Sunday, March 20, 2011

Spring is HERE!

Oh, how I woke up late for painting Saturday morning! We meet at 8:00 a.m. at a local nature center's parking lot. I had too much fun the previous night and was so slow to wake up! So, I missed the usual Saturday morning greetings among the painters. We are a motley lot - all dressed in our painting clothes and outdoor gear. We stand amid the birders who are unloading their cameras and binoculars from their cars, and clog the parking area with tight knots of people drinking coffee, discussing art, figuring out where to go, laughing and hugging hello to friends we've missed.

It was good to see Bob Perrish, Keith, Mike, Hung, Paul, Steve, Brant, Nancy, Tammy and company when we got to our destination. There was an old collection of barns, silos and rusting equipment on a few hundred acres. The farmhouse was definitely lived-in, and looked a little run down. We parked in the lot next door that belonged to some industrial-park building. We proceeded to set up our easels, careful not to trespass. I went to the farmhouse door and knocked loudly. I was hoping to get permission to step onto the property for a better vantage point of the outbuildings.

A young man eventually came to the door, yelling at the two or three dogs indoors to get back. I felt bad! It was not even nine in the morning. I expected to have my ass kicked off the porch. Instead, he was thrilled to see us and allowed us to take photos and roam the property. So much for our artistic opinion, that although the buildings were perfect, there was probably a meth lab in the bath tub or a barn somewhere! It was that run-down and sad looking - miles from any other homes - surrounded by industrial parks.

The young man came outdoors an hour or so later, and gave the history of the farm. It is the Spencer family farm. One of the first settlers in the area. The first barn was built in the 1830's. The land they owned stretched for hundreds of acres. They had dairy cows in pasture, and a few hundred acres actively tilled and worked. Hay, corn, wheat, oats. It was amazing, and put the seeming tiredness in perspective. So many of the acres had been sold off for industrial use, with fringe acreage sold for upscale neighborhoods or "gentlemen's" or hobby farms (anything 5 acres or more). We were recording the last of the family's holdings - the original homestead and acreage left. What would come of the farmhouse when the young man became weary of the upkeep and burden? The local historical society had no money to purchase the farm - as they did the farm up the road. So, it was likely to be torn down. It would vanish under the weight of progress like so many others.

A great shame! Almost 200 years of dedicated ownership from another era - gone forever! We painted some great plein air this day. Hopefully, we did some honor to the history by artistically recording it. The last time we recorded such a lovely farm on canvas, the barn blew down two weeks later. One of the painters joked that we don't have a good track record for assisting in preservation, as our barn subjects keep getting paved for parking lots, or blown over in storms. It's true! We've lost a lot of great panoramas. Others joked that perhaps our landscapes would become a recording of industrial parks. They may be right! Even in this economy, history falls prey to progress.

We finish and go to our usual watering-eating stop and bring our paintings indoors for group critique and comments. Wow! Paul and Hung did a wonderful job! So did Steve. Bob and Mike are old pros, and it was great to see their individual renderings of the same subject, painted from the same point of view. Basically, we stood in a swampy depression we hoped was still frozen. It wasn't, as Bob noted. He soon had a muddy puddle at his feet. He said he was just a "wet one" and must've not noticed he created a puddle at his feet. We laughed, knowing that finding a place to relieve our bladders while out in the field can be a challenge. I handed him some Wet Wipes from my backpack. Talk of deer camp, toilet paper in the woods, questions as to how long it takes those biodegradable wipes to disappear from the shrubs...the places an artist's mind will go while struggling with perspectives,  light and shadow! Oh my!

Wish I could show everyone the painting I did. It turned out really good. But, it sold - still wet - at the bar that day. Twenty bucks and a music CD of the guy's band was payment. One of the artists stated she gets at least $200 for her works (and she does). I don't care. It's gone from my studio floor. I am moving soon enough. It's one less in the "private collection of the artist" - meaning it will gather dust until I re-gesso it for another shot at greatness. I don't have to haul it around, or find a place to keep yet another panel. And it paid for my lunch.

I went out to my car, where a few of us were lingering saying goodbye. Where is your painting, Melanie? I sold it, I said. The guy paid MILLIONS for it! They laughed. But wait! There's more! I got this awesome music CD from his band, too. They all laugh harder. For the record, it was an awful CD. My daughter and I giggled while listening. Poorly mixed. Good effort, knowing what goes into being in a band. I felt sorry for it. It is now in my "private collection" of music CDs. Sigh!

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