"Big Wheel Keep on Turning" | 12" x 9" | Oil on panel
Available at Saga Fine Art
Recently, one of the painting groups I belong to, (the Southern California Plein Air Painters Association), got permission from the Orange County Fair for a group of us artists to paint on location there. I have to admit, I wasn't sure about participating at first because it can get extremely hot there but, the thought of painting lots of new and interesting subjects won out and I signed up.
The organizers asked each of us to paint at least one, if not two, paintings. When we finished we turned them in to be hung in the Fine Art Building where judge Rick Delanty looked at all the artwork and awarded prizes. I was tremendously honored when my painting was awarded Best of Show.
Now I have to tell you that I took a lot of liberties with my painting. A few days before the event we were allowed to go to the Fair and scout locations. On scouting day, it was sunny, the sky was blue with a few clouds. I found two spots where I could set up my easel that was out of the way and had some shade. Scouting the location ahead of time gave me the chance to plan my approach before the big day arrived. I took photos and created sketches to work out my composition and value plan. I didn't want to do any more planning than that because I knew I had to allow for unexpected changes in weather and light.
Sure enough, the day of the event the sky was completely overcast and didn't look like it was going to clear up until noon. The light was flat, there were no dramatic shadows and even the colorful rides seemed dull and gray. Remembering that the most successful paintings start with a simple value plan I chose to follow my value sketch, ignore all the gray in the scene and do what I wanted with color.
Now, some might argue that since I didn't paint exactly what was there my painting wasn't a true plein air painting. I don't agree with that point of view, at all. Art is about expression, interpretation and in the case of plein air, taking inspiration from the landscape in order to create a successful piece of art. It does not mean faithfully copying every rock, tree, bush or in this case, gray sky.
What it comes down to for me is this, I want to create the most successful painting I am able to, sometimes I succeed, many times I fail. This was one of those days when it worked and since it wasn't a plein air event I didn't have to worry about selling so, I played, I took risks, I destroyed, I built, I slapped a gag on my inner critic, plugged in my headphones, cranked up the tunes and had fun - can you tell?