From May 13 to May 15, I took a Plein Air Workshop from Mary Pettis in Taylor’s Falls, MN. I’d noticed Mary’s paintings for several years in Art Collector magazine and googled her to see more. When I found out she lived in Taylor’s Falls, a river town on one of the routes between here and my hometown, Aitkin, I looked to see whether she ever taught workshops and she did! I signed up for her mailing list right away.
I’ve tried Plein Air painting a couple of times in the past, with discouraging results, but know it to be an absolutely necessary step in my development as a painter, … if there’s going to be a development, that is.
In the week before the Workshop, I was cramming Richard Schmid’s Alla Prima, buying wet panel cases and getting acquainted with some different pigments, like Transparent Red Oxide, which is actually a brown. Mary, on right above is encouraging and gives excellent instruction, so I highly recommend taking a workshop. She’s completely charming and virtually every other student in the class began their introduction with, “I love Mary!” I will probably take another, after some practice.
Mary, on right below is encouraging and gives excellent instruction, so I highly recommend taking a workshop. She’s completely charming and virtually every other student in the class began their introduction with, “I love Mary!” I will probably take another, after some practice. The topmost painting in this blog entry is the painting I started on our first afternoon out. We usually went out around 1:00 and quit around 4:00 to regroup in her studio. It took me a lot longer than the others to select a site. I tramped around feeling utterly clueless and disorganized supply-and-equipment-wise. Eventually I settled, wearing a full length, Lands’ End Down Chalet Coat of Mary’s in order not to freeze. The temperature was in the forties.
The painting didn’t look like it does now — I finished it last week from the lilacs in my own yard and painted the cedar and honeysuckle from memory. It didn’t look as bad as I’d thought it might on the day though, so I was encouraged. One of the big differences, besides the changing light and complexity of nature, in plein air painting is using big brushes, plenty of paint and
trying to create a picture “alla prima,” in other words, in one session. I was helped in completing this picture in that it was relatively dry underneath now, so I didn’t have to apply paint so thickly in order not to disturb the underpainting. The second picture down is from Day Two. I was helped at the end by Mary, so I don’t take full credit for it. The artist in the clearing is Cindy McDonnell. We traded paintings at the end of our Workshop and I made out like a bandit. She gave me a framed flower painting on silk.
Mary’s studio is full of paintings of her past work, which she keeps on display because she learned a certain lesson on this one or that one. Walking in gave me the same rush as looking at Russian landscapes — Mary models herself after the Russians — and excited not only my desire to develop her skill, but, I’m sorry to say, a very materialistic desire to own all the paintings myself.