Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Rain and Oils... Don't Mix... Usually! - Part One

As we headed into our anxiously awaited weekend  Eagle Point Winery Paint Out... I poured over the long range weather reports for the Rockport to Kingston corridor each day. By Thursday, it was obvious from the patterns which were predicted to prevail that rain gear would best be included along with painting gear for the weekend. The possibility of Rain... the dread of all fervent outdoor painters was clearly
to be around for a good part of the weekend. Rain and snow both completely derail and severely impede the outdoor painting process... no matter the medium of choice. Both forms of precipitation prevent proper adhesion, or mixing of the paint on the painting surface. Even an umbrella fails to eliminate the sneaky wind from doing its dirty tricks. Rain and oil simply... don't mix!

Friday,October 4th

We all arrived on site at 8:30 am ... primed and ready to paint. I led the "Group of Ten" around the winery estate to familiarize the group with their painting options... especially those wonderful hidden landscape features at the back of the 850 acres that would difficult for them to find on their own. By 9:30 am, all ten artists were settled into work at their selected first locations.

I chose a vantage point at a backwater bridge that I felt offered an interesting subject and some cover from the bit of breeze.  I was joined by at least five of the members group. It was calming for me to finally discard my worries (on their behalf) and to settle into my own painting. As a co-organizer for the paint out, I did assume (too large) a feeling of responsibility for their success in this adventure. This is a residual conflict for me... held over from my teaching life... when I felt responsible for the success and comfort of each of my charges. While this type of caring is entirely admirable... I will readily admit that it is also unrealistic and unnecessary... when dealing with adults.

Here is motif number one. The sky and water reflect... the preordained likelihood of rain. No one even complained. All set to work as I did... full of hope... a feeling of promise and with good humour. Wise cracking could be overheard being passed around. The spirits of intrepid plein air enthusiasts are difficult to dampen! I steadily moved through lay in... and was almost totally unaware of the first big rain drops that splashed down upon my oily palette. The "Flow" does have that ability to (almost) nullify or transcend reality when one is under its guile! Not for long though. It was obvious that the only safe strategy was to close the lid on my box... place the canvas in a dry place... and to retreat to dry cover under the densely wooded trail.  I was joined there by a couple of friends who shared my belief that painting in the rain and getting one's self wet is not the route to follow. Others persisted with their umbrellas up.... Choice!

 Two hard core beavers at work... under their "brollies" oblivious to the deluge around them... for a while!

"Rain Check"... on my 14x18 inch canvas. Lots of under painting tone to be dealt with yet!

 Here is my near initial lay in placed under the dry, welcome outstretched arms of a dense white pine... where we both awaited and hoped for a let up of the heavy rain. After a half hour... it became obvious that the rain would not let go its grip for quite a while. So, a small  group agreed to follow me over the bridge and down into a heavily wooded area that I had scouted earlier in the week alongside the LaRue's Creek. I knew that the dense overhead mixed hardwood and fir canopy would supply ample cover for all of us to work... no matter the rain. We easily found a second place to continue painting... in spite of the continuing rain. Advanced planning is everything! In my own experience... so is common sense. Being wet when painting ... soon comes being cold to the bone and will soon defeat even the most ardent enthusiast.

Here is the site that three of us shared to begin a second go at it. We were covered overhead enough to allow a successful and comfortable start. The photo here does indeed indicate continuing low light... but the structure and potential to use colour were present in the setting, so we hunkered down and got into action immediately. There was plenty of space for each of us to set up with an unobstructed view. It wasn't long until the wise cracking and kidding were again underway... and the veil of grey gloom lifted. That was not just figuratively speaking, as I first intended... but rather factually speaking... as "Mr Golden Sun" rejoined us... driving our painting spirits to an all day high.

Fellow painter..."Bon Vivant"... and hard core Conservative, Jerry Albert from Baltimore, Ontario .... hard at it on his vertical take on the scene. Jovial banter is a great "medium"... when added to paint to get into the Flow!


My second effort was one of those rarities... whereby the brush seems almost to have its own will and the painting.... "paints itself." Midway through the lay in... the sun did indeed manage to push its way across my subject's foreground... and I was at just the right place in my painting process to simply dash it in as it appeared. It was quite easy to re-adjust and ramp up colour values to balance out the inclusion of the newly arrived light and BLUE sky! I was greatly encouraged with the final outcome of this wee 10x12 inch canvas. It will not receive a further brushstroke!

My long time plein air pal, Frank Edwards... aka Loner... "Me" ... Tonto! Right where he usual is... directly behind his trusty scout and sidekick... busy at his own version of the same subject. Note in front of him... my first canvas... from the bridge site... on the easel... ready to get into!

I had laid out the rain-soaked canvas out in the sun while I finished the actual scene and it dried up the surface of the canvas so I could work back into the canvas once again. I decided... as I often do to proceed without the use of any actual references... whether direct or digital. The initial experience was so fresh and my motivation so high, that I decided to "wing it"... and to use only my memory to fill in the necessary detail to complete the painting. "Imagineering" is a powerful tool to develop and use... whether in the studio or outdoors. Taking what is actually there to form an initial impression... and then infusing with that a dose of imagination in an intuitive response usually heightens the sense of ownership and increases the richness of colour and mood. You be the judge... if I succeeded! Go back to picture number one... the actual digital reference and compare with the final rendering as shown below.

"Fall Meanders in on LaRue's Mill Creek" - oil on canvas 14x18 inches

Thus ended a highly enjoyable and successful first day of painting at Eagle Point Winery. Despite periods of grey and gloom and setbacks... all of us persevered and came out ahead of the weatherman and his inflicted miseries. My own personal mantra of...  "Don't give up the ship!"... applies very aptly in this situation for everyone involved. We remained buoyant in spirit... and kept paddling... or perhaps better... "puddling" to save the day! It was great to return to Rockport and to share the marvellous roasted chicken dinner that Deb prepared for our four weekend guests... and to share time and stories about our day together!

Life has indeed continued to be a blessing... and I am deeply grateful!

Stay tuned for Part Two - Sunny Saturday's Painting Adventure!


  1. Dear Bruce,
    Isn't wonderful to experience a day of plein air painting with fellow artist. Good for you and Deb to entertain with a lovely dinner. That is definitely the topping on the cake. Bravo to you and Deb.

  2. Hi there Joan!... Thanks for your visit! Sharing plein air painting... hospitality and good food with friends... is like reaching the summit of Mount Everest! Exhilarating is the only word to describe the feeling! You well know those feelings too!

    Good Fall Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  3. Your paintings are beautiful as always, Bruce. I really love the bridge piece and all the intuition that went into it. Sounds like you all had a fabulous painting weekend!

  4. Good morning Sherry!... Thank you for visiting ... and for once again offering your ever supportive thoughts and comments!

    The event... despite the intermittent rainy periods... lacked any sense of greyness. Everyone who paticipated chipped in with their paintings and continual laughter to make the event a HUGE success. On Saturday, the winery enjoyed its best day in this entire year... encouraging them to offer to offer to repeat the event next year.

    Everyone came away a winner... which was the goal that I intended when I accepted the role to bring it all together for the winery! The sweet taste of success is never greater... than when shared with friends! How sweet it was!

    Good Painting!
    Warmest regards,

  5. Hi Bruce, I'm glad the event was a success, despite the weather (or maybe because of it). It certainly brought out the best plein air spirit, and like a true veteran you coped with it well. The second painting was a good demonstration of "capturing the moment". The first one shows how the important thing is to get the groundwork done, and then imagination and creativity can do the rest.

    Good autumn painting,

  6. Good morning Keith!... Spoken from the knowledgeable perspective of... a "true" plein air painter!
    The success of these sketches does align itself with the attributes that you mention. Nothing leads one to success (in any endeavour) better than advance thought and preparation... and preliminary foundation or groundwork.

    Thanks for dropping by and adding these insightful and shared ideas about painting en plein air!

    Good autumn Painting back to you Keith!
    Warmest regards,