August 28, 2021

Our sketching group gathered again last Sunday. We traveled to Oceanside, via Zoom, for some “virtual” sketching. For this event we rendered some of the same places that others had seen in person for the Oceanside 2021 Plein Air Festival (July 24 to July 31). Artists had been invited to wander about the city (real time), painting what they saw on the spot. Then, if you wanted, you could enter your painting into a juried competition. Our host for the virtual trip didn’t mention anything of the awards that were given out. I just assumed she didn’t enter her paintings. (And the two she showed us were lovely and worthy of an award as far as I was concerned.) It was a fun morning of sketching, as I had never actually been to Oceanside. Over the years I’ve driven past it many times as I zoomed along the 5 on my way to San Diego. And even though it’s a beach town, we didn’t sketch very near the water. In fact, to look at the art you see here, you might not even guess the Pacific Ocean was close by. As a result, there wasn’t much of a discussion of how to render ocean waves. Instead, we talked about how to impose some nice perspective when quickly sketching the quaint little Oceanside houses. I think my favorite sketch, of the two, is the Top Gun house. I already had a piece of watercolor paper that I had added a wash of gold and blue. I thought it looked nice as a background—with the ink lines outlining the tiny Victorian. (I hadn’t really intended the gold to attach itself to the house in that way—it reminded me a little of “rising damp.”) You may, or may not, have guessed that the Top Gun House was in the movie “Top Gun.” I haven’t actually watched the movie, but understand there is a scene with Tom Cruise where the house figures prominently. I guess he rides up to this very house on a motor cycle. (Yup! This is SoCal and such things happen around here all the time.) It was fun to explore Oceanside, just a bit–a town I had never visited. Even One CA Girl can be a CA tourist for a day.

Even though I enjoyed my morning of sketching in Oceanside, I think the more interesting story, for me, involves my participation in a Plein Air competition some years ago. However, it was not part of a Plein Air Art Festival. It happened at the Nevada County Fair as a fair entry. Painters were invited to meet at a specific day and time during the actual fair. Participants were to do a Plein Air painting on site and then come back after 2 or 3 hours and have the art judged. (I can’t remember if we painted for 2 or 3 hours…) When my son was little, we used to enter lots of different categories under the pines at the Nevada County Fair. One year he won a ribbon for his Troll Doll Collection. Another year it was Legos. Most years we also entered the ugly cake contest. That particular spring I was surprised to see the Plein Air art challenge and decided to enter the competition. As it turns out I was one of only 3 people who showed up for the event. Once the timer started, the other two immediately went into the midway area and began painting. As I am not a fan of carnival rides I went to the animal barn. I sat under the shade of a couple huge pine trees and began sketching a young lady who was getting her bull ready to show. I had never done a Plein Air sketch that involved a specific “time” element. I remember wondering how I would do. But I soon got into my “groove” and enjoyed capturing the moment with my watercolors, Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore Illustration board. An artist friend and her daughter came by a couple times to check in and encourage my progress. But as the time came for us to finish, I realized I wasn’t going to be done. I had spent too much time on the pine tree in the foreground. I hadn’t resolved the greenery in the background or the ground, nor had I added highlights to the bull. And there was a whole section with a calf and 4Her that wasn’t done. (Yes, I hadn’t had time to add another person.) Maybe if I had cut off the calf without a handler with my matt knife…? Maybe? I decided I would go back to our meeting spot, and confess that I hadn’t completed the art piece in the appointed time. And therefore, I would not be but not be competing. I figured the other ladies could duke it out for 1st and 2nd place, while I just stood back and watched. But when I got back to our spot and told them I wasn’t going to share, one of the women got really mad. I reiterated several times that I hadn’t finished and she just got madder and madder. Of course, if I had shown my art I would have for sure gotten third place, with them at 1 and 2. I didn’t give in. There were only two ribbons awarded for Plein Air painting art at the fair that year. I actually started to think it was kind of funny because the woman who got first place (the one making a stink) clearly wanted to beat out 2 others. Also, the woman who got second told me on the “down low” that the crabby art bully was often like that. (I guess they both belonged to the same art group in the area.) BTW, I remember looking to see if there was a Plein Air event at the Nevada County Fair the following year. Nothing like it was listed in the catalog. Surprise, surprise! Enough said…

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