Saturday, December 31, 2016

Plein Air Streaming: Year of the Dogs

Plein Air Streaming: Year of the Dogs: Some of the wonderful dogs we met in 2016. All reference and paintings photographed by Saunders Fine Arts . The year of the dog is n...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Plein Air Streaming: 16 Together In 2016

Plein Air Streaming: 16 Together In 2016: 2016 was the busiest year of my life. Together, Kimberly and I traveled from coast to coast, border to border, through 30 States, attending ...

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Yaaahhhr Not Fraahhm Maaaahhhhland, Ahhhhhrr Yaah?

St. Anne's Church, Annapolis, Maryland. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

Nope, I'm not from Maaahhhland. Born in New Jersey, raised in Nebraska.

So forgive me if I know nothing about crabs. Soft shell crabs in particular, in this case. Don't know about eating soft shell crabs, how they are traditionally prepared, and definitely nothing about picking crabs. Patrick Saunders was forced to pick crabs (one) at Plein Air Easton, but I managed to avoid it. Totally not interested in that experience. One of our lovely hosts at Easels in Frederick patiently explained to me that picking crabs isn't really about doing it for food, because it's tedious work for relatively little pay off. Picking crabs together is a social thing. Something you do with family or friends for fun. Like a cocktail party game, or a family activity, I guess. Still don't get it. And that's okay. I don't need to understand. Whatever floats your boat.

But anyhoo, the Maryland Federation of Art's Paint Annapolis was the first of eight almost back to back plein air events Patrick participated in just this summer. He was fortunate enough to be accepted into every event he applied to in 2016, sixteen of them in all. We did not expect this. We figured he'd maybe get into half of them. And then when he got lucky, we had to figure out how the h**l we were going to get from one place to another fast enough.

So, we hightailed it to Annapolis, Maryland, right after all of Patrick's events/workshops in Missouri. We debated whether to take both my Smartie as well as the tow vehicle, but once we got to Annapolis we were glad to have my little golf cart. The streets of downtown Annapolis are colonial - extremely narrow, and the area is such a tourist destination that parking is a challenge. One of many things I love about my little blue car - it can fit almost anywhere. You could practically leave it on the sidewalk and not get a ticket, because authorities don't even seem to recognize it as a real car. I can't count how many police and state trooper cars I have whizzed by in this car while speeding, and nothing happens. They don't even look up, or they look away. It's like they assume that a Smart can barely go fast enough to even be on an interstate. Or, more likely, I get the feeling that these often pretty macho guys don't want to pull me over because they don't want to be caught dead standing next to my little clown car. And now that I have said that I have probably jinxed myself and better watch my speed.

On our first night in Annapolis, we went to McGarvey's Saloon & Oyster Bar for dinner. To be honest, we picked this place solely because they actually had a Dogfish Head beer on tap, which is still a big deal for us. Our favorite craft beer is not available in all states, and even where you can find it, it is rarely on tap. Turns out they were already out of this beer for the night, it was such a popular special. Oh well. So I order a soft shell crab sandwich, foolishly assuming that I was ordering some kind of crab meat salad sandwich. NO. You order a crab sandwich in Maryland, you literally get a crab on a piece of bread. They season it and cook it whole. It's little legs were sticking out of my sandwich when it arrived, and I felt terrible. It looked a little like a large, flattened, hairless spider. Maybe if meat was served like this I would finally go full vegan. No offense Maryland, but I just don't get how anyone eats a crab whole like that. Just wow.

I ate the french fries. And the tomato and lettuce. The waitress, looking at my plate as she took it away, said, not unkindly, "Yaaahhhr not fraahhm Maaaahhhhland, ahhhhhrr yaah?" Nope. Clearly, she had seen the stricken look on my face before, many times. So, if you order soft shell crab, be clear on whether it's a salad mix or an actual crab. Lesson learned. I should have photographed my poor little crab, but I was so weirded out by the whole thing that I didn't. I am sorry crab that I wasted you. I had no idea.

We walked past The U.S. Naval Academy that evening before dinner. The campus is beautiful, and definitely worth a visit. Patrick painted an old stained glass window while there, sorry no photo. You see a lot of young people in the Navy in downtown Annapolis every day in their dress whites. I was so impressed with how white their clothes were, and how white they seemed to stay. How on earth do you get and keep dress whites like that clean? I would feel like I could never sit down, or really do anything. But they run around, eat, and go about their daily lives in those whites, and I never saw any dirt or stains on any of them. Very impressive. If I wore white like that I would look like a dirty napkin in no time.

Our host couple were very welcoming and interesting. She's an art therapist and he is an attorney who is very active in crewed boat racing in his spare time. They also have an amazing art collection. Their home is like an interactive art museum. They live amongst inspiration in a variety of mediums. Love it. When we met them, they had just come home from a day on their boat. Patrick painted a lot of boats while in Annapolis, because it's all about the boats here. We are land people who went to the home of water people. Summers here are as hot and humid as in the Midwest, so the best place to be in Annapolis during this time is on a boat enjoying the Chesapeake Bay.

Paint Annapolis was where Patrick took a swing at his first ever nocturne painting. I was very proud of him for this. He had PRK surgery on his eyes a few years ago, and while the benefits of the procedure make it well worth it, one sacrifice is not always being able to see as well at night over time. Lights tend to fan out into blurry circles, and he finds it hard to see color well. He hated the painting, and wanted to paint over it, but I talked him out of it, and it won an award. Patrick thanked me at the awards ceremony for talking him out of scraping it down. Such a thoughtful and humble guy. He's a keeper.

"Night Falls On the Maryland Inn" (oil on panel, 12"x16") by Patrick Saunders won a second place nocturne award at Paint Annapolis. 

Since Patrick was brave enough to try nocturne painting, I decided to take a swing at night photography, something that's outside my comfort zone. This is a long exposure of the Maryland Inn at night. Not terrible for a first try, not great. Definitely fun though and something I want to keep practicing.

A long exposure of the Maryland Inn, which dates back to the end of the American Revolutionary War. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

Our first full day in Annapolis was Memorial Day, and we spent some time at the Annapolis National Cemetery. I took some photos of unknown soldier headstones. The sheer number, and the precision of placement, of white headstones in military cemeteries really drives home the human cost of war. I also can't imagine the pain of not having your loved one's remains. To never know for sure where they are, or where they might have ended up. I can't even wrap my head around what it must be like to have to learn to live with that.

An Unknown Soldier buried at Annapolis National Cemetery. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

The next morning, we headed to Herrington Harbour North Marina Resort, where we found many people living on their boats, sailing the world. This place is much like a high end RV resort, with similar amenities. Boating is a much more expensive way to live than RVing though. Definitely out of our price range. And I'm an earth sign. I'm not really keen on any body of water I can't see to the bottom of. I have had a huge fear of sharks ever since my parents took me with them to see "Jaws" when I was about eight years old. Not that I really had anything to worry about, growing up in Nebraska, but irrational fears are just that. Completely irrational.

"Morning After the Holiday, Herrington Harbour" (oil on panel, 16"x20") by Patrick Saunders

Patrick and I are often drawn to capturing the same things, but we try not to post them together, because we don't want them to be compared to each other, since oil paintings and photography are very different animals. I have posted a few similar scenes in this blog, so just don't tell him. It will be our secret.

Herrington Harbour North Marina Resort. Photo by Saunders Fine Arts

We also had the chance to visit Historic London Town & Gardens, a lovely event space on Chesapeake Bay. Patrick did a nice azalea painting there. The man can paint a floral like nobody's business. All those years he spent at Hallmark painting flowers with Gail Flores have really paid off. You should ask Patrick to tell you his wadded up toilet paper story.

"Azaleas In The Glade" (oil on panel, 9"x12'') by Patrick Saunders

We really enjoyed our week in Annapolis, but as soon as it was over, we had to hustle, because we only had one day to go from the ocean to the mountains for Mountain Maryland Plein Air. From shark territory to the horrors of black bear country next. - Kimberly

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Monday, May 9, 2016

Missouri Wine Country Inspiration

We left San Antonio in April to stay in St. Louis for the Augusta Plein Air Festival. This event is right in the heart of Missouri wine country, making for a very inspiring place to paint and photograph, and spring is our favorite time to be in the Midwest. Storms can be intense, but the weather otherwise is perfect for spending time outside. It rained quite a bit the week before we arrived in St. Louis, so the Augusta area was especially lush and green - picturesque farms and vineyards everywhere, and the very charming town of Augusta on a hill overlooking a wide flat valley and part of the Katy Trail. Augusta has a lot of beautiful old barns, so it ended up being a barn kind of festival for both Patrick and I - he did three different barn paintings for the festival, as well as a study of a tangle of tree roots at a lake edge at Augusta Shores. We also spent time in Femme Osage and Defiance - the whole area is definitely worth a visit if you are passing through. Kate's Coffee House has great coffee, breakfast, and lunch, and the Augusta Brewery and the Silly Goose are great stops for lunch and dinner. The brewery has a tasty selection of its own beers that are worth trying - what's better than a good cold craft beer after a long bike ride on a beautiful day? Or after a "hard" day of painting and photography?

Patrick Saunders started the festival with this painting for a quick paint, and "Missouri Foundations" (oil on panel, 12"x16") won First Place that night

I started the festival being enamored with this vintage sign in Defiance.

Patrick Saunders also taught a painting workshop at Augusta to a full house - they had to cut the class off at 20 people. Mary Ann Virant was kind enough to allow the workshop to be held on her beautiful vineyard property. Her dog Moxie stole the whole show that day, trying to get everyone to stop wasting their time painting and throw her favorite stick (log) or frisbee for her instead.

Moxie waiting for Patrick to stop talking and play fetch with her

Seriously, this qualifies more as a log than a stick, and if you weren't strong enough to throw it far enough to suit Moxie, she'd move on to someone who could

Group shot of the class at the end of a fruitful and beautiful day

Patrick and I then spent a morning at a barn on Church street in Augusta that we won't soon forget. We got up early so we could be there to see the sun come up. Patrick decided to paint the barn backlit by the sunrise, and I photographed the warm orange play of light across the front of the barn as the sun rose. It was a peaceful morning spent lost in doing what we love. These are the moments we live for now. Having more time to get and stay lost in the act of creation is one of the best parts of our current lifestyle.

Patrick painting the back of the barn

My photograph of sunrise on the front of the barn - you can just see the white top of Patrick's painting board in the left hand corner behind the barn

Anyone need a gently used hay baler?

It's hard to discern in the photo, but an old fabric rag hanging off of what might have been a table of sorts had such strong and beautiful light on it in this moment that I had to try to capture it

"Good Morning, Church Road" (oil on panel, 14"x18") by Patrick Saunders

 We then spent a sunset in Femme Osage, where Patrick did a quick study of a creek bed that he decided he didn't love, while I wandered around the church and cemetery grounds.

Festival officials asked Patrick to stop by local morning television show Great Day St. Louis on KMOV to talk about the event, and you can watch his interview with Laura Hettiger here.

Patrick with some of his paintings before the interview
 A public demonstration painting Patrick did during the festival

We got up before dawn on one of the last days of the festival for a quick paint at the Frisella Nurseryand just before Defiance we saw this sight and decided to stop and photograph it. The sun was just coming up and there was a thick fog resting on the field. The lone distant tree shrouded by fog struck us both, so I tried to capture it, but my photo didn't really do the moment justice.

A Red Rouge Hibiscus Flower at Frisella Nursery

How cute are these owl sculptures at Frisella Nursery?

We really enjoyed our time in the Augusta area - so much to see and do and try to capture.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Monday, March 21, 2016

Florida In March

The pacific coast of Florida is a great place to be in March. Patrick Saunders and I traveled there this month so he could participate in the Lighthouse ArtCenter Plein Air Festival in Tequesta, FL. It's pretty hot even in March, but the ocean breeze keeps you cool, and the humidity is relatively low during the winter and early spring. I photographed Patrick painting for the festival, but as always wandered off and shot on my own, just for fun, and for stock photography. Here are a few of my favorite images from this trip.

Careful Where You Swim - Juno Beach Pier, Palm Beach County, Florida

Barnacles -  DuBois Park Lagoon, Jupiter, Florida

Bike To Your Boat - Port Salerno, Florida

Bar Buddy - Port Salerno, Florida

All By Myself - DuBois Park Lagoon, Jupiter, Florida

Come Party With Us - Port Salerno, Florida

Artist Fran Ellisor painting during the Lighthouse Art Center Plein Air Festival Quick Draw - DuBois Park, Jupiter, Florida

Artist Katherine Hitt surveys the scene before painting at Juno Beach Pier, Palm Beach County, Florida

Capturing A Sunrise - Juno Beach Pier, Palm Beach County, Florida

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Patrick Saunders Painting Workshop At Harold's Art & Framing

Serving San Antonio and saving animals for more than 55 years
Patrick Saunders recently met Kevin Sekula, the manager of Harold's Art & Framing, who offered to host a painting workshop, and he arranged for Patrick to meet a local artist, John Martinez, who in turn put the word out and helped Patrick quickly fill a ten person class held this weekend.

Harold's is a family run business that has been operating for more than 55 years. Harold and his family have also spent much of that time rescuing hundreds of strays on the south side of San Antonio, where the business is located, which makes them all my kind of peeps. The first thing to greet you when you walk through the door at Harold's these days are two of their current rescue pups, Mable and Baby. Harold is quite the character, and I hope to be able to take a portrait of him the next time we are there. Patrick's class proved so popular that by the end of it another one had been organized. The next class in March will be a portrait painting class.

Harold has had a long and interesting life, and helped more animals than he can count. He was talkative this past Saturday and I really enjoyed listening to his stories. His son Kevin runs the shop, and Pedro Flores, an employee there, is also an artist. Everyone at Harold's is a serious dog whisperer. It's no small task to take in strays who are afraid of everyone and everything and turn them into loving, trusting, content little souls. Kevin has taught Mable to sit and lie down for treats, and Pedro can hold her in his arms, even on her back, and she relaxes and cuddles with him like she's never had a fearful day in her life. Amazing. Baby is so new that they haven't had the chance to teach her anything yet, or even name her, so they are calling her Baby for now. A tiny little Chihuahua, she and Mable, a small terrier mix of some kind, had me at bark. I brought treats with me in order to buy their love, and snuck out of my workshop photography responsibilities throughout the day to go hang with the pooches at the front of the store. I'm a sucker for cute, what can I say? I could so easily take both of these adorable girls home.

Mable cuddling with Pedro

When you can get a scared stray to trust like this, you are a dog whisperer

Baby the new stray asleep on a pillow

If you drive past Harold's you might see Mable and Baby watching the world from this window

Oh, and the workshop - the reason we were actually there - it went really well. Patrick had a great group of people, and they all gained ground and had fun doing it. Most of them will be returning for the next workshop in March, and I look forward to seeing them again. I was there for most of the day, and it was the first time I have had the opportunity to really see Patrick in action, and I was so proud for him. He is an excellent teacher - such an effective communicator and speaker. His opening lecture held my interest and I don't even care about painting. And the thing that moved me the most - he is able to create a welcoming, relaxed environment for learning where no one feels intimidated or overwhelmed. I came to the lovely realization watching him that all of Patrick's varied professional experience and hard work over the years has helped lead him to a place where he can make a living doing something that makes the world a better place. Who doesn't want that? He brings good to the world with his own art, and also with his teaching, by helping others grow as artists. It's genuinely inspiring to see people experience the joy that comes with accomplishment, with a breakthrough. When we grow, we literally glow. And it fills the whole room. Everyone feels it, and everyone is lifted by it. What a great space to be in, where you can feel free to explore, try new things, and take risks without fear. Love it. And I love him for creating it, for making other people feel like that when they take his class. I know it sounds corny, but it's real, and it's a beautiful thing. I've taken plenty of creative seminars and classes over the years where I didn't feel anything close to what I experienced yesterday in Patrick's class. Some people are talented, but can't teach, or are egomaniacal and cruel, and even if you learn something from them you walk away feeling drained or diminished. But not with Patrick. He creates an environment that people just seem to bloom in, and I can't express how much admiration, respect, and love I have for him for that. We all need that in our lives. Safe, constructive places to bloom and grow.

Thanks to John Martinez, Patrick's demo painting demonstrations were viewable on a large TV screen

Patrick demonstration how he measures shapes in his paintings

Carolyn Minshew starts a painting

Jimmy Martinez selecting colors

John Martinez painting
Karen McCauley starts a portrait

Patrick and Andrew Perez selecting colors
Patrick discussing subject selection with Jeanne Allen

Margarita Benavides choosing a subject

Sylvia St. Gene and Patrick Saunders discuss her composition
Kevin Sekula and Pedro Flores - our thanks to Kevin and Harold's Art & Framing for hosting Patrick's workshops