Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Caution: Wet Paint!
For the past four years, I have participated in the Cape Elizabeth Land Trust Paint for Preservation Wet Paint Auction. Long name, amazing results. The concept behind this charity event is to help buy and therefore preserve, some of the lovely scenic farms, forests, fields and streams that make Cape Elizabeth a beautiful spot on the Maine coast. As far as charities go, it may not be up there with feeding the hungry or sheltering the homeless, but it's still a worthwhile one.
The concept is that thirty artists go out around the area and plein air a scene to be auctioned off later in the evening. In the past I've painted the iconic rocky shore, the iconic lighthouses, and more iconic ocean front (To Cape Elizabethians, every place is iconic...) This year, I chose the the Spurwink Church. It was built in the early 1800's, and since it's about four or five miles from Prout's Neck, I figured Winslow Homer himself would have often travelled by this iconic church. The morning was hot, and the day was only going to get hotter as I set up to begin work.
Half of the problem in painting plein air, as any aficionado will tell you, is that the sun moves. Well, not exactly; we move under the sun. Either way, shadows race across the scene. That's why I chose a view where the sun would rise in front of me, and go overhead to set behind me, instead of going left to right through the sky. Areas will stay in sunlight and shadow longer that way. The other obstacle to overcome is that we started after nine in the morning and had until three in the afternoon to deliver the painting. Those same plein air aficionados will tell you that painting when the sun is at it's zenith is hell, as the colors evaporate, and shadows hide under the rocks. But that also meant standing under a blazing sun for about six or seven hours. As you can see from the photo above, I do not use an umbrella. But hey, that's the nature of this particular gig, so you deal with it.
The Land Trust people have figured out that advertising is the key to success. For weeks in advance, they posted ad's in papers all over the state with maps showing where all the artists would be painting. On the day of event, they went around and put signs out to alert folks that here was an artist! (I kept my sign...) That meant that folks could go out and find us. So, I was delighted to have a few visitors stop by.
The first year I think we had about twenty artists and maybe sixty or seventy people attended the auction. It was held in the back yard of a generous home-owner. I didn't know the event was something of a summer garden party. The fine Cape Eliabethians who attended where smartly dressed in cocktail dresses and snappy blazers. It was a far cry from the BBQ, Beer and Lawn Darts that comprised a lawn party where I grew up as just a country boy from the sticks! The event has grown to humongous proportions now, as over three hundred tickets were sold, and it was held in a drop-dead gorgeous estate on the ocean.
That first year we stacked our paintings on the patio behind the back door. This year, we had our own tent for viewing. Here's the folks checking out the art and planning which one they want to bid the most for:
The whole event was squeezed under enough tent to play a football game.
I will freely admit that I had a sinking feeling about my piece when I saw the quality of the paintings that the other painters presented. I wasn't at all sure that folks would be interested in owning a painting of a bone-yard showing the ass-end of a church.
The good news is that it sold, so somebody must have liked it! And a few more pennies gets put in the jar to buy up some more land for all to enjoy.
If you're interested in seeing more (unfuzzy) shots of the event, the folks at CELT invite you to this facebook site. You can see the great art while you sit around your computer, or BBQ, with a beer... playing some lawn darts...