After a pretty wet and stormy spring (so far), our first MPS Howard County plein air session of 2011 at the Brighton Dam Azalea Garden was a real treat. True, the sun disappeared behind the clouds fairly early, making only brief reappearances throughout the remainder of the morning and early afternoon, but the 8 of us – me (pastels), Elena (oils), Brenda (oils), Cathy (oils), Maria (acrylic), Rita (pastels), Elaine (acrylic), and Elizabeth (colored pencil sketching) – were just happy not to get rained on. We spread out across the grounds and scrambled to capture the lovely shadow patterns on the brief occasions the sun popped out. It was a cool morning, but the smell of damp earth and the gorgeous white, pink, and fuchsia blooms were so inspiring. While we were painting, Mr. Ronald Williams, a photographer for the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, came by. He asked if he could photograph us painting (we all said “yes!”), and we’re hoping to get a little free publicity about the Maryland Pastel Society and plein air painting in Howard County…keep your fingers crossed!
In mid-April I took a two-day pastel still life workshop with Rosalie Nadeau, an outstanding pastel artist and MPS member who lives and works in Massachusetts. (See her website: http://www.rosalienadeau.com/rosalienadeau.com/Home.html .) It was a wonderful workshop (although I did confirm, pretty darn conclusively, that I’m a landscape painter, not a still life painter), and my plan for the 2011 plein air season is to conscientiously apply Rosalie’s basic tenets: paint the light, paint the shapes, connect the light and dark shapes. More often than not, I allow myself to get too involved in the drawing and to focus too much on rendering detail, to the detriment of the painting’s freshness and emotional impact. This year I want to stay lose and avoid those mistakes, and following Rosalie’s reminders will, I think, help me do that. Here is the first result: it’s called “Azalea Path.” I began with a thumbnail, as usual, and then a very loose block-in of darks, mid-tones, and lights using the side of a NuPastel. The surface is PastelMat. It’s a good start, I think, and left me feeling better about this new approach than I (frankly) expected to. More practice!
On a last note, I also had a chance to chat with Jane, a retired elementary school art teacher: Jane, if you’re reading this, please join us – it’s loads of fun, there are no judgments, and you learn a LOT about painting!