Taratories Blog

Plein Air Painting in Peninsula

Ever since I have lived in Akron, I have wanted to do the local Plein Air painting completion in the neighboring town of Peninsula.  Every other year it didn't seem to fit in with my schedule, but this year there was time to squeeze some outdoor painting in.  "Plein Air" is from the French expression, "in the open air."  I am not a landscape painter by any means, but I do love a good challenge.  I really like to push myself into new territories every once in a while because it forces me to grow and learn and to get out of my comfort zone.  

I woke up early and headed over to the Peninsula Art Academy where we were to bring our canvases to get stamped and get a map of the area.  I drove around for about a half an hour to find a good location. First I started off in town, but there were already artists situated on the side of the street in what I thought were good locations, and I didn't want to intrude into their spaces.  I was happy though, because I had envisioned myself by a lake somewhere in peace and quiet where I would not be disturbed.  Eventually I found that picturesque lake I was hoping for at Kendall Lake.  All that was there was a few fishermen on the dock so I figured I wouldn't be bothered there. 

I found an area that had a great view of the water and I started unloading my stuff.  It was muddy, but I was prepared with my waterproof hiking boots so I didn't mind at all.  As I started to set everything up I thought to myself, "what in the heck am I doing?  I have a million other things I could be doing right now and here I am standing in the mud setting up an easel."  I pushed that thought aside and indulged in the moment.  Doing things that are not practical are sometimes necessary for the soul.

I began painting.  I absolutely loved being in nature and hearing the bullfrogs and watching the red winged black birds fly around me.  It felt like I just pushed pause on life and was able to breath clearly.  It was a little cool, but sunny, so pleasant.  I soon got in the zone, and that's when they started coming... the visitors.  People were curious as to what I was painting and began to strike up conversations with me.  

One man told me that he was an artist and used to work for American Greetings.  He went on to tell me that because he had to do his art for a job to please others, it ended up killing his creativity and left him not wanting to be an artist in the end.  So sad.

Another man told me that he used to come to the lake with a friend of his and sit on the bench nearby.  They used to paint there together and did not communicate with words.  The friend of his was Chinese and spoke only Mandarin, so they connected through art which transcends all language barriers.  His friend since passed away.  This story was so touching.

I had many other interesting conversations with people while I was there and found out from the park volunteers that there are baby eagles in a nest nearby (which they were right because my family and I went looking for them where they said they were, and they were there!).  Near the end, a man stopped by to observe and his dog planted a hot steamy one right behind where I was standing!  He was so embarrassed and I was glad that I was almost done painting!  It turns out that the most inspirational part of Plein Air painting was the conversations I had with people, which was the very thing I was planning on avoiding!  

My painting is now for sale at the Peninsula Art Academy (hours: Wed-Sun 11-5pm) and there will be an artist reception next Friday on May 26th from 6-9pm where they will announce the winners of the competition.  Hope to see you there!

Photo credit for all photographs: Cara Mancari

Judging Art

This week I helped judge an area ACSI (Association of Christian Schools International) art competition.  Every year, all over the country, there are art competitions with ACSI to celebrate the talented grade school, middle school, and high school students.  We judged in groups of three judges made up of art teachers and artists.  We had to judge each art piece in our designated grade together as a group and I was a part of the group that judged ninth grade.

Judging art was so challenging in so many ways.  There may be a piece that isn't very good, but the child may have tried their absolute best and it was the best art project they had ever done.  On the other hand, there may be a stunning piece done by a child showing a lot of artistic ability, but the child may not have put much effort into creating it.  It is hard to know the amount of effort that was put into a piece, and what the student's natural ability is.  

Within our group we had to come within 5 points of each other on the judging scale, and I found that sometimes we were in very different ball parks from one another.  Art is also a very personal thing, so when one judges art it is hard to put aside one's personal taste.  Some of us differed in the fact that someone else seemed to really like the compositions that were very symmetrical, while my preference is more asymmetrical compositions.  I told the others in my group that when I hang a piece of art over a piece of furniture, it always make sense in my mind to hang it off to the side instead of directly above the middle of it.  Things like this are just the way our brains are wired and that is what makes certain pieces of art make more sense to us than others.  There is realistic versus surrealistic, loose versus sketchy, colorful versus muted, and the list goes on when it comes to personal taste.  

There were a lot of really beautiful pieces in there and I really enjoyed using a critical eye to judge and think about all of the aspects that goes into a piece of art... composition, presentation, originality, etc.  Also, through our group discussion, while judging, I enjoyed being challenged in my thinking about what I think makes a piece of art "good" and if those reasons are based on personal taste or not.  I loved seeing the creativity from these young people and am truly inspired by it!