I got up bright and early on Sunday morning, not even stopping to think about the New York Times Crossword puzzle, grabbed all my equipment and headed out for my location in Chestnut Hill, the 8200 block of Germantown Avenue, east side. The biggest part of the contest for me was to get to a spot under a tree with something to paint, not blocked by cars, before any other artist got there.
A little before 8:00 I arrived on 'the hill'. It was very quiet and I had my choice of places, as there didn't seem to be another soul about. I set up quickly across the street from the oldest house in Chestnut Hill. I had decided to follow the rules, as I knew if I didn't I would be mad at myself, so I had the allowed sketch ready to draw onto the canvas. Usually I would simply use graphite paper and trace it on, but that seemed not to be in the spirit of the contest, so I drew it on using a grid on the paper and the canvas to get things in about the right place.
As I started to put out my paint I noticed that I was not the only painter here after all, and in fact someone was sitting right in the middle of my scene painting my side of the street. Pretty funny really. The best laid plans in plein air painting almost always go awry. I decided not to include the painter and her umbrella in my painting as I knew if I included a figure, the buildings, which had a lot of character, would be lost. Buildings have personalities to me and these two sitting together for years had a lot to say.
Things went along swimmingly for an hour or so and then people began to wander by, the traffic picked up and it started to really warm up. Painting on the street is not exactly plein air - which implies fresh cool breezes and communing with nature. You really have to keep your concentration if you are on a busy street...and in the spirit of the occasion be as gracious as possible to people stopping by to chat.
I had planned to make two paintings but I decided early on that if I was to enjoy the social aspects of this 'contest' I would relax and be satisfied to finish one.
The children were especially delightful and quite respectful. One little boy around 4 stood watching me for a long time without saying anything. I asked him if he liked to paint, and his eyes got really big and he backed away slowly and then ran off. I think he must have thought I was asking him to paint my picture.
Two wonderful friends came by around 12 and brought me lunch. This was a real boon as I didn't want to leave everything and go anywhere else until I was done. Someone who knows local history chatted for a while and said there is a tunnel from one of the buildings I was painting connected to the Chestnut Hill Hotel. An old friend I haven't seen for years stopped by and we caught up on children and grandchildren. It got hotter and hotter and around 2:30 I was pretty much finished in every sense. I was satisfied with my painting, in that I did the best I could and it looked pretty good. It's always hard to tell what you really think of your work right away however I find, sometimes I like a painting when it is finished and hate it 2 weeks later.
The judging was not to take place until 4:00 so I had an hour and a half to kill. All the finished paintings were placed against a wall behind the hotel and they were beginning to accumulate, with the artists sitting around waiting for the judging in the heat. There was free water which was an excellent perk and quite necessary. I thought about going home with my little painting and skipping the judging altogether, but then I knew I would always wonder how it turned out, so I stuck it out.
The judge for the art work was Liz Osborne, an artist whose work I have always enjoyed. A bit before 4:00 she started sorting out the work and placing some together, presumably ones she liked. I did not envy her this job as there were 40 or 50 paintings to choose from and there were bound to be a lot of hot tired artists who would be very disappointed. I noticed mine was among those in the favored position. At this point I realized why I don't like painting contests. No matter what happens you feel bad. If you loose you feel bad and if you win you feel bad because you know that those who didn't win feel they should have, and partly blame you. It's not as if you got more points than the other team, or came in first in a race. It's all subjective.
I know the suspense is killing you and you assume that because I have described this whole scene in such detail it is because I won the contest. Nope. I got third prize. Third prize. Should I be pleased? Yes I should as my painting was chosen over many others and I am pleased to a certain extent, but really you don't want to go around telling people you won third prize unless it's maybe the Olympics.
So what would be a better conclusion to this event in my opinion? Hang all the art that the artists struggled to create and skip the prizes. If anyone sells a painting that will be their reward and they won't be humiliated if they don't.
And finally here is the painting!!!
Two Houses on the Hill
9" x 12"
oil on canvas board
Here is a link to all the winners. 1,2,3 and honorable mentions plus some scenes of the event. (I have a friend who got honorable mention at an art show and was so outraged he never exhibited in a competition again. Artists are sensitive beasts)