Terry Miura • Studio Notes

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Plein Air Paintings from Paso Robles

A Story Not Yet Written, 12 x 9 inches, oil on linen

A few weeks ago, I participated in the annual Paso Artsfest, a big celebration of the arts in the beautiful Paso Robles area of California. Some twenty artists were invited to paint in Paso Robles and its surrounding areas (and boy, there is so much to paint!) , and show our efforts at the end of the week.

I had a great time painting and hanging out with some of my friends who were also in the event. I used to get so stressed out doing these plein air events. Over the years I've done many, and have learned to just relax and enjoy it. Nowadays it's like a working vacation with a bunch of friends who speak the same language - my tribesmen. (and women) What's not to love?

OK so I did a handful of paintings in two and a half days. On the first morning, I woke up and noticed that it was very gray outside. Paso Robles is not far from the coast, so the foggy mornings are not surprising. Still, I was thinking of painting sunny views so I had to restrategize.  I like painting overcast landscapes too, but I was so out of practice that I felt like I needed something not so complicated. For me, direct light is somewhat easier than diffused light when I'm feeling rusty.

With a cup of tea in my hand I walked around town and found a cool little shop window display; A pretty dress lit up by halogen lights surrounded by a few colorful objects. It's basically a still life, right?  I set up immediately and painted it. It was a great subject for a warm up because nothing moved and the light was unchanging.

Later that day, I attempted to paint an old truck at an old radiator repair shop that I saw in town. This one didn't turn out so well - my drawing was sloppy, and the midday light was so flat and harsh, I couldn't see any subtle colors. Normally I would switch gears and start making up my own color schemes, but I was kind of stuck on painting it "as is", just to prove to myself that I can. Well, I couldn't. So I gave up after an hour and a half. I didn't wipe it though. I thought I could work on it later in the studio and come away with an OK painting. I'll post it when I get around to it.

Distant Thunder, 9 x 12 inches, oil on linen

I've learned to pace myself at these kinds of events. Plenty of break time is needed in between painting sessions to recharge the ol' mojo, or I just can't focus. So a burger, ice tea (no beer or wine until the work is done for the day!) and a nap before the third painting. I did notice the day before, when I was driving down from Sacramento, that there was this spectacular cloudscape in the afternoon toward the Eastern skies and I had hoped it would materialize again for me to paint. Truth be told, if it didn't happen, I was going to make it up anyway because it was just so beautiful.

Luckily, the clouds came back. I found a nice vantage point just outside of town on a  side of a dirt road, and painted those clouds. I could hear rumblings of distant thunder, and even lightning a couple of times as I painted. At one point it started raining so I just quickly pulled my easel under the back hatch of my SUV and continued to work.  I think it came out rather well.

Mission San Miguel, 9 x 12 inches, oil on linen

The next morning was gray too. If the previous day was any indication, I figured it would clear up by late morning. I drove out to Mission San Miguel, and started my painting. Just getting the drawing in and a bit of grisaille, anticipating the shadow patterns. I thought I'd get it all set up and go to colors once the sun came out. 

Well the block in didn't take long and the sun was not even close to coming out, so I turned my easel around and started another block in, of the view facing away from the Mission;

The Far Side of the Tracks, 12 x 12 inches, oil on linen

And when the sun finally came out, I got first the Mission painting done, and then after lunch, painted The Far Side of the Tracks.

With the fog burning off and the blue skies intensifying incrementally, this was a very different sky scape from the last one. With this one, I wanted to get the feel of the hot, dry and dusty rural California landscape. I didn't change much of anything on this one - the barren hills are not much to look at, but it is what it is.

Wanderlust, 12 x 16 inches, oil on linen

And this is the last of the bunch. I set up on River Road in San Miguel, and painted in full sun, and considerable wind. Not the most comfortable of conditions, but hey, that's the nature of this game, no? The big clouds were back again, and I tried it one more time. I can't get enough of these cloudscapes! The photo shows more saturated purples than the actual painting - I'll try and get a better photo on my next shoot day.

It was a fun week hanging out with friends and painting, and even though the sales were less than ideal, I enjoyed it nonetheless. My only regret is that I didn't have time to go wine-tasting. There are some fantastic Pinot Noirs made in Paso Robles that I wanted to try, but not this time. May be I'll just take a painting trip down there on my own time, and do a little tasting then...