Easton Plein Air! 2013 - A Survivors Guide

"Up The Creek"
16" x 20" | Oil on panel | SOLD
©2013 by Kim VanDerHoek

A few weeks ago I was a participating artist in a week-long painting event in Maryland called Easton Plein Air! 2013. This was the farthest I've ever traveled for an outdoor painting event and the logistics required some extra planning. 

If you read my last post then you know I had to ship all of my frames and framing tools a week ahead of my arrival date to the house I was staying at. Thankfully, everything arrived safe and sound. 

Here are a few tips I have.

1) Check the settings on your GPS. After picking up our rental cars artist friend Greg LaRock said I could follow him from the Baltimore airport to Easton. He's done the event multiple times and he had a portable GPS that he uses to get around. I felt very old school with my Auto Club map of the area so, I agreed to follow thinking it would be an easy drive. After 45 minutes Greg called my cell to say his GPS was taking us the wrong way out of the city. We pulled over and consulted both his GPS and my map before getting back on track. It turns out he had the "avoid all toll roads" setting turned on The freeway into Easton includes a huge toll bridge (the longest bridge I've ever been on). His GPS was directing us around the bridge which would have taken us hours out of our way.

Me and fellow painter Patrick J. Lee after the Quick Draw
2) When the weather turns bad and it invariably will, have a plan. The first day I was in Easton it poured rain. At first I waited to see if the storm would blow over. When it didn't, I took the opportunity to drive around an check out some potential painting spots. The drive ended at the water's edge on Tilghman Island. With hours left in the day I decided to get warmed up with my first painting. I worked on the passenger side of my rental car where I kept having to turn on the windshield wipers to clear the rain so that I could see the view. I'm glad I got out to search for painting spots and to paint, I felt much more prepared the next day when the weather cleared up.

 Early morning view from my host's backyard - a painter's paradise.

3) Don't miss the artist's orientation. Easton has the best artist's orientation EVER! At most events like this you have to get your canvases stamped at the start. A few have an orientation, many just hand you a bunch of paperwork to read. Not Easton however. Artists check-in, have their canvases stamped, pick-up official Easton Plein Air lanyards with name tags and parking passes, information folders and we get to sign-up for various events throughout the week. That's just the beginning. There is also food (had I known that I would have skipped dinner), water and a bar. Then Jess Rogers took the stage with microphone in hand. I braced myself to listen carefully to a long dull orientation that contained information I really did need to know. Instead, I quickly realized why Jess is the go to gal for the event - she is smart, succinct and hilariously funny. Upbeat music began to play as volunteers and staff danced up on stage as they were introduced by Jess. What could have been a long list of dull and unmemorable introductions turned into a festive evening that had me thinking, "Wow, if this is what happens on the first day then what's going to happen the rest of the week?"

Easton charm.

4) Have fun but don't over do it. Artists are a lot of fun to hang out with. No one else understands or wants to discuss all the ins and outs of our business like your fellow plein air painters. That said, it's tempting to stay out late having drinks and laughing with the other painters. The problem is you end up paying for it in lost painting time the next day. If I'm going to stay out late and drink I try to do it at the end of the week when the art is hung and I don't need to be up early the next day either painting or selling. Or if I'm going to stay out late I keep the drinking to a minimum.

5) When the organizers of Easton say they have a beautiful property to paint at and that they are putting on a fun-filled evening with a band and dinner afterwards then show up. Seriously, these organizers pull out all the stops for this event all week long. Artists were invited to paint on the grounds at Hope House in Unionville which ended in a thank you dinner for the event's supporters. The property had lots of great painting spots which we were shown by volunteers driving golf carts (we didn't even have to lug our gear around) and at the end of the day collectors arrived to view and purchase our work. The dinner was held in a large outdoor tent, there was an upbeat band and delicious catered food.

6) Pack an insulated bag with lots of cold water and bring it everywhere. The heat and humidity in Easton is horrible, I think that was my biggest obstacle while I was there. Keeping cold water handy saved me from dehydration and overheating. Just to give you some idea I drank 2 cases of bottled water plus at least two more gallons in 11 days and I still don't think I drank enough.

7) Stay off the grass. I live in California where the temperatures are mild and there aren't a lot of bugs and I am used to being able to walk across grassy areas. Bad idea in Easton. Mosquitoes lie in wait for unsuspecting Californians to stroll by and then they attack in swarms in spite of the gallons of bug spray I had slathered on and the long pants and long sleeves of my shirt. I swear I had more than 25 mosquito bites on me at the end of the week. Strangely enough, they didn't bite my left arm at all - they must not be left-handed mosquitoes.

Another artist hard at work. Even though she is on the grass she is sitting on a tarp - smart gal!

The real danger there however, are the deer ticks, all of which carry Lime disease. After having a few meals with other painters from the east coast I quickly realized that most of them have had Lime disease and getting rid of it is not something I want to experience. Stay off the grass, especially in fields and areas that aren't maintained.

8) Wear your name tag everywhere and keep your parking pass in the window of your rental car. This was the suggestion at the artist's orientation and I quickly found out why. The name tag and parking pass got me into painting locations that normally wouldn't be open to me. Since the event is so well publicized most residents and business owners are aware of who we are and what we are there to do. Tourists are asked not to park at some of the working marinas but artists with name tags and parking passes were allowed in, some farm owners allowed artists to paint on their land and many private residences and businesses were opened to us.

"Have a Seat" just completed but still on my easel. SOLD.

9) Paint near town in the residential neighborhood at least once. Not only are there some beautiful neighborhoods a block from town but the people who live there are very nice. I was painting just past town on Harrison St. and three residents stopped by to say hello, offer me ice water and the use of their bathroom if I needed it. Wow. I've painted in Sonoma, San Luis Obispo, Laguna Beach, Orange, Santa Ana and a few other places and once in a while a resident will be kind and offer me the use of their bathroom or bring me water but, it's rare. Also, the business owners in town treated us extremely well, many of them offered discounts to us or invited us in their shops to cool off and get some water.

10)  Every once in a while take a moment to appreciate it all. I found myself taking a deep breath or two just so that I could remember as much of the experience as possible. Honestly, I've never been treated so well at a painting event. The organizers do such a great job that it was easy to forget all the behind the scenes things that had to take place for everything to run so smoothly. My day to day life with my kids and husband is usually a whirlwind of activity and there are weeks that whiz by that leave me feeling like I sprinted through each day. It's easy to do that at a painting event like Easton but, I wanted to make sure I would slow down and just experience the moment because there is no guarantee that the next year I'll get to return. But, you better believe I'm going to paint my butt off and try.

To see all of my paintings from Easton, MD go to my website www.KimVanDerHoek.com

To read more about Easton Plein Air 2013, view video of the event and see who the winning artists were visit their web site at http://pleinaireaston.com/

All images ©2013 by Kim VanDerHoek 


Niharika Garg said…
Ohh..how much I wish to pack my stuff, go out and just do it!!
I guess, I've had enough now...I will..
Thanks for all the information Kim!
Hi Kim.
Your Up The creek painting is beautiful. I keep saying to myself, If only I could paint like that. I still have your last years callender up on my wall with one particular painting showing. I thought that painting was my all time favourite, Now I`m not so sure. Up The Creek could take it`s place. All the best Kim.
Unknown said…
HI Kim,
What a wonderful synopsis of advice and enthusiasm for Plein-Air Easton! 2013. I enjoyed reading your "Survivors Guide". PAE is a great event!
One thing I might add is to try and take the time to meet ALL the other artists (a difficult task). I participated also and I didn't have the opportunity to meet you and a handful of other artists.
If I get in again, I will be sure to make an effort to meet and get to know the others, including YOU!
Keep up your wonderful work!
Jill Basham
Unknown said…
How nice of you to take the time to share your experience and advice with others! Enjoyed meeting you and hope to see you next year.