Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Extreme Plein Air/Water Painting

" Fly Me to the Moon"  12x12" Oil on Canvas
Here's a funny story, albeit a little long. I got an email newsletter today from Plein Air Magazine. The title mentioned "Extreme plein air painting." My first thought was - boy, do I know what thats about. Then I clicked on the link and saw that my recent gig in NYC was the featured story. Who knew??  I told my husband and he said, "do they know about us drawing underwater surrounded by sharks? That's more extreme" I said "You're right - I don't think so, but I'll send them pictures if they want to see what real extreme plein air - err, water looks like. " So I did. I never meant to start a new category like "extreme painting" but, if the shoe fits, I think I'm wearing it.

A little history, my husband, Mark Hagan, a jazz bass player, scuba diver, surfer dude and inventor of the aquaSketch, (the only underwater drawing device), happens to also be a very talented artist on his own. He wanted to sketch during his dives, and since no waterproof drawing tool existed (no surprise there) and since he doesn't like to work from photos, this explains how his unique product came to be. Fast forward now, to a scuba magazine that heard about this and wanted to feature him sketching...sharks. He needed a videographer to take photos of this ordeal (or more specifically, a FREE chump videographer - thats how I got roped into this sordid ordeal). Long story short, and lots of balking and swearing, I agreed to get a scuba license for the purposes of filming him in action.  This link shows what I saw as I dove into a circling pool of sharks and then immediately and passionately wished I hadn't. I have to admit, the NYC deal was a bed of roses in comparison.

That being said, above I have posted another painting from my urban adventure. I set up at 10:00 am in a location where there were the least amount of people present. By 11 am I was in the epicenter of the most amount of people contained in one square block of Manhattan, on the hottest day of the summer. Little did I know that a Frank Sinatra impersonator would be giving a free concert just a few feet behind me. Clearly, everyone in New York knew but me.

In keeping with the title of this blog post, I have attached a photo of me drawing the sharks too. So I couldn't resist. I heard this advice once "don't be distracted by your subject". OK - I'm trying!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Le Carousel at Bryant Park

Carousel 12x12"  Oil

After I got done painting Patience, the Lion Statue, who posed so gracefully and perfectly still, I decided to ratchet up the anxiety level and go for something that moved continuously. The Carousel beckoned me... kids jumping on and off, the horses and frogs and carriages a whirring blur of color. I would have killed to work from a photo, but that was not the nature of this gig. Truth be known, this is not my favorite painting of the batch. I scraped, re-worked and re-painted many areas; it got a bit overworked. However, I will pat myself on the back for taking it on. It was way beyond my comfort level. I can't say that I succeeded in pulling off a great painting, but I definitely succeeded in "feeling the fear and doing it anyways". Hey, why play it safe when you can torture yourself for kicks? ha ha
Below is a photo of me wrestling with this alligator...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Patience the Lion at NYPL

"Patience" the Lion  12x12" Oil  Click to Bid

I did this piece during my recent plein air painting gig in NYC. The tricky part is that by the time my easel was set up, the light and shadows on the Lion had already changed drastically. That, and the fact that I planted myself smack in the middle of the sidewalk at Fifth Avenue at 42nd street, The New York Public Library, it was quite the hectic atmo. It's truly amazing how once you pop in your headphones and get the itunes cranking, the rest of the world pleasantly drops away -  until a kid trips over your easel leg and jolts you back to reality. I put the people in as an afterthought...Patience looked too lonely by himself. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Two Blondes

Two Blondes, 11x14 Oil 

Here is another painting from my series of plein air paintings in NYC. I had to figure out a system to deal with all these moving people. I mean, its hard enough to paint figures when working from  models who are posing for hours -- capturing them in seconds flat seemed impossible. Enter my trusty sketchbook and charcoal pencil - nail down those poses quickly and when the people change positions, or take off, as they inevitably do, work from my sketches.  Vouila!

Dealing with Joe Q Public was just as challenging as the dealing with the unpredictability of plein air conditions.  Of all the tables and chairs available to sit at, this little Jewish guy decides he must sit at my table, with me. Didn't he realize his black top hat would soon be decorated with purple paint blobs? Only in New York.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

Thats the title of a book I read in 1992, which forever re-positioned how I dealt with fear. Along those same lines, my favorite quote is by Eleanor Roosevelt "Do one thing everyday that scares you".  Well I had an ideal opportunity to deal with some real fears this past two weeks, painting in the middle of midtown Manhattan, en plein air. Sandwiched in Times Square, Bryant Park and 5th Ave. at 42nd Street (the NY Public Library), I was hired to paint the area - plein air only, for two weeks, 8 hours a day, part of a program offered to 4 selected local artists.  My gig ended yesterday and I was featured on the cover of the New York Times today - very nice payback for the grueling schlepping in 100 degree heat.

My big fear was less the intimidation of being surrounded by huge crowds of people, it was more an artistic fear - how do you paint people that are constantly moving? I became acutely aware of why most plein air painters choose landscapes. Mountains, trees and rocks don't move. People don't stop moving. Lets just say I had no choice but to figure it out, the hard way - by doing it on the spot - with no place to hide.

As it turns out, I got pretty fast painting one minute poses, often thats all the time I had to capture someone before they completely changed positions or left altogether. Memorizing was key, as was sketching fast, and also reconstructing (mentally) the physics of how the human body is put together.  Just like anything that is a great learning experience, it often happens at the expense of comfort. Well this wasn't comfortable on any level, and I learned more than words can say.

I will attach some of the paintings I did in upcoming posts. This one below was a 10 minute painting of people relaxing on the park lawn. They were not lying together like this, I just kept pivoting my easel around and capturing whoever was nearby.

New York, New York... if I can paint here, I can paint anywhere

"Lawn Loungers, Oil, 8x8"