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