Back from Fire Island by Bethann Wilson

 #findyourpark  Me standing near the Watch Hill Campground on Fire Island

#findyourpark Me standing near the Watch Hill Campground on Fire Island

 Boats Beneath a Cloudy Sky, 11” x 14”, oil on canvas

Boats Beneath a Cloudy Sky, 11” x 14”, oil on canvas

I’m back from Fire Island and still sorting through all of my photos and videos.

I can’t wait to share some of them with you! I have posted a couple of snippets on Instagram and Facebook but I am waiting to debut the paintings in person during October’s First Friday Art Walk in Highlandtown at Night Owl Gallery.

This was such an incredible experience where I learned a lot about myself and my creativity. I will definitely be applying what I have learned to my home-studio practice.

More soon!

-B

Fire Island Artist-in-Residence by Bethann Wilson

I am about to embark on my first artist residency!  I leave Monday.

 "Light House" from my Scotland series, oil on canvas 2012 sold

"Light House" from my Scotland series, oil on canvas 2012 sold

The Fire Island National Seashore Artist-in-Residence Program honors the longstanding tradition of art in the national parks and on Fire Island by facilitating artists to create relevant place- and story-based work that brings a broader understanding of the unique elements that comprise Fire Island. The goals of this program are to provide creative and educational opportunities for artists of all disciplines to explore the qualities of the natural environment, culture, and/or history of Fire Island, and to support the mission of the NPS to promote the conservation and preservation of the park.
— National Park Service Website
 Image Courtesy nps.gov

Image Courtesy nps.gov

The residency will be from September 1 - September 15.  My focus will be on painting to capture and interpret the changing weather and the affect it has on the landscape.  I'm so excited for this opportunity to focus on this next phase of art-making.  Two weeks of uninterrupted studio time at this point in my life I feel like I can accomplish a LOT.  I am hoping to have lots of new work to share upon completion of the residency.  I am also hoping to have time to write about the experience to be able to share that with anyone else considering doing something like this.  From talking to other folks in the artistic community, at least in Baltimore, a lot of individuals don't even know that these opportunities exist!

More information about the Artist-in-Residence Program at Fire Island National Seashore can be found at https://www.nps.gov/fiis/getinvolved/supportyourpark/artist-in-residence.htm.

Check back here for updates!

Paint Annapolis Day 3 - Art on the Avenue by Bethann Wilson

This past Thursday the 7th, there was yet another public painting event that I had pre-registered for.  (Check out my last two blog posts to read about the events earlier in the week.  There were 3 public painting events at Paint Annapolis this year.)  Luckily I had gotten Thursday's canvas stamped on Wednesday so I could drive back down to Annapolis and immediately scout a spot, knowing I was going to be bushed from the previous night's Nocturne.  There was a much larger geographic area to choose from, but not knowing Annapolis very well, I tended to stay on the beaten path.  Unfortunately, I think that is what everyone else decided to do because I could not find parking even for my tiny Prius-C.  It was a gloriously beautiful day and there seemed to be quite a few tourists in town.  I got down there later than I would have liked to, but needed sleep and had to stop by the gallery to frame and wire my Nocturne painting.  I drove around and around and around and all of the lots and garages were full.  Finally I found a garage that had empty spots and was open 24 hours.  This was a factor since I wasn't sure how long I was going to be down there.  Some of the "commuter lots" shut down at 6 or 7.  There was a block party- Art on the Avenue-  where the day's paintings would be judged and that was at 5:30.

I was so drained from driving around and looking for parking and then trying to scout a place to paint.  I found a dive-y looking bar called Stan and Joe's Saloon and went in for a beer and a bite and to try to make friends with a bartender so I would have a place to use the restroom if need be.  I had noticed a liquor store across the street that I thought would be interesting to paint so I talked with the bartender about where she thought would be a good place to set up.  The sidewalk was narrower here, or at least seemed so.  Maybe it was just a little bit more trafficked in the day-time.  She was very helpful and told me that she would like to see my painting when I was done.

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I ended up setting up in what I imagined was a little smoker's nook between the entrance to Ram's Head and Café Olé.  Thank you so much to owner Claudia Hassan for snapping some pictures of me in the act!  Now I was really under pressure because I calculated how long it was going to take me to break down my set-up, frame my painting, and take it over to Maryland Avenue where Art on the Avenue (the block party) was happening.  I guessed I'd have to stop around 4:45 to make it by 5:30 and that was cutting it close!  I finally started painting around 1:30 which did not give me much time at all.  Well, I painted fast and furious and did the best I could.  I wasn't totally happy with my composition but with such limited time I couldn't wipe anything out and re-paint.  A timer I had set in my phone went off at 4:45.  I stopped painting, hurriedly packed up all of my supplies and ran my painting up to the 3rd floor of the parking garage.  I ran back down for my bags which the friendly bartender had let me stow inside the bar while I ran with the wet painting and palette.  My heart was pounding and I was sticky with sweat as I got to the top of the parking garage with all of my stuff.  I chugged hot water that had been sitting on the passenger seat boiling all day in the hot summer sun.  It was basically the opposite of thirst-quenching.  Why did I leave it in the car and not take it with me?  Who knows?

 Thank goodness for the rubber all-season rubber floor mats. #priusC

Thank goodness for the rubber all-season rubber floor mats. #priusC

Framing a wet painting in the trunk of your car is not something I would recommend, but it was inevitable.  It is more or less a recipe for how to get wet paint all over yourself and your car and anything else that happens to be around.  I found these really great inexpensive open-back frames at Artist and Craftsmen Supply but they unfortunately didn't have any clips or a way to hold the painting in the frame so I had to hammer wire brads into the edges.  It was so awkward and frustrating and it is a miracle that I didn't damage the surface of the painting beyond getting some dirt and grit on it.  

Finally the painting was wired and ready to be taken to the block party.  I was overheated and sweaty and vaguely delirious.  I grabbed my easel and practically ran over there.  I couldn't quite remember exactly how far it was and I didn't want to be late.  What, pray tell, can make a stressful situation even more so?  Shakespearean period street performers.  My nerves were frazzled as I tried my best to tune them out.  I set out to find a representative from the MFA (Maryland Federation of Art- the organizers) to try to figure out where to go and what to do.  The woman that I found was the Executive Director (she happened to be the first person that I saw with an MFA t-shirt on).  I had seen her earlier that afternoon to drop off my Nocturne for jurying and display so she recognized me as I approached her.  "Oh hey, guess what?  Your painting sold!" she said. Huh?  What?  I was flabbergasted! "Yeah, to me!" she said.  Oh my goodness.  I was so emotional.  It had been such a rough day and that was about the greatest news in the world!  I thanked her profusely and she directed me on where and how to set up for the judging.

 What a great turn out!   

What a great turn out!

 

 Easels lined up for display at Art on the Avenue in Annapolis, MD

Easels lined up for display at Art on the Avenue in Annapolis, MD

I took a look at all of the other artists' pieces and they were all really, really good.  There were a few that were outstanding.  I felt good about my piece.  I wasn't expecting it to win a prize but of course I was hoping that it was.  It ended up not but I was totally ok with it.  There was some stiff competition.  Congratulations to the winners!  I ultimately had fun and learned a lot.  I left still feeling accomplished and like I want to continue to paint plein air.  

I went home to Baltimore, tired and hungry.  I picked up my husband Sean and headed to the local watering hole for a drink and some food.  A friend of mine was there and had seen the painting that I had done earlier that day and posted on Instagram and he told me that he wanted to buy it.  (Thanks, Greg!)  I am so glad to have people like him in my life who want to support what I do so I can continue to do it.  

Thanks so much to everyone from Maryland Federation of Art that helped to put on a wonderful event.  I can't reiterate enough that it was such a great learning experience that I highly recommend to anyone starting out in plein air.  And also a huge thank you to everyone that continues to buy my paintings and prints, hang out with me at the gallery, read my blog posts and support me in all kinds of different ways.  It means the world.

Follow @bettypaints on Instagram for even more art!

Paint Annapolis Day 2 - Nocturne by Bethann Wilson

I glanced at my phone after the dinner rush on Friday night at the bar that I work and saw that I had a message from Lorraine.  It was a picture message.  I opened it and my knees buckled.  My hand flew to my mouth as I processed what I was seeing.

 1st Place!!

1st Place!!

It was a photo of a blue ribbon next to my Nocturne painting from the previous Wednesday night at Paint Annapolis!

Last Wednesday evening I drove down to Annapolis from Baltimore towards the end of rush hour.  I needed to make it down by 7pm to get my canvas stamped at the Circle Gallery.  This is something I have found out that they do for plein air painting events to make sure that you don't submit paintings that you made at home or at another event or something.

After making it down, getting my canvas stamped and miraculously finding parking on Main Street, I locked up the car and set off with the area map I had been given.  I've also come to find out that most plein air events require you to paint within the boundaries of a designated area.  The area for the Nocturne was much narrower other events so I was able to take off and survey pretty much the entire area which went from the water at the foot of Main Street all the way up to the end of West Street where there was an outdoor dining event/street festival.  Although Dinner Under the Stars, as it was called presented a lovely scene, there were several factors that prompted me to scout a location back on Main Street.  The first and major one being that I had found a prime parking spot and didn't want to attempt to move my car. Because of the cumbersome nature of my bulky amateur plein air equipment, I didn't want to have to trudge a quarter of a mile with it either.  Secondly, it was hinted that it was a popular spot and I wanted to lend my voice to a spot that was less captured.  And finally, I actually felt a really great energy back by where I had parked.  There were a few bars and restaurants and the mood was convivial.  It's probably the bartender in me but I felt like I wanted to be where it seemed like people were having a good time.

 Me having a good time.

Me having a good time.

Speaking of having a good time, having walked back down Main Street to near where my car was parked I was sizing up the bar across the street from where I was standing.  A guy was walking along the sidewalk and must have noticed me contemplating the bar.  He passed me and then stopped and turned back to say hello and I then remembered seeing him at the Quick Draw judging that past Sunday.  I admit now that I couldn't remember which piece was his although I said that I thought I did.  It's hard to put names with faces AND paintings, at least for me.  We were both scanning around us for that perfect composition as we spoke.  We both mused that it was still a little too light out.  Some of the painters had already began laying in their underpainting.  We could see a few of them up and down Main Street.  Personally, I wasn't in any kind of hurry.  So, in search of a little bit of inspiration while the light outside dimmed, we headed to the object of my aforementioned gaze to drain a couple pints.

We sat towards the back of the dark bar.  Ronaldo Dorado and I exchanged social networking info and talked about the wacky world of folks that like to paint outside.  It was really great to connect with someone that shares similar sentiments and interests.  He likes to do it because it's fun and so do I.  It was such a nice exchange and definitely helped to calm my nerves.  Fortified with a little alcohol in the bloodstream, we high-fived, wished each other good-luck, and set off on our separate ways.  

I headed back across the street to see how the light had changed now that the sun had dipped behind the State House.  Wow, I was glad that I hadn't started sooner because the bar that we were just drinking in that had the pretty flower boxes and flags jutting from second floor windows was in almost total darkness save for a couple of jarring neon signs in the lower windows.  My eyes drifted next door to what looked to be some kind of greasy-spoon diner.  The more I looked at it the more I fell in love.  It was about 8:15 or so and there was still twilight in the sky.  I set up in the alcove of a store that was closed and arrived at my composition pretty quickly.

 The view from my easel of Chick and Ruth's Delly

The view from my easel of Chick and Ruth's Delly

 Me and Maryland State Senator John Astle

Me and Maryland State Senator John Astle

The first thing I noticed was that a lot of passersby wanted to see what I was doing.  I happened to be set up so that my back was to the door of the store in the alcove so if someone wanted to see what I was working on they had to kind of shimmy sideways and slide their shoulder in beside where I was standing.  Their disappointment was palpable as I had only just begun.  "I just got started, " I'd say. With that they would invariably look at what they thought that I was trying to paint and then walk away looking bored or confused.  One of the folks who did take some time to stop and have a conversation with me was Maryland State Senator John Astle.  He let me snap a pic with him!  Luckily for my concentration and productivity, the passersby became fewer and farther between as the night wore on.  Middle aged couples dressed in khakis and capri pants gave way to drunk 20-somethings that were more interested in Jaeger-bombs and getting laid than making small talk with artists.

I painted and painted without a break and the next thing I know my pal Lorraine was walking toward me from across the street to say hi.  At that point I was putting on the finishing touches as I was worried that the business was going to turn the lights off.  They had just closed.  I was feeling pretty good about the piece so I decided to pack up and head back to Baltimore, bleary eyed and hungry.  It was around 1am and I regretted not getting a hotel room.  

 The final product.  "Midnight Delay: Symphony in Neon" oil on canvas 11"x14" 

The final product.  "Midnight Delay: Symphony in Neon" oil on canvas 11"x14" 

Be sure to follow me on Instagram for more art and shenanigans. @bettypaints