I have returned from an exhausting week in Carmel. I participated in the Carmel Art Festival, one of the most prestigious plein air events in Northern California. This event attracts some of the best plein air artists from around the country, as far as Maryland and Florida even. From what I understand, it is very competitive and tough to get into, so I was delighted when I found out I had been accepted after my first time applying. Knowing what the competition is like, I came into it a little nervous. I must admit I am never nervous before these plein air events because I feel equal amongst my peers in most every event I’ve participated in. In this event, however, many of the painters I look up to and follow their work avidly, like Thomas Kitts, Larry Moore, and Paul Kratter. To be participating in an event with painters of this caliber is quite the honor. Nevertheless I arrived in Carmel psyched up and ready to paint landscapes harder than I have before.
I started off the day by checking in to the event. There are a lot of rumours and input from artists and onlookers about this event. I guess it can’t be helped given the prestigious nature of the event. I won’t delve into all of that, but I will say that I knew what to expect. Therefore, the impersonal way they treated the participating artists didn’t much phase me.
I arrived to a fair amount of fog on the peninsula, so to escape it, I drove down to Garland Ranch Park down in the valley. This is actually a composite of two different views. I liked the light I was able to evoke in this painting, but I still have yet to satisfactorily depict middle-ground forests. I like parts of this painting but most of it is a dud to me.
I woke up bright and early to journey down to Big Sur. So many amazing views of the coast makes it hard to chose something that hasn’t been done a million times. I tried to choose a point of view that isn’t too typical. The fog started off quite dramatic, but by the end it had mostly burned off. I think the most successful part of this painting is the sense of atmospheric distance I was able to pull off in the seacliffs.
This part of Big Sur is so incredibly dramatic and scenic that I knew I would have to choose something that wasn’t obvious or else I would end up doing a painting that would look like 3 other ones in the show. I picked a view that was possible the least dramatic, yet most simple compositionally, giving me a chance to play with texture and everything else. I really like how the texture in the foreground came out(doesn’t read as well on the computer screen unfortunately). Had I spent more time finessing the shapes of the trees into a more pleasing design, I would have put this one in the show for sure. Also, I would have unified the color of the ground with the color of the sky better. I took reference shots, so I will revisit this painting in the future.
This is a painting that just barely didn’t make the cut. It was an awesome view, and I think I captured the color of the scene pretty accurately. I also had fun with the palette knife work in the grass. It can be argued that I should have put it in, instead of the next one, but I think I am going to keep this one around as a study until I do a large painting of this scene.
It was about 3 pm by the time I finished these paintings, and I had pretty much out-painted myself by this point. I did a couple of wipers afterwards then called it a day.
It was a beauuuutiful day at Point Lobos on Friday. Today was the day to make sure I painted something that really went for the gusto, so I purposely chose something ridiculously tough to paint. This was at the end of the North Point trail looking southward at the trail. There were a lot of painters at Point Lobos at this time, and I chose this view because I didn’t see anyone else painting something like this. I spent a good 3 hours, with my ass on some rock, hunched over, painting this scene. Between the hiking, the concentration, and the physical/mental demand of painting this scene, it drained me of my ability to paint for the rest of the day. I attempted to do another one later on in the day, but it wasn’t happenin’.
We had to bring our paintings in between 6 and 8 pm. Now it was the chance to see what everyone else had done and determine where this young upstart-noob stood among these seasoned veteran painters. There were some amazing paintings turned in! Some eye-poppers. Now was the chance to simultaneously relax and pick up whatever ego I had off the floor. I found it overall to be a very strong show. I went afterwards to have some food and beers at Clint Eastwood’s restaurant with Paul Kratter and Timon Sloane.
I took a bunch of photos of the show in the morning. I put them together in this little video
Once I saw everyone else’s work, I went and painted at the beach to get myself a new painting to exhibit for the next day in case anything sold in the silent auction that evening. I tried to pull together all the motivation and inspiration I could put together from the last few days. I found this awesome little semi-secluded cove in Pebble Beach that had a shallow pool. The shallowness of the water turned the sand underneath a neat green-blue color that I tried to capture. So many different colors in the sand! I had a blast painting this one. I think it’s my best painting of the event. Almost sold it, even.
I went back to the exhibition to mingle with the artists and check out who won what awards. My favorite painting of the event, This painting by Stacey Barter was my favorite of the event, and it won two awards: Mayor’s choice, and Best Oil Painting. Rightfully so! There was also a nice little bidding war on the piece. Thomas Kitts stunningly painted this tree. He was able to sell this one, but the buyer got a great deal on it. Newcomer Gretha Lindwood was a hit in the Silent Auction! There was a patron determined to own both paintings. Wish we all could be so lucky! Speaking of fortune, my friend Carole Gray-Weihmann sold both of her paintings and snagged an honorable mention! Nice job!
The event was not quite over. To end the event, we participated in the famous (and intimidating) quick draw. Most events have 3 hour “quick draws” which is the amount of time most painters spend on a painting anyways. With two hours to pick a spot, paint a finished piece, frame it, and put it up, it is truly a quick-draw! I quickly found this intimate little spot lit up beautifully in the morning. I was going to try to add the people, but they wouldn’t stick around long enough to paint them. Still, I am fairly satisfied with this painting, given it was about 1.5 hrs. worth of work.
The weather was unbelievable during the weekend! I was really anxious to find out if the weather would be good or as miserable as it had been during the last few years. The sun shined most of the time we spent painting there, luckily.
I’d say this event is only for the dedicated professionals. The pressure of the event would make most casual plein air painters fall on their brush-handles. I found the competition to be extremely motivating. It’s really set the bar in terms of skill to strive for, so I am determined to take that energy into the rest of the plein air season to reach a new level. And now… time for some sleep!