Monday, July 27, 2009

War Eagle Paint-Out, another Learning Experience...

Last Wednesday I painted with the PAPO (Plein Air Painters of the Ozarks) at War Eagle Mill. It was a gorgeous day, a cool front had rolled in and the skies were a crisp cerulean blue. The sounds of the falls and waterwheel were refreshing on a mid-summer's day!

The photo above shows my viewpoint. This is the exact spot from where I viewed the mill some 10 years ago and vowed to some day capture it from that bank along War Eagle Creek. I just thought it would make a great spot to paint from, so it was a no-brainer for me upon my arrival to just go ahead and set up there.

As I began my climb over the fallen trunk of a huge tree that had succumbed either to the ice storm (most likely, as it looked recently fallen) or a flash flood, my eyes zoomed in on what I felt sure to be poison ivy creeping across the very spot I needed to cross over. Great. A fellow painter was saying to me as I spied it, "there's a trail that goes around if you don't want to climb over that big trunk." Well, I was anxious to get set up, as I was already running late in getting to the site, so I decided to take my chances. However, I made a point to take the short trail around the suspicious ivy when I returned to my car that day. Needless to say, now I know that I can positively I.D. poison ivy, as I've broken out precisely where it brushed against my hand and ankle. Anyway, back to the fun part...

The below photo shows what I decided to depict in my painting:

It was a beautiful scene I thought, but my painting was pathetic. I need so much practice when it comes to plein air painting (painting period actually). But hey, there are no failures, just learning experiences, right? That is what I tell myself every time I paint out, and believe me, I say it a lot. My perspective on the mill house was off (need to sketch buildings more), my colors were drab, or dead, as Joseph Zbukvic describes it. It was also too high key- not enough tonal range (although I ran out of time before putting in all my 'darks', and had planned to put those in at the studio). However, I made some copies of my photos and plan to do some studies, so when I return maybe these things will have been corrected in my mind and on paper to save time.

As I was painting, I couldn't get over how many people and tourists were arriving at War Eagle Mill on a Wednesday morning. I thought it would be pretty much just us, the painters, but people were coming by the carloads, along with a couple of bikers, just during the couple of hours I was there. It looked like families which included generations - grandparents, kids, and even great grandchildren. The poor guys running 'The Bean Palace' upstairs in the Mill were a bit overwhelmed during lunch. But things settled down after a few minutes and everyone got their plate. I ordered a chef salad and was pleased to see that it wasn't just 'iceberg lettuce' but instead select dark green leaf lettuces, which I enjoyed (picky about my salads!). I mentioned to a painter that I was surprised to see so many folks there during the middle of the week and he asked me if I had seen 'War Eagle, Arkansas' the movie. I said, "No," but after he described it to me, it seemed vaguely familiar. Another said, "That probably explains all the tourists." I hear the movie is getting good reviews.  War Eagle Mill is a beautiful place. If you're ever in the area, you really should check it out.

Even though my painting was not a 'keeper', I enjoyed every minute of it, and that's what it's all about for me, the learning experience and ultimately, the experience itself of painting outdoors. While painting, there's suddenly that realization that comes over me of being in the moment of painting outdoors. The same feeling that I have experienced all my life when in nature. Experiencing nature while painting adds a whole other dimension to painting for me. And even though it's often frustrating, I love the challenge watercolor offers in plein air and honestly, I do learn a lot with every painting, as I'm sure you do too. It's all part of the creative process, don't you think? It would be a huge mistake to think I didn't learn a thing from that experience, which is something I've heard people say before. Well, I'll bet if they really sat down and thought about it, they would find a number of things they DID learn from that experience!

I'm getting a small amount of clay and a new kiln shelf today from Flint Hills, so I really need to get back soon to working with my pottery. Oh, and photos to archive(so what else is new?). 'Til next time, keep on creating and remember, NO FAILURES, just learning experiences...