I was honored to be invited to participate in the 50th Anniversary Plein Air competition at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinburg Ontario. For those that don't know, the McMichael Gallery is the iconic Canadian gallery housing the works of the Group of Seven and Tom Tompson and other notable Canadian artists. It was the Gallery that had a big influence on me a decade ago where the work and the lifestyle of those artists excited my interest in painting.
This was a two day competion with the awards being made on the second day . I was only able to attend the first day - grandson baseball game the second day. So I decided I was not going to submit for the competion - just enjoy the day and meet some Ontario artists.
I set up in view of the Gallery entrace. Paintings had to be on 16x20, 11x14 or 8x10. I arrived early. Strong cast shadows created opportunity for strong light and dark contrast and feeder lines showing direction towards the focal point - the strong building roof line. I made a series of sketches and value thumb nails. I sketched out my plan using pencil on two 11x14 linen boards . Once happy I firmed the sketch using black acrylic marker. I made one verticle and one horizontal. I thought the horizontal was strongest so I used the same approach to draw the sketch on the 16x20 horizontal.
I then used liquid acrylics to create a warm underpainting - making each panel different - allowing happenstance to affect each outcome. I then painted each trying to make each a bit unique.
Total time about two hours. I then poped them in frames ( others seemed suprised that I carried old frames with me when doing plein air) set them on a bench and considered each. Had lunch and spent an hour walking around chatting with other artists.
|The underpainting on the winning 16x20
|The first block in on the 16x20 before final changes
I returned. Took each painting into a shaded area and away from the reference view. I now wanted to know what each required to strengthem them - to make them stand alone as a stronger piece. Most required strengthening the darks - to increase the value contrast at the building roof line. And I was done.
Took all back to the car and got ready to return home. I had no interest in submitting them for the competion. One of the artists and a new friend, Karin Fidew, enouraged me to submit them. So I applied an isolation coat in the back of my van and submitted them. I forgot to photo the final painting and have not returned to the Gallery to do so.
I was amazed and very pleased to learn the next day that my 16x20 was awarded first place. The painting will be framed and hang in the Gallery until November - great honour.
The take home, with acrylics, you are able to work on more than one panel at a time to work out your issues. Take a different format and approach for each. Work on one, put it down to dry, work on the next and so forth. In my experience it has enabled one to stand out. And it really does not add much more time to do and allows you to work out your mistakes and consider other options.