Recently, I've had the pleasure of participating in my first plein air festivals. I've always enjoyed working outdoors and have recently made it more of a priority with my work, so entering these festivals seems like a natural progression. Not only do they present a great way to meet new artists and collectors, they also introduce you to many new areas to paint and explore. All of the festivals I've painted in have offered some way to sell the work produced during the alloted time. Some have had auctions on site following the painting time, while others have had exhibitions of the work produced at the end of the festival.
This time I participated in Paint Historic Waxahahie, which had a quick draw to kick off the week-long painting festival. For those of you not familiar with a quick draw, it's pretty simple. All of the participating artists paint in a pre-determined location for a limited amount of time. In this case, we had just 90 minutes. There's a reason it's called a quick draw! At the end of the 90 minutes, all the work was offered for sale at a silent auction. Please keep in mind this is the first quick draw I've painted in, so some of the detail may vary at different events, but I think this is the general idea.
As a first timer, I learned a great deal at this event and wanted to share some of this with you here.
Know what you are going to paint ahead of time. I can't stress this one enough. In the quick draw, we had an hour and a half to paint. That's it! Luckily, I had thought about this the day before and spent some time that afternoon exploring the paint-out area. I found two different locations that I thought would make good paintings. I did this just in case the light was not what I was expecting in the morning or if one of the spots didn't inspire me the next day. This turned out to be sound planning because one the areas I thought would make a good painting turned out to look totally different the next day. I had found some construction equipment that looked parked and in place for the weekend. Boy was I wrong. When I got there the next day all the equipment was in a different location and most of what I thought would make a good painting didn't exist any more. There was also a farmers market on two of the main streets designated for the quick draw. We knew about this ahead of time and luckily it didn't interfere with what I wanted to paint, but it could have changed my plans drastically. By having multiple locations picked out, I was able to easily avoid any serious problems when the actual event started, which let me concentrate on getting to work right away.
Get there early. For this quick draw, the painting time was from 8:30 - 10 am. Registration began at 8 am, so that's the time I was shooting for. This would give me plenty of time to check in, set up my easel and get everything ready to go for the 8:30 start. Well, on my way there, I ran into a 12 minute delay waiting on a slow train crossing the road. This got me there at 8:15, leaving just 15 minutes to check in and get set up. While I had just enough time to get registered, I had to rush on choosing between my two locations from the day before. It was very windy that morning, so I chose the first spot because it offered protection from the strong winds. If I had a bit more time, I think I could have found a better vantage point to paint my subject from and perhaps even have made a better painting. Next time I'm going to try to get there even earlier to guard against the possibilty of traffic, construction, and the inevitable slow moving train.
Bring a watch! I don't know about you, but I stopped wearing a watch many years ago and starting using my cell phone as a pocket watch. The problem relying on a cell phone is that the last thing I wanted to do with such limited time was to continue to reach into my pocket to check it. Next time I'll bring a watch that I can just hang on my easel in plain sight so I can keep track of the time better. Because time grew so short so fast, I literally had to paint the bottom inch of two of my painting with the largest brush I had in just a few strokes to finish my painting in time for the 10 o'clock cut off. Yikes!
Pick something you can paint in the time you have. Again, I know this sounds obvious but it's something I didn't really consider when picking out my subject. Let's see, I have an hour and half. I think I'll paint this really cool building with lots of cool ornamental detail and lots of perspective challenges. Sure, why not?!? I really wish I had thought about this a bit more. For the view I picked, I would need about 3 hours to do it any justice in my mind. An hour and a half barely got me past me block in stage and left little to no time for corrections and finishing brush strokes. Finding a balance between artistic ambition and reality can be difficult in these situations.
Leave time for the last-minute things. This was again something I didn't think of during the paint out. In fact, I didn't even think to take a picture of what I painted until it was in the auction that followed the quick-draw. At that point the best picture I could get was of the painting sitting on the display table, which was not the best for posting on the blog. I also wish I had taken the time to put all of my contact info on the back of my canvas before I painted on it. I'm not sure why I didn't do this other than I just didn't think of it at the time. Luckily, I was able to meet the collector who won the auction for my painting and give them my card and contact information.
I'm sure there are a million other things I'm forgetting now that the quick draw is over. I think all the artists that painted had a great time with the challenge. I was able to meet a lot of the other artists participating in the week-long festival that followed. Some had painted in the event before and where able to suggest other locations to paint during the week while others had great suggestions for placed to eat in town. Incidentally, if you are ever in Waxahachie, The College Street Pub make unexpectedly good grub that's quite nice after a intense morning of painting.
Hopefully, this information will help you if you decide to participate in one of these events for yourself. If you have anything of add, I'd love to hear it. I'd also like to encourage you to participate in a quick draw if the opportunity presents itself. I had a great time at this one and can't wait till the next one.Comment on or Share this Article →