Tuesday, July 21, 2015


It was another first for me to join an even bigger plein air painting competition. This was just what I needed to get me to go outdoors and paint, otherwise, I'd be indoors...painting the outdoors. I learned quite a lot from painting outside. It allowed me to see more than what a picture limits me to. I was forced to stick with it until the very end, so concentration was at it's highest.  I discovered that  my competitors weren't the other artists. I had a different competition of my own actually. It was a battle between my understanding of watercolors and the environment. The external factors (heat, humidity, wind, dirt, noise) can affect drying time, water to pigment ratio and really shake things up with how I would normally go about my painting process.   I had to work at a whole different pace and make crucial decisions along the way, be confident with them and then just do it. It was as if the surroundings said:  "So you think you can paint? Let's shake things up a bit!"

This is my location along Elliot Street. We had a tent to keep us in the shade and it was possible to share the same tent with other artists who chose that location as well. I had very little choices if I stayed inside the tent. 

This was my view from the tent. The Dragon Fly Gallery. Allan, the owner, reminded me of a wrestler, almost like Jake the Snake Roberts, his long gray hair and a handlebar mustache. But he was a kind soul. He opened his doors to me an any other artist who might need to use a washroom. They opened the two red gates and brought out some of their cool stuff, rustic novelties and collectibles like wooden chests, cement painted birds, old vintage cans, bottles, wine crates etc. for us to paint. It was like a gigantic still life painting to do, however, as you can see in the picture, it was all covered in shade. 

I decided to go outside the tent and made sure that it was within the rules. I could technically go outside the tent but stay within 20 feet from the tent and this is what I saw. There was a restaurant called Sharkey's to the right which is not seen in this picture and a small arrangement of landscaped rocks just a few feet from where I was standing. Others were looking at this too. One of the organizers mentioned that this will be torn down soon and rebuilt into a more structurally sound facility with the same materials. It will become an art studio for children to learn arts and crafts. Now I have a good reason to make this my subject. I didn't like how neglected it looked, with the foliage in the front. I thought of changing that to make it more appealing and more inviting. So I thought of  "borrowing" other elements I saw that would look more interesting and colorful in place of the leaves.  

This building was just a few feet away from the barn. I borrowed the raised platforms with potted plants and flowers, the tree and the black posts. I incorporated that as the front of the barn and did a quick sketch to see how it all fit together.

The event was well organized and seamless. We had a contact person and number to call if we had any questions,  a bottle of water was provided by the volunteers, each of them were well informed and all answered questions well, our lanyards had our designated number, a lunch voucher, a price card to put the painting up for sale after, a raffle ticket and a thin plastic that held pencil led and an eraser. 

There were lots of people who came by to show their support and I received a variety of positive feedback from volunteers of the event, the Ladner community and the public. One gentleman said that he was told by the others to check out "the guy painting at the end of the street". That was very encouraging to hear. 
Here's a close up of the barn. I didn't have much space to put my water container and used the top of the fire hydrant as a base. My container was knocked by 3 times! Once by me, and twice by other spectators. They were so kind to refill it for me. One gentleman asked if I wanted water to drink and had his bottled water ready to be given. I politely declined as I came prepared with 3 that he didn't see.

When all was said and done, all entries were framed and hung in the Ladner Community Center gymnasium, for sale. (A huge thanks to Lily for lending me her frame. She had two extra ones and made sure to give me the one that looked best with my painting. I didn't realize I had to bring my own.) I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around. I didn't recognize the gentleman, but he asked me: "Where's your painting?" I pointed to the corner where my painting was hanging and he and his wife made their way there. He came back to me after and said that he really liked my painting and thought that the colors and style was unique and beautiful. He also mentioned that I was the only one who painted in the street number. I told him the story that I heard from other people which is why the number had to be there. It's a detail that provided character to the building and a tribute to the historic value it represented. 

I didn't win any prize, but this felt even better!


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