"The Brook"- A plein air adventure in Bryan Park

Last week I took another early morning stab at painting in Bryan Park. Since I had already done a couple of plein air paintings at the park of Young's Pond, (which you can see here and here) I decided this time to tackle the shady brook that feeds it:

  "The Brook" Oil on birch panel, 12x9" ©Jennifer Young

"The Brook" Oil on birch panel, 12x9" ©Jennifer Young

Even though everything seemed to be lining up for me when I launched into this painting, I did have a couple of unanticipated challenges. At the time I was dealing with "umbrella issues", so after hassling with it for about 10 minutes to no avail, I gave up and just tried to position myself so that my painting and palette would be shaded from the sun. Sometimes it's hard to anticipate this, but I keep a compass handy for that reason, and I figured I would have at least an hour before the sun would overtake me.

But then there was "Billy" (not his real name.) Let me preface by saying that Billy was an incredibly kind and gentle soul, and exceedingly complimentary. But Billy liked to chat. A lot. And ask lots of questions. I love meeting people, and I am always blown away by how lovely people are when I'm out painting, complimenting my work as they stop briefly to take a look. But I find it pretty much impossible to chat for extended periods and stay "in the zone" when I am painting.

At the same time,  I have yet to figure out how to express this to someone without feeling like I am being a big jerk. My husband's advice is matter-of-fact- "Tell them you are W-O-R-K-I-N-G." This seems so simple and rational until I am in a real life situation. I guess I just hate to be rude, and it feels so ungracious when someone is being so genuinely enthusiastic. But really, Dave's right. This is my work, and it's up to me to respect it and value my time, regardless of whether any one else thinks to do so.

As it was, I was a total wimp and did not tell him anything close to that--at most, merely *hinting* that, "Well, ahem! I'd better get to this thing and focus, ha-ha!" (which apparently was a bit too subtle for dear Bill). The end result was that it took me far longer than I wanted to take, and all too quickly I lost my beautiful shade.

When I got back to the studio, I had the inevitable but still unpleasant surprise of seeing a resulting painting far darker than I thought it was when I was on site, due to the sun's glare (what I call "retina burn"). I did about 20 minutes of rework from memory to lighten it up in places, and I think I've still managed to maintain the feeling of the light and the place.

The odd thing is that even though I seem more often than not to have to deal with the pitfalls (and pratfalls) of painting on location, there is still something about it that leaves some part of me feeling exhilarated. There's a clarity to it; a feeling of losing myself and being in fully the moment, even alongside the sunburn and bugs and chatterboxes. So I'll return. And hopefully next time I do so it will be with a working umbrella AND a backbone!  ;-)