Monday, July 25, 2011

Preparing for my next Plein Air Event...

August 4th-the 6th is going to be one more interesting transition for what we hope will prove to be a stepping forward for plein air (painting outdoors set up on location) here in Wisconsin.  Here is a link from FoxCitiesEvents.com giving some details of the event. 

I'm approaching this event with intentions to challenge myself, to paint larger than I ever have for such events since no size limits are set.  I wouldn't be doing this if I didn't enjoy the exhilaration of pressure pushing myself,  for I find in such times I challenge myself I learn a bit more for one, about myself...what I can or cannot do.  In my own teaching, my students see my illustration and hear me talk about our "comfort zone"...then the "stretching/pushing" zone where learning takes place, and then that area we are quite aware of I call the "panic zone."  It could be argued one does their best painting in their comfort zone...that which is all tried and true, familiar and most controlled.  Well...perhaps "best" is not always true...but rather maybe results best anticipated.


In a sense, I'll be studying myself...if I'm truly up to the task, and those that know me know my mantra-  "paintings work for reasons paintings work"...thus, I won't be setting out to put out poorly executed work.  It will be a high bar I'm raising for myself.  A high jumper knows the height he/she can comfortably hit time and again, but records are not won, medals not worn to not deliberately push the envelope.  Its not just about winning actual awards that most compels this push of myself, for the first taste of victory for me will be seeing if I can push and pull off what I have envisioned possible.  

In tennis competition back in my varsity college years, and then open single events years to follow...it wasn't besting others that brought wins for myself, but aiming to not defeat myself.  In essence, you play against yourself...you are your own worst opponent.  Those times I most learned something about myself were at the same time ultimate surprises.  My wife and I can never forget the time she rode on the back of my motorcycle to a tennis men's tournament in Shawano, Wisconsin.  I had sneezed earlier that morning...perhaps not sleeping well during the night restless about playing next day, so muscles were tensed, and the sneeze seized up and pulled my back out.  Hunched over and in pain...my rackets and gear packed...we rode off.


I arrived at the tournament hunched over, asking the tournament director where the nearest chiropractor might be?  The look he gave me most perplexed and in disbelief, I'll never forget!  


The chiropractor worked on me, got me to stand...and I took my share of ibuprofens.  And feeling better got back to the courts in time to warm up with my first opponent.  


The insanity of this day's tournament would require playing three separate advancing matches (three different opponents) to reach the end of the day's finals to win.  That is exactly what I did...and my final match I was sweating profusely...in part from pain as well as heat.  I had lost a lot of sustaining energy...trying to drink as much water as was proper throughout the day, but in the end I won and took home the trophy.  It was not so much about beating other opponents, but beating my own demons along each step of the way.  The self-doubts, the voices of reason...but, my own question of "yes...but is this possible to do?" my propellant of the moment.


We are all well aware of what is not possible to do.  We dismiss and give ourselves permission all the time to acknowledge that, and bow out.  My life however, has been spent for the better part encouraging and teaching young people to believe, to dream dreams, and to strive to prove what is possible.  From keynote speaking...to teaching art in the classroom.


When I walked off the court that day...the director told me he was surprised I struggled so the last match considering how well I had played that day leading up to it, but he had no idea what punishment I had put my body thru.  I smiled...shook his hand, took my gear and trophy over to my motorcycle with my wife, and my back seized up again in pain and rode hunched til we arrived back home.  Took perhaps a couple days resting for that to heal...and in looking at that trophy, I never recount the individuals I played.  I couldn't these many years later tell you their names or color of their hair.  What I see is a reminder that I have yet to learn what any of us are capable of if we but believe and push past the constant flood of doubts and negativity.  

To dream dreams...that is what lays at our door step...and the path that leads out from that, well...it will require something of us, but we shouldn't fear it or seek to avoid it.  Life is a gift...a unique privilege I think from God, our Creator who has created us to do great exploits.  When the chips are down...I remind myself, I can do all things thru Him who created us.


In my preparation for painting larger, I have this work I did for Ducks Unlimited.  It began just as a plein air, again to see if I could paint this large...but as the opportunity came up once more by this wonderful organization to contribute and be their honored featured artist, it took on greater meaning and energy.  Some will recall this one posted perhaps about a year or so ago... 36"x 48"...set up on location with a Lobo Delux...(a folding studio easel sturdy for larger paintings and heavy).  If this becomes any kind of habit for me at all...I will have to invest in something like the Beauport or EasyL...based off the favored Gloucester easel from past masters painting larger outdoors.



First day...took 3-1/2 hours to paint perhaps 80% of the background...second day out set up on location finishing it in about another 1-1/2 hours.  The ducks added perhaps another couple hours.  So...seven hours approximately start to finish...


If you click on images, you'll see a nicer large image...to check out.

The pieces I intend to do for this up and coming event won't be anywhere near this size by comparison...one a 12"x 24"...the other 20"x 24" and one more, 22"x 28"...and my habit of painting the past couple years has been to sketch gestural compositions...see the finished painting in my mind's eye even before beginning.  Choose a palette that will drive the work.

First day, painters are limited to Brown County or Outagamie.  I already have my spot in mind...have already begun to visualize what I want to do.  One day...to execute one painting, I think entirely do-able.  

Now some folks would discount and believe they could NEVER play tennis hurting much less competitively...but I know if I push past my own self-doubts and "what if's" surprises await.  

I borrow from the legacy of painter Edward Redfield...as inspiration, second in sales only to John Singer Sargent, a contemporary to Sargent of his day, and winning more awards than any American but Sargent. This amazing artist's daily regiment well into his 80's...was to paint large works, such as 50"x 60" canvases...all start to finish (alla prima) in the field, the forests...along rivers and creeks...winter thru summer.  Couple examples of his work-

Trout Brook - 50"x 56"





Home By The River- 38"x 50"


I know...I'm no Edward Redfield...but as yet, roughly 32 years painting later, I'm yet not wholly aware just who I might be, what I might be capable of?  Those are things that are exciting to me...things yet to discover that are like a life blood.

How I do...what comes as a result, or that proverbial ever asked question on sales potential...not a concern for me.  I'm just anticipating what great fun...and what things I'll learn, where my short comings are...where my learning zone reaches its limits at this time and the panic zone begins!!!!  Wish me all the best...

5 comments:

Yorky said...

Go for it Larry. If anyone can do it .....

Doug

Larry Seiler said...

thanks Doug...I'll give it my best shot!

sherryscarvings said...

Hi Larry, I so enjoyed reading your blog. I to can so relate to your thoughts. Your are a outstanding artist. With our God giving talent, I know you will do great! Look forward to seeing your upcoming work.

Larry Seiler said...

Thanks Sherry

Nick G. Swift said...

Not only am I very impressed with your handling of the tree line, but the sheer size of the canvas you manage to take on. These are truly lovely. IMO, you really excelled when the snow allowed your focus to be drawn to the details of the trees and shadows on the grown; OR, maybe that's just my favorite. Amazing colors and textures that you picked up in the stream. I'll try to check back soon as I'm working on my own watercolor landscapes at home. Best Regards Painting, Nick