Saturday, April 10, 2010

Plein Air -"Mississippi Style"

I am a diverse person who likes all kinds of experiences.  Take my usual run-of-the-mill plein air day, for example: we usually don't fancy it up. It's usually two or more friends who meet in jeans, paint smeared t-shirts, and floppy hats on a rural gravel roadside-  where we've stomped down an area in the Johnson grass and set up our easels (yeah,we love to bring iced tea in a wide-mouth mason jar in a brown paper sack). I never paint the same way- it depends on the time I have and my mood. [See my two painting below that are examples of my variations on my painting style as well as the scenery.]  

We usually end up on gravel roads, enjoying the smell the honeysuckles as we listen to the mockingbirds singing in the tree tops above, bumble bees buzzing by, and the occasional rustle of leaves as squirrels scamper across tree limbs. Sometimes I come home tasting the dust from the dirt road. But I love it because it reminds me of my childhood - the setting and the sounds...back when I had to be outside to play all day to stay "cool" in the spring and summer breezes... when time stood still ...and an afternoon seemed a week long - when compared to my internal clock these days...  love the old scenes of the days gone by that I have seen all my life. They are now in the process of slowly leaving the state forever: forgotten remains-  the kudzu covered old homeplaces, small and great old barns, and farm buildings that are scattered across our state. They are quickly disappearing. Sometimes with larger groups and we go out to paint them and tease each other about snakes and alligators or joke about a bad bull chasing us across the pasture. We all go to lunch at a nearby small town diner and order up the "blue plate special"... and we laugh and enjoy the fun and fellowship. Good friends doing what we all love.

But sometimes I enjoy the more genteel way of experiencing the beauty of our state and it's culture. Yesterday was one of those days when one of my art groups, the Mississippi Oil Painters' Association (MOPA) -  based out of Jackson - had the opportunity for a really special treat to visit the beautiful Riverdale Ranch and to have one of our members and more famous portrait artists, Jason Bouldin (who'd make good landscape painter if this portrait thing doesn't work out!) do the demonstration.

Lisa Paris, president of MOPA, and a wonderful artist and friend had invited me to stay with her the night before (Thursday night) in her beautiful Fondren home, (- see photo: it slept as beautiful as it looked like it would!) and we enjoyed a reception and talk in another Jackson home where the owners were Jason Bouldin collectors. Of Jason's many portraits and paintings they owned, one was a beautiful portrait of the family that was probably an 8ft x 8ft painting that looked like something Sargent would do if he was painting like Velázquez!  Jason - always such an entertaining speaker- gave a wonderful talk complete with slides. I wish I'd recorded it...

One point he made was that a landscape needs to be "known" by the artist. How true! It shows in the painting if a landscape has been interpreted by an artist who is familiar with the area - that sees it and gets to really know the area. Similar to our personal human relationships: some are very superficial- acquaintances- or people we've just met....while others are deeper and we have an understanding of the true character of the person- their quirks and the flavor of their personality - their history, and how they react and the inner values and depth of their personalities once your truly know them as a friend. Our landscapes connect with the viewer if we have that same understanding. I liked that statement because when I paint that's exactly what I want to get across! He also quoted Winston Churchill, who, once he started painting,  became aware of the changes in the way one "begins to see" once they become artists.

Yesterday morning Jason gave a wonderful demo. I've posted some photos of the demonstration and "picnic" we had at the amazingly beautiful Riverdale Ranch here in the middle of out state. The owner, Jim Barksdale, was a gracious host, and was so generous to us -  along with and the ranch manager and his wife and all the ranch workers. Prior to lunch, one ranch hand blessed the meal and played Amazing Grace on a handmade flute that he had carved himself in front of the fire that our host built.  It was lovely, and very comfortable and convenient right down to the fact that they arranged to have us transported from place to place in some type of fancy people movers to get us to the pavilion and  circle of buildings- a lodge, guest cottages and the summer home that they have in the middle of the ranch. It was a beautiful setting and a day to remember. I have posted some photos from yesterday but they just don't quited capture the beauty of the place. It was a special day.

Now-  back to painting from my sketches and color notes...