No rest for the wicked

Watercolor painting in the "Art is in the Air" Event in Brevard, NC, June 2021


I returned from my trip to Florida in May feeling pretty rested and relaxed, when suddenly I was caught up in a whirlwind of preparation. I had two major events coming up: the "Art is in the Air" plein air event at the end of June and the Transylvania Art Guild's Summer Showcase in early July. I began to panic because they were literally back-to-back.


My grandmother used to say, "There's no rest for the wicked," — well, then, I guess I must have been very wicked! LOL Because I work in three different mediums, it's sometimes a blessing, and sometimes a dilemma. In this case, dilemma prevailed. Although it might seem like 45 days is plenty of time to get ready, for me it was a tad insane. The plein air event in particular because living here in North Carolina presents different challenges than what I'm used to in California. The environment, the weather, the scenery (and my familiarity with it) all impact my decisions.


The Santa Cruz - Monterey Bay area has perfect weather, no bugs or insects to drive you nuts (thank you Pacific coastal winds). It never gets too hot (bless the fog) and it never gets too cold. It's rarely humid enough to make it hard to breathe. And living there for 34 years gave me an in-depth knowledge for a plethora gorgeous places to paint without even thinking twice. Moreover, California is very welcoming to artists. We can set up just about anywhere in any town or on any beach with our easels and we are welcomed. Especially in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties where the Arts plays such a big role in their economies. To say I was spoiled is the understatement of the century.


It's a totally different ball game here in North Carolina. The weather — summer is supremely hot. And while Brevard is cooler than Southport on the coast, it's still a heck of a lot warmer than I'm used to. (I wilt at any temp over 75 degrees.) Humidity? OMG. Living in Southport for the previous two years, I thought I would die. I rarely stepped outside my air-conditioned home from May through September because I melted just opening my front door. Most of the time the humidity was over 85% as the temps were at a scalding 85 and above. Couple that with the hungriest mosquitos and other biting insects, not to mention alligators and snakes that like to sneak up on you and well, life "en plein air" was daunting to say the least.


At the Southport Plein Air Festival in 2020, I made sure to stay on the shady streets of Southport in the residential area, but even then I needed to park right next to where I would be painting so I didn't have to schlep more than a few feet carrying all of my pastel painting gear. Which was more than usual because of the heat and humidity. I normally paint standing up — not happening here because if you don't drink water constantly and take it easy, passing out from heat exhaustion becomes inevitable.


Pastel painting at the Southport Plein Air Festival May 2020


Brevard was yet another completely different experience. The city has an ordinance that require a permit and permission from the business owner(s) to paint on the sidewalk. (It's even worse in St. Augustine, FL where they consider plein air artists "entertainment.") It causes challenges for us artists because we can't simply pick any view or scene that strikes our fancy. We were lucky to have the Heart of Brevard do the negotiating for us with the city and the business owners.


Sadly businesses here don't yet understand the value the Arts can contribute economically to the area. Consequently we had a limited number of spots, which is why we only had 24 artists participate in total. And we needed to take up as little space as possible to avoid blocking any foot traffic on the sidewalks into store entrances. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and for the most part, it was relatively dry. And while Friday was a balmy 78, Saturday was a blazing 85+ degrees.


Anticipating that the weather would be very hot, and recognizing we had to have a small footprint on the sidewalk meant thinking long and hard about what medium I felt would be the most accommodating for me. Plein air requires that you paint quickly because the light changes so fast. That meant we had to be pretty mobile because we'd paint in one location in the morning, and another in the afternoon. "Nimble" became my mantra.


Once I decided on watercolor (lightest equipment), then I had to choose what size paper, which paper, how many colors on my palette, which palette box and brushes to use, which locations did I want (and back-ups if I didn't get my first pick), which art carrier to use, bring a stool (or not), which easel umbrella, which tripod, which support board. Then came testing the set-ups 'til I got what I wanted for weight and functionality.


Next came framing. The event prospectus said we had to display our works "ready to hang" in the wet paint sale. I typically don't keep an inventory of frames, mats, backing boards, and glass. Most of my collectors prefer to go to their own framer and pick out what they like to match the décor of their space. Now I had to quickly find and purchase a small inventory of frames, etc. for the watercolors. (And I be one picky lady when it comes to this stuff.)

Great! Plein air event figured out. NOW time to turn to the Summer Showcase and decide what paintings to create and frame.

Plein air oil painting at Ataghi Lake, Brevard, NC December 2020

Once again, not easy to decide and do. What framing inventory do I have for pastels? For oils? Do I show seascapes? Landscapes? Still lifes? A mix of genre and medium or not? Finally I settle on a mix of genre in 2 mediums: "Peaceful Morn" - a luscious pastel of the Elkhorn Slough, "Secret Cove" - a sweet vignette in oils of a sloop at anchor at Moss Landing. That left me with a third work to deliver and I was quickly running out of time — I had only 3 days left. Not enough time for oil, so pastel it would be. But what scene? The weather was nuts. Brevard is in the middle of a rainforest -- so in addition to the heat, occasionally we get bouts of short, intense rainstorms. Going outside was out of the question. So I decided to do a pastel version of a watercolor I did in the Plein Air event -- Picnic in the Park. Phew! Just made it. 


And would you believe? I made the news again for the second week in a row. This time it was the front page of the Arts section of the Transylvania Times.


Sometimes being wicked pays off, Gram.