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