Plein Air competitions are not always easy for an artist who normally creates in the studio where they have lighting and climate control, and are (usually) uninterrupted. This was my second attempt at an outdoor painting competition, and again I learned a lot about composition, material choices, and speed.
The Steveston Grand Prix of Art was held on Saturday September 20. Over 100 artists in 3 categories (adult, youth, and photographers) took part. At 10am we signed in and drew a slip of paper out of the prize cup to find out which location we’d be painting at. I had one of the volunteer drivers take me to my spot behind Prickly Pear garden centre. I had 25 minutes to set up and decide what I’d paint. It wasn’t easy. Trees behind me, a busy apartment block to the left and a road and river in front. I eventually chose the street scene with the whale watching business even though the sun was behind it and everything was in silhouette.
When the 11:00 whistle blew I decided to just start drawing with my Staedtler Mars professional pens. This was a great material choice. The ink drawing was very dramatic and people commented that they loved it. However not planning out the composition first in light pencil created problems later when I got too close to the bottom of the page, and when I had to put the mat on at the end of the competition I ended up covering up the top of my telephone pole and some trees along the river. Yes, words were said that I shall not repeat here.
Halfway through the competition I moved from the ink drawing to watercolour. I kept telling people that it’s easy, like a colouring book, just filling in my drawn areas. Ha! The backlighting on my subjects made the real life objects hard to see so that it was difficult for me to choose paint colours. Well, just wing it! I kept telling myself to go darker faster, but it still ended up being too light in the sky and some parts of the building. I didn’t have the time to layer the watercolours like I do in my studio when I take 8 to 10 hours for a painting.
Having to pause to wait for a car to pass so I could see my subjects on the other side of the road, or waiting for people to move, added to the trickiness of painting outside in public. Yet it was the many positive comments from people that spurred me on when I was doubting myself. Yes, I did hear you as you stood behind me and whispered to your friend “this one is great!” Thank you. And a young boy’s “Wow!” was wonderful encouragement.
At 2:00 the whistle blew again and I had to put my paint brush down and grab my frame. Then it was a mad dash in my parent’s car back to the Britannia Heritage Shipyards to hand in my art for judging. A late lunch of delicious barbeque chicken from Bean and Beyond Cafe finally helped me relax back to normal speed.
This year I was also very happy that 3 of my youth students entered the competition. I’m very proud of what they accomplished.
You can view (and buy!) everyone’s art in the Seine Net Loft of Britannia Heritage Shipyards, 5180 Westwater Drive, Richmond, BC. until Sunday September 28 from 10am to 5pm each day. Closing ceremonies where they will award the Peoples Choice Award and the Photography Award are on Sunday at 3:00. Thanks to Phoenix Art Workshop for hosting yet another great painting challenge.