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May 24, 2012

Back from the 2012 Carmel Art Festival...

Well, the Carmel Art Festival was a lot of fun, a lot of work, and a lot of stress in a little time. As I mentioned in my last post, the competition is a short-fire event. Essentially, you only have two days to work and if the weather goes south, or you have a painting turn into a train wreck, it can be hard to recover.

I had a few paintings crash and burn this week. (Ha!)

But here's one that I ended up liking a lot:

"The Old Veteran, Holding Fast" Point Lobos, CA
24 x 20 inches | oil on canvas

The Old Veteran is an ancient cypress tree clinging to the edge of a cliff above a rocky cove in the middle of Point Lobos. If you want to find it look for the trail marked – you guessed it – "The Old Veteran Trail" It is seldom painted by artists due to its complexity. I want to go back and work it again.

24 x 20 inches is a big painting to execute en plein air. Or at least it is for me. I started it Thursday morning when the fog was hanging about making everything cold, soft and gray. Cold, soft, and gray can be a hard sell in California and I didn't drive 700 miles south to paint what I already have at home, so I tried to wrap things up and move on to something else about noontime. But as I tore down the clouds released and light hit the grass behind the tree. Man, I really needed to move on but hey, what are you going to do when nature hands you something like that? So I painted it again on top of itself. I ended up working this puppy from 9:00 in the morning until almost 4:00 in the afternoon. Not a good idea when you are in the throes of a competition. But again, hey, what are you going to do. Walk away?

I thought it could be in the top three so I kept plugging away at it. Or away poking at it. The finish turned out to be popular among my fellow artists, and the public. (That's me receiving an Honorable Mention from  Gil Dellinger, the judge and president of PAPA. Gives you an idea of the size of my painting.) A Honorable Mention is okay. Last year I set the bar a little high for myself. (Ha!) You never know what the judge will pick so the best approach is to  paint what you want to paint, then frame and hang it. Anything else will drive you crazy. I just need to remember that investing seven hours into a single painting during a two-day competition may not be the best strategy. 
Besides, I can always come back and put more time into something if I feel the need.


As for the fun, there was the usual suspects in town. My fellow competition buddies Larry Moore, Hai-Ou, Don Segen, and my new plein air friends Laurie and Lynn, and even John Burton, and Jesse Powell came out to paint for the heck of it. We had a nice crew.

I love Carmel and its environs. The town itself grows a little more twee each year with all the Thomas Kinkade cottage-like architecture and hobbitty warrens, but it's always fun to come back to. There is also the Jack London Pub when it is time for a drink. If you ever come to this festival, and it is after hours, and you want to find an artist, start there.

Sugar Beach, Carmel CA
12 x 16 inches | oil on canvas on panel
2 hour QuickDraw

Because I received a Honorable Mention on Saturday I qualified for the Sunday morning QuickDraw. So early in the morning I grabbed a cup of coffee and drove down to the bottom of Ocean Avenue to scout some trees on the north side of the beach. A few yards away from where Paul Kratter had also set up. Like minds, I guess. When he and I ran the quickdraw out we raced back to park for the silent auction. Along the way Paul and I agreed to swap our paintings if neither sold. Well, we didn't have to worry about that. Both sold to the same buyer so Paul and I will be hanging next to each other instead. Nice, Paul. You had a lovely painting of Monterey pines. So did I. Happy both sold. But I still want one of your paintings. Deal?

Oh, I was stunned by my QuickDraw silent auction price. Usually folks who participate in  silent auctions are looking for a deal. On the level of a spa treatment package or mixed wine basket.  But not in Carmel. I received the highest ever bid for my QuickDraw effort. Apparently people are now paying attention down there. Maybe I shouldn't invest an entire day in a single painting anymore. (grin)

Yesterday I drove home happy. Tired, but happy. 

Into the rain again...


If you would like to know about my August Essential Plein Air Techniques workshop, being offered for its third year, click here.

Artists are already registering so don't delay if you want to join the fun! Learn to paint en plein air with a knowledgeable and respectful teacher. Make new friends while you do it. Painting en plein air may not be as difficult as rocket science or brain surgery, but there are some things you should know if you want to excel at it!

8 reader comments:

Michael Chesley Johnson, Artist / Writer said...

That's a really beautiful painting, Thomas. I was in Carmel back in November and saw that same tree and thought, "That's complicated!" But you did it perfectly.

Sergio Lopez said...

Yea your painting of the Old Veteran impressed the hell out of all of us! Even though I knew you spent a while on the painting, 7 hours is still super-quick to finish a painting of that size.

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

Thank you Michael and Sergio.

No matter how things turned out the Old Veteran was a fun thing to paint and I want to do it again on a 24 x 24 inch canvas. I think square would be a better format for the tree. But maybe not under the pressure of a two-day competition.

I thought Gil's picks were appropriate. Mian Situ did a solid painting of the Dragon Teeth and Paul Kratter's painting of a grove of eucalyptus and a farm house was just as good. I don't remember who got third but I assume it was just as well-deserved.

That's the thing about the Carmel Art Festival. There can be serious money involved but it ain't a race. We painters all set out to do the voodoo we do in our own way so investing too energy in second-guessing what the judge may pick becomes a fool's errand. Besides, I've been on the judging side of it too. And you know what they say about that, right?

"When you are the judge you haven't a friend in the room." (Ha!)

You just show up at your next event and put your best effort up on the wall again.

Sergio, I'll see you in LGPA, and I also hope to see you up in the Columbia Gorge this August.

Michael, We'll see you somewhere soon. I want to get down to the Texas area at some point.


Brenda Boylan said...

Dang Thomas! That Old Veteran tree is a beauty. I'm glad you stuck it out. Huge it is for a Plein air piece no doubt. Also, glad to hear it was successful for you, especially having the high bidding for your work. Hopefully this will continue for the rest of the season.
Looking forward to LGPA.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing your story of success, Thomas! Your old veteran piece is stellar and I'm glad you had the courage to do a large format piece of a complex subject. Simply stellar!

Do you mind telling how the quick draw works? How much time do you get? Does that include time for search and survey?

I think I live vicariously through you!


I've been to Carmel twice. So beautiful. Sometimes I wish I had an ancestor who would have been a part of the so cal land grab, but alas it was not meant to be. So we visit and are grateful for CA's beauty none the less!

Thanks for sharing. Great work, Thomas! You've done yourself proud!

Celeste Bergin said...

Great report from the "front lines" Thomas. I love that painting as well as your quick draw. Congratulations on everything. Say your strategy was iffy all you want, but that big gorgeous plein air painting is proof that you did the "right" thing. It is fantastic!

Thomas Jefferson Kitts said...

thanks, Celeste!

Arty Quin said...

Agree with all above ... gorgeous paintings, Thomas! Thanks for sharing your experience!