June 27, 2010

Fast Painting in Vallés: 3rd Prize

I won third place in the annual plein air painting contest in the village of Vallés this weekend, the same I won last year. I couldn't be happier or more appreciative of the recognition. Not only is it nice to win so I can pay for materials and get out to more contests, but in the two times I've painting in Vallés the town has treated us painters well, feeding us both breakfast and lunch, giving us the chance to show our work in the main square, and letting us use the municipal pool.

Painting away. I was lucky to find probably the most shaded corner of the main square.


Signing at the end, the crucial final detail.



The finished piece. 116cm x 89cm, acrylic on canvas.

June 22, 2010

Last Three Fast Paintings: Yikes!

You think painting goes smoothly all the time? For me it's about one in five, one painting I'm more or less okay with for four I'm embarrassed to do anything with but keep face down. This is especially true for fast painting where the conditions are less than ideal.

A typical day out at a contest goes something like this: you arrive in a new town, narrow streets, one-way traffic, and ask whoever is awake (usually the hardest core, drunkest party-goers who haven't made it home yet, or grandpa with the dog and hearing aid) where to find the cultural centre, city hall, or the association of artists. You "stamp in" and blab a moment with other artists. Just about everyone gets a ticket at least once from the town cops at this point. Next, parking - not easy at 8 a.m. when the whole town has long parked the night before, and not easy in the medieval downtown, where the most pictureque views for painting can be found.

Once parked, you gotta find a good spot. The vista is important but shade is key, because no matter how much you think you've mastered the sun, you don't really know anything. I invariably spend an hour or two in the sun, frying and unable to focus, before I can't bare it anymore and move, lose the scene, and have to make up the rest.

The painting itself, of course, is a challenge - getting the perspective right, holding on to the light in your mind, deciding on a composition, anticipating how classical or modern the piece should be depending on the town, its politics, and sponsors. Drying paint and keeping all your equipment organized, so you don't lose too many brushes or get your stuff stolen, isn't easy. So neither is managing the crowd, the bystanders, all the excited villagers. Lots of repetitive comments, lots of advice you've heard a zillion times, and lots of lonely people who want to talk about their second cousin's wife's neighbour who used to paint, or Antonio Thisandthat who lives on Calle Burro and plays cards by himself.

At 1:59 p.m. you slop a little more paint in a weak area, making it weaker much to your chagrin, and charge back to where you stamped in, before they close the door on you. Then the wait... If a contests ends at 2 p.m. you usually have until 7 p.m. to hear from the jury; if it ends at 4 or 5 p.m. you can be there till 10 p.m. - hungry, sweating, and tired.

Contrast this to the studio, where the light's controlled, the sun's blocked out, the music's on, the fridge and washroom are nearby, and quadruple the equipment is at hand, and you get a sense for the trials and tribulations of the plein air artists, and just what a miracle it is to pull off a decent work.

So... here you have my latest three pieces, for which at least one of the go-wrong factors of fast painting did, in my view, outdo the painting. In order, Algemesí, Torrent, and Chinchilla (oddly, the Algemesí piece was "selected" along with 15 others to be shown for a week). 


Like I used toothpaste.  
Like I used a toilet brush.


Not as bad but romantic, and stiff in parts, though at least the colours are saturated.

June 16, 2010

Studio Shots

 
A few shots of my "studio" in Valencia. Lots of light and usually pretty sweaty, with the unceasing noise of the Gran Via below.