Plein Error

To wit, the artist fails to honor the plein air canvas with grace and so is forced to redeem himself in the studio…

“Glorious Rosea Path and Sailboat”

“Glorious Rosea Path and Sailboat”

As I packed up my gear at the studio and gave one look over my shoulder at the vase of sunflowers I had bought the day before, intending to paint them today, I thought for a second that I heard a little voice say “What about us? You don’t love us!” I shook it off, locked up, and went downstairs to pack the bike up for some plein air painting.

However, to err is human. Excuse me if I am more human than some of you. What’s worse is that I have no excuse as to what happened next. Living in a place that people pay good money to come and visit, and having painted virtually every gorgeous square freaking inch of it, and having nothing on my agenda but painting, I won’t even attempt an excuse. Some days an artist is unable to paint. Hopefully, this is true of all artists. In any case, I take comfort in the thought that I am not alone in my humanity.

"Lovers Point"

"Lovers Point"

I mean, take a look at some of the paintings I’ve done over the years of this place I call home. Honestly, on a good, sunny day, my head is spinning with choices. If it isn’t sunny, I could go to Salinas Valley or Carmel Valley where it is always sunny. Right here in Pacific Grove and in Monterey, all along the coastline, are scene after scene of paintings waiting to happen.  Whenever I hear people complaining about the place, I remind them very gently, something like “Shut up! People pay thousands to come stay

“Asilomar Dunes”

“Asilomar Dunes”

here for a week and you, you ingrate, whine whine whine little whiney person.” I admit, that’s only what I am thinking though it is possible that I’ve said it out loud once or twice. I mean, look at these scenes!

What does this have to do with my failure today? And what exactly was that failure. First, this is to say I admit there is no excuse. It just happens. You set up in a beautiful place, in this case the “Memory Garden”, as it is called, who knows why, in an old adobe in Monterey, and you begin to paint. And, instead of painting like Robert Lewis you paint like Jerry Lewis doing his uncoordinated routine with buck teeth. That’s not a pretty sight. One begins to be self-conscious as, moment by moment, the painting devolves into mud and a visual representation of your incompetence; and you hope no one comes around to tell you what a nice painting it is because you know you will bite their head off even though Lewis’ Laws of Painting states clearly that “When tourists say stupid things avoid the impulse to be rude.” Moments like these are the worst but clearly covered in Lewis’ Laws under “Know When to Scrape”. I scraped and slunk away on my bike, riding back to the studio feeling, at least, like I had made one good decision that day, scraping a bad painting.

"Sunflowers in the Studio"

"Sunflowers in the Studio"

As I thought about getting back to the studio, I could see in my mind those lovely sunflowers, forlorn and lonely though they were. How happy they would be to see me and I them, for they transformed in my mind into a lovely painting. Wasting no time, not allowing myself to think or plan, I began the still life almost before I entered the room. Painting fast, not allowing fussing, looking for fresh, I finished the 20″x24″ oil of the sunflowers in about 2 hours. Redeemed.

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