Friday, May 31, 2013

Paint Historic Waxahachie 2013 - Best in Show

Day One - Painting number 1:  Saturday morning: "Rogers Street Looking South" - 9x12 oil on canvas panel. This won Best in Show.

Painting number 2: "Indian Blanket Along the Bike Trail" - 9x12 oil on canvas. Two waves of thunderstorms made for an interesting plein air experience. Those are hay bales in the distance. One day later this field had been mowed. 

Painting number 3: "Hay Bales Along the Bike Trail" - 8x10 oil on canvas panel. Last painting of Day One with golden light illuminating the west-facing bales after the storms finally cleared out.

Day Two - Painting number 4: "College Street Looking North" - 8x10 oil on canvas panel. Morning sunshine occasionally broke through for me to establish some shadow and light.

Painting number 5: "Katy Depot Caboose" - 8x10 oil on canvas panel. I painted this from the historic Rogers Street Bridge which crosses Waxahachie Creek on the Hike and Bike Trail. This caboose is a much brighter red than this, but it wouldn't look right if I used the actual red. A somewhat sore subject among locals. Way too bright. Anyway, this painting grew on me after letting it sit for a few days. Might be my favorite of the bunch.

Day Three: Painting number 6: "Jefferson Street Shed" - 9x12 oil on canvas panel. I've always wanted to paint this metal building with its overgrown trumpet vine.

Painting 7: "900 Bryson Steet" - 9x12 oil on canvas panel. Last painting of the event (other than the quick draw the following Thursday evening). Great afternoon sunlight popping through the clouds. This old house has been neglected for many years, but now has new owners and sits proudly on the 2013 Gingerbread Trail Tour of home which begins tomorrow.

All of these paintings, along with art from the other 32 artists will be for sale in the Chautauqua Building in Getzendaner Park tomorrow and Sunday. Stop by and see some great art, and vote for your "People's Choice" favorite artist.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Not PC (positionally correct)

Around 1988 while vacationing in Big Bend National Park, I took a slide photo of the J.O. Langford ruins (built c.1927), which are near the Hot Springs along the Rio Grande River.

watercolor from 1997
About 9 years later I painted a large watercolor (left) using that slide as a reference. Amusingly it wasn't until a few weeks ago I realized I had painted the watercolor backwards. The palm tree is actually on the right side of the building. Such are the perils of using slides for references.

By the way, I'm convinced that the palm tree has tapped into one of the springs that the area gets its name from. I stumbled across an old photo of the building from the 1930s showing a small palm tree in this exact location. Palm trees are not normally found in the Chihuahuan Desert. I would not have guessed that a palm could live over 80 years, much less in the extremes of this part of Texas.

My recent rendition is positionally correct this time. And it's an interesting comparison to see a watercolor I did 16 years ago next to a new oil painting from the same photo reference. The people in the oil were family and friends that were actually in the photo (and left out of the watercolor).

Hidden Gardens of Fort Worth Plein Air

10x8 oil on panel. My second plein air from the Hidden Gardens tour. I was thinking that I might be able to sell this one to the owner of the home. Wouldn't you know it, no one lives there right now. Oh well, maybe this will sell at the Preservation is the Art of the City event in September.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

ArtsGoggle and Hidden Gardens

Saturday was ArtsGoggle time in the Near Southside community of Fort Worth. My friend Steve Berry invited me to set up in his law office to be a participating artist in the event. The building itself is a contributing member of the Nationally Registered Eighth Avenue Historic District. A beautiful structure that lends itself to just such an event.

ArtsGoggle showcases over 150 artists scattered around the area selling their goods, along with live music and food trucks aplenty. I wasn't sure how many paintings to bring, figuring I might sell a couple at the most. I decided to bring 25 oils, watercolors and pastels in various sizes and prices and incredibly, sold 11 of them!

It turned out to be a tremendous evening, and not just because I sold some art. I got to see a lot of old Wichita Falls friends... some that I hadn't seen in 35 years! Sort of a mini Falls reunion.

A big "thank you" to Steve for providing the place (and buying a painting to boot). And another big thank you to the following for forking out money, even in a rough economy, to buy my art: Randy and his wife Julia, Mary and her friend Diane, Todd and his wife Veronica, Dennis and Deloris. I'll try my best to make these investments triple in value before I die.

And another special thanks to Todd for understanding when I decided not to sell a particular painting that he wanted to buy. It happened like this: as he left the room to get his wife involved in the decision-making, I happened to get a call from my wife. Well, the conversation led to the possible selling of that painting and she started telling me that she had just been informed by our son that, of all of my paintings, that was the only one that was special to him and preferred that I not sell it. (In a related blog, see my recent "creating a keepsake" post). I had a reasonably high price on it, thinking that it wouldn't sell, so I really wasn't as prepared as I should have been. But Todd was very understanding and I promised him that I would paint another one similar to it if he was still interested.

Hidden Gardens of Fort Worth
The next morning I was a plein air participant during Historic Fort Worth's Hidden Gardens tour. This is an annual event showcasing some of the finest gardens you'll ever see. This particular garden was off of Westridge in the Ridglea Hills area and featured 12 homes surrounding a series of fountains and ponds. Like a kid in a candy store, there was no shortage of things to paint. I set up near the bottom of a collection pool and cranked out two paintings during the 6 hour event. This photo shows the first one. While it looks okay here, I decided to wipe it off the canvas when I got home so I could try it again from photo references. It's a great subject but it just wasn't working for me.

The second painting I did like but I won't post it until after it dries to the touch so I can properly scan it.

All in all, a very art-intensive weekend, which precedes another art-intensive week to come as I participate in the annual plein air event, 'Paint Waxahachie' beginning Memorial Day weekend.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Is Plein Air Painting Manly?

This past Friday I had the pleasure of joining a group of 10 guys for a weekend ranch trip about 8 miles south of Buffalo, Texas. Cool, sunny weather made for a great time of fishing, skeet shooting, boiled crawfish, steaks and even a little Texas Hold'em (which I had to quickly learn). Manly men doing manly things in the woods, as it were. And the location was a perfect place to get in some plein air painting with a small lake, an old barn, cows and wildflowers providing ample opportunities for subject matter. 

Usually when I paint outdoors I'm with like-minded souls that obviously think nothing of seeing someone setting up an easel on location. But with this bunch I unexpectedly felt a little self-conscious while traipsing around the fields and pastures looking for a place to set up my easel. Maybe it was because, of the 10 guys in the group I only knew about half of them so I wondered what they might be thinking about me.  There was this thought in my mind that I might seem like a loner... perhaps a little off (you know how artists are), or worst of all, was it manly to paint outdoors... did I mention I carried my sun-blocking umbrella and wore blue disposable gloves? Put it this way: while some of the guys are off shooting the crap out of a styrofoam cooler that had recently contained 40-pounds of FedX-delivered live crawfish, here I am painting a tree with distant cows chewing their cud. Or, while some dudes were holding an impromptu farting competition on the back deck of the house, I'm sketching an old barn amid wildflowers. Actually I'm only assuming that last part was going on...

Now don't get me wrong. I did fish... a lot. I did play some Holdem' and eat like a savage. About the only thing I didn't do was shoot skeet since I'm terrible at it. But somehow I'd never been so self-aware of my artistic tendencies and whether or not they might seem out-of-the-norm. Did I look like a freak? Are they whispering about me? In reality they probably didn't care a lick about anything I was doing, preoccupied with their own activities. 

After giving it some thought my mind quickly recalled the works of artists Frederic Remington, Charles Russell and-the-like, which helped to reassure myself that yes, you can be both an artist and a real man. Remington himself loved to paint "en plein air" and only his deteriorating health kept him bound to his studio in his later years. I doubt that anyone would consider him odd - not that I am comparing myself to a guy that has his own postage stamp. I then recalled the several male artist friends of mine that are quite manly in my estimation. Though just writing those words seems a little odd. But I happen to know a bunch of really "cool" artist dudes. 

It's a given that studio painting wouldn't seem strange for a man, but somehow painting outdoors among men-being-men at a ranch seemed different that day. Okay, so maybe I could have gone without the umbrella for once, even though it helps me keep my colors from getting out of whack from looking at them in bright sunlight... but they didn't know that. And they surely didn't consider that the little blue gloves I was wearing were for safety since some of the oils I use contain cadmium, which probably shouldn't be soaked into your skin. Umbrella, gloves... does it help that I chose not to wear my smock?

To be honest some of the guys were polite and even complimentary about the results of my efforts. Some even asked a few questions about them with genuine interest. But most seemed indifferent - which was to be expected with so much other cool stuff going on. And by no means did I find that offensive. Some guys are just not into art and that's okay. But I loved every minute of the weekend with a great bunch of dudes. The only thing keeping me from painting more was the great fishing. If this happens next year, count me in.

#80 - Ranch Cows - 9x12 oil on panel. 

I started my first painting of the trip Friday around 3pm. I set up just this side of a barbed-wire fence since I wasn't sure if the large bull on the other side was in the mood for any intrusions of culture (it's hard to run with art gear). Turns out that that bull was probably more of a threat to lick me than to rush me. But either way I was glad for the barrier between us. In spite of the title of this painting a large oak tree was my center of interest with sunny afternoon light creating nice long shadows. 

There was plenty of atmosphere between me and the distant trees, and meandering cattle walking in and out of the scene made for a fantastic subject. This is the type of time and place that will hook you into this "plein air" thing. The cattle remained in view for the entire session and didn't move-on until I crossed the fence to take a few reference photos for future paintings. The wind was relentless and cool, almost cold, but my easel held up well with no incidents. I finished about 2 hours later, just in time for some spicy boiled crawfish, sausage, corn-on-the-cob and new potatoes. An awesome end to an awesome day. 

#81 - Ranch Lake - 10x8 oil on panel

Morning light got me out for the second painting on day-2. A quick study of a sandy bank just across the water from the ranch house. Like the day before it was windy and cool. I was able to paint and cast a few plastic worms between brush strokes. And since painting, to me, is a lot like fishing, it was an ideal combination of two things I love to do. Painting and fishing both involve finding the right location, your tools are similar (rod and brush) and when you land a good one, the feelings you have are very similar - you can't wait to show it off. By the way, I caught several black bass, with a couple of them over 3 lbs. It turns out that shotguns blasting nearby don't necessarily hinder the fishing. I guess they get used to it.

#82 - Obligatory Ranch Barn - 9x12 oil on panel
Believe or not this is my first barn painting, at least that I can remember. Who hasn't painted a barn? Anyway, I set up around 2pm knowing that the right shadows would appear about an hour later because I had scouted it out the day before. I wanted the A-shaped roof to cast a shadow on the front of the barn to give it some depth and interest. 

Sometimes it's a good idea to plan your shadows for what you expect them to be later on. After a couple of hours I wrapped this one up and headed back to the house for a thick rib-eye, baked potatoes and something called "obligatory" ranch peas which was appropriate for the title of my last piece as well.

©2013 by Kent Brewer

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Creating a Keepsake

Mustang Creek - 8x10 oil on gessobord.

This white-rock creek is a short bike-ride from our house in Waxahachie. My 9-year old son loves to come here and explore, wade and skip rocks. The soil in this part of the blackland prairie is very thin, probably averaging 2' in depth before hitting a solid layer of bright white limestone. On a side note, this wealth of limestone is also the reason that the city of Midlothian (about 20 miles to the west) is cursed with three large pollution-spewing cement plants... but I digress. Mustang Creek shows this geological characteristic very well with no soil remaining, just solid rock from bank to bank and for miles along its path. Along with all of the fun things associated with kids and creeks, this is also a great place to find fossils. Literally thousands of them are etched into the caliche rock everywhere you look.

Now, about the painting. To be honest I'm probably my biggest critic when it comes to my artwork. But this one I actually do like for several reasons. For one, it portrays the look and feel of the creek very well, without being too descriptive or detailed. And it has that "painterly" feel that I continue to strive for, but seldom fully achieve. And I love to successfully paint water reflections and this one turned out well in my opinion. After finishing the painting and showing it to my son I got to thinking that it could be a great little keepsake for him years down the road. I could envision him waxing nostalgic about his youth, and days spent with his old man while telling friends about the painting. I hope one day that some of my paintings will proudly grace his walls, and perhaps even be cherished enough to be passed down to his kids.