose two painting from the ones we completed during the week. I choose my two larger paintings, though to be honest I was kinda " eh" on both. I was off my grove between the Jeep, work and lack of sleep...but that's how the egg breaks.

The great news is that Charles got and honorable mention for his painting of the Bridge and the judge did give a shout out to both Alina and me for our paintings in the competition.

                                                    Another one of Charles paintings

We schmoozed and talked with many a fellow painter into the evening. It was great event but I was really drained from the week and on 3 hours sleep the roll-away cot at the hotel felt like heaven!

Saturday we all got up early and hit the breakfast buffet and then got our canvases stamped and rushed to find our spots to paint for the Quick Draw! I stopped painting about 11:35 and rushed back to Willow Park to set up my painting for the judging. 

The judge stopped and looked at my work about four times--so for a second I thought I might have stood a chance.

Here is my paintings of the Trinity Church

Williams painting in Willow park

And Alina's painting of the Space Potatoes which won the Artist Choice Award! 

                                                      Alina with her winning painting

I am so happy for here and for the fact that us PAFA peeps took home a few awards from the event. So I hope to try and go back next year armed with the experience of this year and a better battle plan. Everybody at the Camp Hill Event made it a really enjoyable experience, so my hats off to them!

So it was a fun week of painting despite the obstacles that tried to make it seem as if it wasn't going to happen at all at certain points and its always great to paint with friends.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring Thaw

Spring is finally here, even though Old man Winter slapped us good on the first day of Spring here in the North East with a heavy wet snow. While it might have been a pain driving ans shoveling it made for a great second opportunity to get back over the the Darby Creek and paint a wintery scene as the snow rapidly melted in the 50 degree sunlight.  Today was the third trip I made over to the creek in the past two weeks as the weather broke. I had been going kinda crazy with cabin fever having not painted outside since that cold day in January. I've really been wanting to paint some snow scenes this winter but ue to mu super busy schedule and frankly the brutal cold it never happened until now.

My first strip was to the creek on the 9th of March, just after a pretty big snow, and the weather was in he 5o's so it made a great day to get out even though down by the creek it was still pretty cold. I found a great spot with huge logs jammed up on these rocks that made a really dynamic composition and went for it. I used a SourceTek panel which is my favorite surface to paint on, they are just fantastic and the people at the company are also super nice!

                            I set up and raced the sun and my freezing feet in this great scene

                                                              Spring Thaw 12 x 16 Oil

 A few days later Will and I went back to the creek. This time we parked and hiked over the train bridge to the other side to check out the views over there. Again we settled on the falls,

                                     Will worked down below while I worked above the falls.

                               Here's my painting, The Rock, 12 x 16 Oil on a SourceTek panel

The real hard work, the big challenge here is the subtle temperature shifts of the greys in a scene like this. Not only do you have to not fall victim to detail but you have to push things to be simple, yet read against each other. The greys as they say, are the glue of painting. The slight shifts of warm to cool is a real challenge and then, POW! That dash of the blue sky in the waters reflection. I was working and hoping the light would hold on this scene, but I did have to finish about 20% of this at home as the light changed too much.

 Here is William's awesome painting of me up on the falls. He really nailed that feeling of the spring air and the energy of the falls.

 I thought that that might be the last chance to catch some winter snow but we got socked hard on the firs day of Spring, so we had a second third chance to get back out tothe creek, this time Alina joined us to paint. We learned that there was a much easier way to get to the new spot so we drove right up and parked and got set up pretty quick.

                      I set my rig up and got to work right away, again using a SourceTek panel.

                   You can see my block-in  and the light which had been sunny went overcast.

                                                    Alina set up right next to our cars

                                               William once again hiked down to the creek

                                     Here is a shot of me just about done--the light had gone...


 Here are a few shots of Alina as she worked, I really love the feeling of her painting!! A great PA piece!
 Here is another great composition by William. Getting low and right on the water was a great choice--but a really cold one as well.

And my piece is bellow , Second Thaw, 12 x 16 Oil