During a plein air competition this week hosted by The Arts of Great Falls, Virginia, I had the opportunity to work on the grounds of one of the top French restaurants in the Washington, D.C. area, L’Auberge Chez Francois.
Illustration: Photo of “plein air” watercolor as a work-in-progress by Black Elephant Blog author
Braving unseasonably hot days (over 90 degrees!) was made easier by the very attentive staff of this deservedly highly-rated restaurant, who came outside to the patio dining area several times to offer a cold glass of sparkling water or iced tea. This was very thoughtful, and probably outside their job description as their paying customers were inside the air-conditioned restaurant. As it happened, I had my own ice water with me so did not need to accept their offers but their hospitality made what could have been a somewhat uncomfortable setting (due to the heat and occasional biting bugs) more pleasant.
The competition continues (and ends) today but a day already in this heat has left me content to submit only this one watercolor now on sale at the sponsors’ art gallery. (There is something satisfying about going straight from the field to a gallery even if it is not a juried exhibition!)
Illustration: Watercolor as a work-in-progress by Black Elephant Blog author
This experience is yet another reminder that ‘plein air’ is dominated by oil painters, it seems. The history of watercolor’s admission into the ranks of accepted mediums for serious art is a fascinating one on which I started a blog post some months ago, and may try to finish soon. These on-site ventures out into the world of artists (and gracious restaurant staff) are fun tests of one’s ability to frame and execute a concept quickly. My approach was to go out one day and scout the place for a scene, and then to sketch it in pencil. The following day I set aside three hours to do the watercolor. My hope was that the white tablecloths of the scene would provide a brighter contrast; the end result was less effective in this regard than I wanted, but dissatisfaction can be a powerful motivator. In any case, I popped it into a frame and the sponsors now have it on display. How fun! And I will be happy to take it home again, if it doesn’t sell, as a memory of this experience.