Year in Review, Part I: New Harmony

I have been embarrassingly slow to update this blog (apologies!). It certainly wasn't because nothing happened in 2014...last year was a great year for me in terms of artistic growth, new experiences, and new friendships.

Last year brought a couple of firsts. In April, an advertisement for a plein air event caught my eye because it was relatively close to where I live. The event was the Hoosier Salon's "First Brush of Spring" in New Harmony, IN. The only issue was that it started the next day—but I registered, booked a hotel room in a nearby town (New Harmony's B&Bs were already full), and drove to the Indiana the next day with paints in tow. I didn't know what to expect since I'd never taken part in a multi-day plein air event before.

As it turned out, I loved it. I think I'd always conceptualized painting as a somewhat solitary thing. When I'm painting in my studio, I'm usually alone—I listen to audiobooks, podcasts, or music so things don't get too quiet. And I've taken paints outdoors on many occasions, but again, I always painted by myself. (I can attribute some of this to my background as a mostly self-taught artist...I imagine most art students have a group of fellow painters they can call upon for paintouts!) Painting alongside large groups of other artists in New Harmony was such a joy. I learned a great deal from seeing how other artists approached the same scenes I was painting; I got some good tips on outdoor painting supplies, too. I quickly realized I needed a new easel...whenever the wind blew, I had to hold down my $29 metal one with my left hand and balance my palette on my left forearm...which left me just inches from the painting. (This is a problem since it's imperative to stand back from a painting regularly to check the composition and values.) Finally John Lasater, a phenomenal artist from Siloam Springs, AR, took pity on me and improved my setup a bit by weighting down the easel with a loaded backpack:

 Painting in progress. Note the backpack hanging on the easel to act as a counterweight so it didn't blow over....

Painting in progress. Note the backpack hanging on the easel to act as a counterweight so it didn't blow over....

Each night, many of the artists in town gathered at one of New Harmony's three pubs. And they didn't just talk shop! My favorite memory of the week was probably the sight of Quang Ho, Rick Wilson, and a few other musically-minded painters undertaking a spontaneous jam session.

 Rick Wilson (left) and Quang Ho (right) break out their guitars. I didn't meet the artist in the center, but he was a fantastic mandolin player!

Rick Wilson (left) and Quang Ho (right) break out their guitars. I didn't meet the artist in the center, but he was a fantastic mandolin player!

New Harmony proved to be a wonderful introduction to plein air events for me. It certainly left me excited to do more festivals and meet more artists! Here's my collection of paintings from the three days I spent in New Harmony: