Plein Air Stories
Since I got out to plein air paint last week, it got me thinking about my history with plein air painting and some of the crazy stuff about my humble beginnings thereof. Back in the day, I was the “Sanford and Son” of location painting. This was long before the fad showed up in Florida, with fancy equipment and everybody and his cousin calling themselves plein air painters. There were no paint outs then and no publicity. In fact I had never heard of the term plein air and I still think it is pretty hoity toity. I called it painting outside.
It used to take me all day to load everything up in my old pick up truck. I had never heard of French easels or pochade boxes. I used an aluminum Stanrite easel from my studio. Not one of the little field easels, it was a regular studio easel. I had a folding card table, boxes of stuff and just about every paint I could bring. It was like moving into a new studio each time I decided to go out. I then met my painting pal David Johnson who would meet me out on location just to laugh, I swear. He had an old Julian easel and a back pack. We would plein air paint about once a month together. To make matters worse, I would take huge canvases out to paint, making awful paintings. I did not know that alla prima work would be more successful in a small format. Once I did a hideous 30×40 inch painting in about four hours. I once drove over a hundred miles to paint and discovered I had left my paints at home.
My first actual formal paint out experience was in Ozello Florida. I had been painting on location for a few years. I wanted to know if there was anyone besides David and myself who painted outside in Florida. I went to an artist forum online and put out a call to artists to met me in Ozello ( Sleepy, remote fishing village)if they wanted to paint. I arrived about 5 AM and discovered that the wind was blowing about 40 miles per hour. I had a huge canvas to paint and had to tie everything down with bungee cords and duct tape. In all, we had 24 people from Pensacola to the Miami area who showed up for the day. We painted all morning and then broke for lunch at a local seafood restaurant. It was a great fun and a wonderful experience I will never forget. That was the beginning of Plein Air Florida, the state organization for plein air painters. David and I dreamed it up, put it together and made it happen. It was something I am very proud of and I know he is too.
I don’t have anything to do with organized plein air anymore. At one time, I was a consultant for just about every paint out that was started in Florida. In those days the paint outs were great fun and the artists were treated very well. Artists were housed and fed with no fees or expenses other than gas money. They were all invitational in those days and the art quality was very high. I was proud to be a part of those events.
Now, artists are charged application fees, etc and are not provided housing or meals at many of these events. No thanks. I don’t pay to play other than commission fees on sales. I find that painting on my own time, when and where I wish to paint outside is much more satisfying. These days I use a paint box, tripod, a bottle of water and hat to paint. The box holds my canvas, 6 tubes of paint, solvent and three or four brushes for my plein air excursions. I have have simplified my process considerably, making it a calm, enjoyable experience.
This recipe is from my catering days. it is a beautiful bread and wonderful for dainty cream cheese sandwiches.
Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
four cups flour
1 tsp salt
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 C sugar or sugar substitute for baking
1 can cherry pie filling
2 T oil
Combine wet and dry ingredients. Don’t over mix. if more liquid is needed, add a 1/4-1/2 C milk
Divide into pans and bake until a toothpick or straw comes out clean. Yummy bread. My family loves it. It makes a particularly good chicken salad sandwich too. Refrigerate before slicing and store refrigerated.