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Painting in public

June 28, 2013

Dear Artist,

Yesterday, Susan Winslow of Dana Point, California wrote, "Last weekend I took a two-day workshop from the excellent plein air painter Frank Eber. Now a few of us are going to meet tomorrow to paint. We have the equipment, but are intimidated at painting in public. Any suggestions?"

Thanks, Susan. I appreciate that women may have more concerns about painting in public, especially alone, than do men, but together you should be fine. Alone or in a group, the main aggravations are the inane remarks from strangers who wander over to see what you're doing.

"That's pretty good--you should take up painting," is an encouragement I've been offered more than once.

Decency obliges me to respond to these folks, but sometimes I wish Dorothy would just bite them.

Funnily, when you work alone, most passersby give you a wide berth--more so in Eastern and European cultures. On the other hand, some painters welcome intercourse, and even take the opportunity to hand out their cards, upcoming show invitations, or sell directly "right off the easel." In our area there's currently a guy in a green smock who I'm told makes a living doing this.

After coming off a workshop with a top watercolourist like Frank Eber, I think it's important to go out again as soon as possible while those long soft washes and the Eber spirit are still fresh in your mind. FYI, we've put a selection of Frank Eber's work at the top of the current clickback.

<br>Robert Genn in his panel van.
Robert Genn in his panel van.
Curiously, people are more likely to stay away if you wear a big hat. Apparently, hat wearers these days are perceived as more "independent and private." Going bare-headed attracts interlopers. Ear-buds are useful deterrents as well. Sitting in (or near) a cheap panel van puts them off completely.

Those heading out for the first time often make the mistake of driving around all day looking for the perfect scene. You can actually set down anywhere as you'll almost always see something that you didn't notice at first. "Everything outside is exciting to look at," said the great outdoor painter Irwin Greenberg (1922-2009). "There are hundreds of paintings all around."

Best regards,

Robert

PS: "Plein air painting is the perfect forum for learning, as it is observation-driven. Placing technique secondary to observation is the essence of working the field." (Ken Auster)

Esoterica: Painting in the remote out-of-doors is the best plein air of all. Occasional Gaye Adams at Cobalt Lake, Bugaboos<br>photograph
Gaye Adams at Cobalt Lake, Bugaboos
photograph
passersby, stumbling on the vision of a painter at work, share the magic and are sometimes encouraged to stay for tea. I've made lifelong friends this way. "It's important to realize how connected we all are as humans," says the outdoor painter Rodney Cobb, "especially as plein air artists." In my own work in the Rockies I've also come face to face with mice, yellow-bellied marmots, raccoons, porcupines, wolves and one lone wolverine. So far no grizzlies. If these letters stop coming you'll know that I have.





'Art For Sale - Inquire Within'
by Michael Chesley Johnson, ME, USA / NB, Canada


As a professional painter who depends on sales for a living, I actually 'encourage' the public to End of the Road<br>oil painting by Michael Chesley Johnson End of the Road
oil painting
interact with me. I set up so I am accessible and so people won't trip over my gear. I always have my business cards and copies of my workshop schedule to pass out. I even have a little sign I can set up by my easel that reads, "Art for Sale - Inquire Within." There are times, of course, when I need to focus, especially if I am working on new projects that require me to "stretch" my plein air painting skills. For these, I try to go where I'm pretty sure I won't be disturbed. If I do get visitors, I chat with them a moment and then politely let them know that I am, indeed, working, and that I paint for a living. Most times, people respect this and will leave me to my space.



There is 1 comment for 'Art For Sale - Inquire Within' by Michael Chesley Johnson

From: Nigel Despard -- Jul 04, 2013

The idea of trying to sell on location is beneath my dignity. I would not take this route, but I'm sure there are some who are okay with it.


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Painting in a peaceful place
by Jan Thomson, St. Arnaud, Nelson Lakes, New Zealand


I enjoy painting in the beautiful Nelson Lakes National Park - right beside our home. Tourists and visitors<br>Jan's easel in Nelson Lakes National Park
Jan's easel in Nelson Lakes National Park
are almost always interested and complimentary about what I'm doing. Interesting, because visitors who call in at my studio just up the road often want to either talk about their own painting, or their Aunt who does wonderful pet portraits. When I recently went painting in Auckland (our biggest city), I was perched in a bus stop sketching a lovely old building while crowds clambered around and over me. Not one person stopped to check out what I was doing or even make eye contact. I guess it's much easier to be anonymous in a crowd. I think I prefer painting here in my peaceful place and enjoying sharing it with others who are seeing what I'm seeing.



There is 1 comment for Painting in a peaceful place by Jan Thomson

From: valerie norberry vanorden -- Jul 02, 2013

Looks really serene.


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'Roving Art Critics'
by Charlene Brown, Victoria, BC, Canada


My book, Plein air Painting: the drama was originally titled, Painting in Public, and the first chapter <br>book cover by Charlene Brown
book cover
is pretty much devoted to ways of avoiding interactions with passers-by, whom I refer to as Roving Art Critics. Didn't know about the big hat theory when I wrote it, but I came up with various other dodges, until I realized it was possible to enjoy and even benefit from 'the drama' of it all! The Bugaboo grizzlies we didn't actually see last year are among the passers-by that get a mention in the book but almost all of the others are human.

(RG note: Thanks, Charlene. Charlene was painting with us in the Bugaboos last year. Her book, Plein air Painting: the drama is available here.



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They are just passing by
by Philippa Robert, Adelaide, Australia


For the women who feel intimidated about painting in public...

Quite a few passersby will stop April surge<br>original painting by Philippa Robert April surge
original painting
but most have their own experience or viewpoint at the forefront. Let that flow (you can keep on working and smiling). If they make a negative judgement, that's okay. If they make a positive one, that's okay, too. Neither judgement comes from a place that should worry you! After all, they are passing and you are staying. Once you are in the zone, making decisions about tone, colour, shape and so on, they won't matter. You can ignore them because you are at work. The most provoking comments I have relate to how relaxing it must be to paint. My response is either "yes" or "well, it is actually very demanding" depending on how I feel. We are all learning, with every painting. Don't worry that someone might see a work in progress – that's just what it is! You dictate the terms. You are making the effort, taking the 'risk.' They are just passing by!



There are 2 comments for They are just passing by by Philippa Robert

From: Pamela Jane Rogers -- Jul 02, 2013

Working on a quick sketch, I’m concentrating on the negative space between the two children when suddenly I sense a body standing close behind me and turn around. It’s the waiter peering over my shoulder.
“Polli orea”, he says cheerfully.
I stop drawing and close my sketch book. I do wish he didn’t feel the need to compliment my drawing right this minute. It’s not time for a critique even by me, yet I’m sure he thinks it’s the polite thing to say. I’ve learned to erase my slight irritation and respond to such off-hand compliments quickly. Smiling around at him and mumble an automatic thank you -“evharisto” before I order “pikilia spitiki, parakalo “ (the house special, please).

From: Jan Ross -- Jul 02, 2013

Phillipa, I find your painting beautiful and intriguing!Thanks for sharing it.


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Feedback, selling makes sense of it all
by Jose DeLaRosa, Fairport, NY, USA


I participate in several outdoor art festivals every year and I make a point to paint at all of them. Outside Olive Garden<br>oil painting by Jose DeLaRosa Outside Olive Garden
oil painting
I painted at a festival several years ago and my sales skyrocketed, and ever since I won't go to a festival unless they allow me to paint. I like the feedback from patrons, and I believe it helps me guide my work toward the buying public. Love to paint but need to sell to make everything make sense.



There are 2 comments for Feedback, selling makes sense of it all by Jose DeLaRosa

From: Mike Barr -- Jul 02, 2013

I agree - we should be connecting with the public not send them packing. I agree to on the sales of paintings...they really complete the work.

From: Nils Hansen Mohr -- Jul 04, 2013

I have always had good luck at festivals where several (or more) artists are invited to paint. The participants appear pre-selected and the general public understands that the quality is higher.


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How to really put them off
by Tom Auld, Kent, OH, USA


Several years ago, an old friend and I visited a small Gulf-side park outside Springhill, Florida for an Artists Sketching in the White Mountains<br>by Winslow Homer<br>oil on panel, 9 1/2 x 15 inches
Artists Sketching in the White Mountains
by Winslow Homer
oil on panel, 9 1/2 x 15 inches
afternoon of plein air painting. When we arrived, the parking area was nearly full and I feared the worst, a constant stream of sidewalk critics. Another painter had already set up her gear and was deep in the process. I noticed the passersby seemed to give her wide berth. The stenciled message in large red letters on the back of her smock couldn't have been clearer:

"YES, I'M PAINTING. NO, I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT."

"Great smock," I said as we passed. I got a quick smile and a wink and back she went to her canvas.



There are 3 comments for How to really put them off by Tom Auld

From: Mike Barr -- Jul 02, 2013

I often wear a t-shirt while plein airing with my name hand-painted in large letter so everyone knows who I am and my blog address so they can look me up on their iphones immediately.
Lets connect to the public instead of shooing them away!

From: Pedro Pires -- Jul 04, 2013

I would love to assemble a collection of reproductions of paintings like the one above by Homer that show historical painters at work out of doors and in their studios.

From: Bill Bond -- Jul 04, 2013

Not much will have changed, except the clothes


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Cezanne's experience
by Michael Epp, Vancouver, BC, Canada


My 'most unforgettable' plein air anecdote as recorded by Gauguin -- his remarks also provide us with Trees and cottages<br>original painting by Michael Epp Trees and cottages
original painting
a valuable and illuminating sense of the interplay of colours in Cezanne's painting. The painting referenced is Zola's House at Medan (Le Chateau de Medan):

"Cezanne is painting a shimmering landscape against an ultramarine background, with intense shades of green and ochre gleaming like silk. The trees are stood in a row like tin soldiers, and through the tangle of branches you can make out his friend Zola's house. Thanks to the yellow reflections on the whitewashed walls, the vermilion window shutters take on an orange tone. A crisp Veronese green conveys the sumptuous leafage in the garden, and the sober, contrasting shade of bluish nettles in the foreground renders the simple poem even more sonorous.

"A presumptuous passer-by takes a shocked glance at what seems, in his eyes, to be a dilettante's wretched daubing, and asks Cezanne in a professorial voice, with a smile,

'Trying your hand at painting?'

'Yes – but I'm no expert!'

'I can see that. Look here, I was once a pupil of Corot. If you don't mind, I'll just add a few well-placed strokes and set the whole thing right. What count are the valeurs, and the valeurs alone.'

"And sure enough, the vandal adds a few strokes of paint to the shimmering picture, utterly unabashed. The oriental silk of this symphony of colour is smothered in dirty greys. Cezanne exclaims: 'Monsieur, you have an enviable talent. No doubt when you paint a portrait you put shiny highlights on the tip of the nose just as you would on the bars of a chair.'

"Cezanne picks up his palette once more and scratches off the mess he has made. Silence reigns for a moment. Then Cezanne lets fly a tremendous fart, and, gazing evenly at the man, declares: 'That's better.' "



There are 2 comments for Cezanne's experience by Michael Epp

From: ken flitton -- Jul 02, 2013

There's also a story that Cezanne was out painting with Manet or Monet. Cezanne was notorious for putting a stroke on and then looking at it for a half-hour. A young boy came over to the older man and whispered in his ear " Jou may not know itt, but jore studdent is not doing henny work hathall."

From: Henry Pierce -- Jul 04, 2013

It's all relative. The guy may have been showing Cezanne how to paint better. Just because Cezanne's style has become iconic and widely promoted, doesn't mean it's any good.


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Loves a crowd
by Alana Dill, Alameda, CA, USA


I'm a face painter and body artist, so by definition, I almost always paint in public. I spent many Rena Moon Face<br>body paint by Alana Dill Rena Moon Face
body paint
years thinking I was supposed to create in splendid isolation - many years blocked! Face painting frees me up to paint spur of the moment, and it gives the arty part of my brain the freedom to wiggle around and come up with new ideas. It's almost as good as taking a shower!

Face painting may be dismissed by some folks as a 'craft' rather than fine art, but I don't worry about that much. If I sat them down and got them familiar with the challenges of painting on a canvas that sometimes wiggles, giggles, moves, sweats, or sneezes, in uncontrolled situations such as heat, cold, or wind... they'd quickly understand that it's a real challenge. To create a good face- or body-painting, one must understand the qualities of the paint (which are different from color to color and brand to brand), the structure of the face or body, and a little about the human soul underneath it. There is a graphic-art aspect, since one is painting to another's order; one could also consider it a sort of visual haiku:

The face awaits paint

butterfly, monster, hero

reveal what's inside

Some face painters dislike all the questions that come with the job, but I love them. "Are you a real artist?" is my favorite. I like to reply: "I've been an artist all my life, and this is my favorite medium now. What kind of art do you like to do?" Sometimes they get a sad, dreamy look - "oh, I'm no artist...", and I always encourage them to keep trying until they find an art they love doing.

Oftentimes there'll be one person in line who just wants to watch, and I talk with them about process and technique - the cosmetic paints I use, how I hold the brush for different strokes, etc. They often choose to go last, if at all. If they do trust me to paint them (and 95% of the time they do!) they have chosen their design carefully, and I customize it to their specs. It's a joyful collaboration.



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Nancy Paris Pruden Workshops Held in Normandy, France & Umbria, Italy.   <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>The Workshop Calendar</a> provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look <a href='http://clicks.robertgenn.com/workshops/workshop.php'>here</a>.
Nancy Paris Pruden Workshops
Held in Normandy, France & Umbria, Italy.

The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. Please take a look here.



World of Art Featured artist Alexey Steele, Los Angeles, CA, USA



You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Jerry Rosenfeld who wrote, "My favorite, 'My kid can paint better than that,' doesn't bother me. A bother was when a dog critted my work--I paint sitting on the ground. On the other hand, I've sold often from the easel."

And also Gary Gibbens of New Zealand, who wrote, "A local painter pretends to be deaf when people approach and annoy him with inane remarks. He just points to his ears and carries on painting while ignoring them. He does get to hear some strange comments by doing this.

And also Barrett Edwards of Naples, FL, USA, who wrote, "Plein air painting is not for the faint of heart, but the rewards (and even the back-handed 'compliments') are unforgettable."

And also Richard Gagnon of Knowlton, QC, Canada, who wrote, "I acquired a Panama hat in Florida a couple of years ago. Do you think it would be big enough?"

(RG note) Thanks, Richard. I found my own Panama hat to be so sufficiently intimidating to others that I quickly bought another when I stupidly left it in a bar in Patagonia. I'm currently wearing an Australian "Akubra" that also does the trick.


If you think a friend or fellow artist may find value in this material please feel free to forward it. This does not mean that they will automatically be subscribed to the Twice-Weekly Letter. They have to do it voluntarily and can find out about it by reading our Welcome Letter.



Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Painting in public...

From: Mike Barr -- Jun 28, 2013

The wonderful world of plein air can certainly be euphoric particularly if it is done in a group or with at least one other person. There is nothing quite like it and it will improve not only the observational skills of artists but also the whole painting process.
I read recently that the awkward questions or statements of those coming up to take a look are mainly a way of reaching out to the artist and should be responded to in a positive manner.
Plein air paintings nearly always have more about them than studio work, as we tend to capture the moment instead of the visual facts. For years I could not see the benefit of outdoor work till I tried it - I wish I had started it a long time ago.

From: Donna Dickson -- Jun 28, 2013

One of the many reasons my husband and I live in central Mexico is we both love painting en plein air and can do so year round! Rarely is there down time due to weather.
People here love to see painters....it doesn't matter how bad it is , you always get encouraging comments . Congratulations is their favorite comment.
Don't be intimidated I tell my students you'll be too busy painting and trying to figure out what you're doing to worry about what people are thinking. The mere fact that you've got your stuff set up and pencil or brush in hand, you already look like a pro.! San Miguel de Allende

From: Karol Tucker -- Jun 28, 2013

I once overheard someone sitting nearby my painting spot at an out door cafe say to his friend...It looks pretty good when you get way back away from it. I'm assuming he was talking about my hat!

From: Jack Dumont -- Jun 28, 2013

I took a workshop from Frank Eber a few years ago and he was terrific--both a good teacher and a brilliant watercolorist.

From: Rick Rotante -- Jun 28, 2013

Painting in public is a process all plein air painters should quickly get used to. The only way to overcome anxiety about this is -just do it - and often. I deliberately put myself out there where people could and would interrupt me. I even let some paint on my canvas (then fix it when they leave) but I do this every infrequently. The point is its very beneficial to have people watch over your shoulder. Let them talk to you. The thing we are most afraid of isn't painting in public, its the fear that they may know more than we do or they think you stink as a painter. Trust me, You are the expert no matter what level you are at. They know nothing about how you think or the concept you're trying to achieve.

Do it now and do it often. Eventually, you won't even notice the talkers.

From: Elizabeth Pudsey -- Jun 28, 2013

I have painted plein-air for 30 years. Nearly 20 teaching, wandering the local countryside. So many times I have said many of things you are talking about, big hats, the buddy or group painting. This a must today for women, I have also taken my large dog (black Lab) along. One thing I have encouraged is "no"canned pop and do not make eye contact. Then you have entered into a discussion of some sort. This draws away, valuable "light" time, shadows change and paint dries. Cellphones today are an asset for female painters out alone or with a buddy.

From: Michel St. Hilaire -- Jun 28, 2013

I agree about painting in public. It's sometimes irritating to have people drop by and state the dumbest thoughts... like "did you paint that?" Or, "when you're done you should come to my house, it needs a paint job... haha."

From: F.X. Rosica -- Jun 28, 2013

I have a tip for those who need or enjoy privacy while En Plein Air. Just put a "tip jar" on or near your easel with a large enough sign for approachers to see. It works for me in crowded areas where I need more concentration in my work. Occasionally I even get a $1 or two.....enough for a coffee!

From: Maxx Maxted -- Jun 28, 2013

Everybody is an 'expert' in their own minds. '.... but personally I can't even draw a straight line' -as if that is anything to do with Art. But it gives one the opportunity to point out that there are no straight lines in nature.

From: Edna V. Hildebrandt -- Jun 28, 2013

My daughters Lydia, Alice and I participated in plein air painting sponsored by the Mcdougall Cottage in Grand River Cambridge County, Ontario. It was my first time to do landscape plein air. It was a beautiful day and we picked a location in the park along side the Grand River. There is a look out with a concrete path where people can walk and ride there bikes fenced on the side of the river. On this section of the river you can see two bridges on opposite sides. It is a beautiful site and both sides are idyllic for painting. The "great Bard" could have had been inspired to write his dramas. So there is no place more public than where we were. People of all ages stopped to look and even their pets looked on. Some of them just looked and walk on but others looked and conversed with us encouraging us and raising us. Some gave their thumbs up. We thanked them for their praises and conversed with them. Some came with their cameras. I think that if we concentrate on our painting while talking pleasantly with people encourages us more. No one made remarks to disparage my work only encouraging me to continue. It is very inspiring and challenging at the same time. Strong gusts of wind were drying out my paints as quickly as I could put apply them on canvas. It is a good learning exercise and would not hesitate to participate again in groups but not going alone on my own.

From: Jane Ross -- Jun 28, 2013

This one really made me laugh!

Also, some of your pieces make me think that much of what you say re: art and artists applies to writing and writers.

From: Ed Hoiles -- Jun 28, 2013

Thanks for the click back on Frank Eber. I have a print of a wet street scene by Ralph Avery. Remarkable likeness of style, colorization, so forth.

From: Diane -- Jun 28, 2013

After years of painting plein air, both in groups and alone, some very good advice I can offer is TRUST YOUR GUT FEELINGS. Most people are wonderful and kind but I was in a situation once where there were five of us painting at a little church outside of Santa Fe. It was a quiet area, a tad remote, and the road was a dead end. A man drove up, got out of his tow truck, and went around to each of us. He had to make a concerted effort to see every painter because we were a little spread out from each other. When he left, everyone convened, which was unusual. Each of us had decided, independently, that we were very creeped out by this person. We packed up and left, unfinished paintings in hand. To this day I have no doubt we made the safe decision.

From: Linda Blondheim -- Jun 28, 2013

"Painting in the remote out-of-doors is the best plein air of all. "

I agree with the above quote. I've been an outdoor painter for 30 years, both in groups, at professional Paint Out events, and out in the fields and woods by myself. Painting alone is really the best way for me. Groups tend to make the day a social event with little accomplished other than companionship. Give me the fields and woods to myself any day!!

From: Denis Callaghan -- Jun 28, 2013

The best advice I have heard, to keep the passing traffic away, is to place the hat a few feet from the easel with some coins in it. Splendid isolation and maybe the price of a free coffee is the result.

From: Eleanor Blair -- Jun 28, 2013

I've traveled all over the world, working with oil paint, acrylics, watercolors, charcoal and soft pastels. No matter where I am, I look for a comfortable place to sit, in the shade, with my back to the sun. Then I paint whatever is in front of me. Sometimes I find myself staring down an alley, or at some other less-than-picturesque place, but I surrender to painting what I see. It's a challenge to try to make sense of a complicated subject, and it's a challenge to work with an audience. Still, a painting I do under challenging circumstances often becomes one of my favorites.

From: Pat Doig -- Jun 28, 2013

Are you sure you meant to say "some painters welcome intercourse"? Lol Sorry but l couldn't resist.

From: Keith Thirgood -- Jun 28, 2013

As president of the Ontario Plein Air Society (OPAS), I've met hundreds of plein air painters, both experienced and brand new. Not one of them has told me of a single negative experience to do with people when painting in public. (A few tried too large a canvas and had them blow across the rocks, but no bad human experiences.)

My own experience backs this up. I've had people come by and praise my work, when all I was doing was laying down a base colour. People are for the most part simply thrilled to see a "real artist".

I'm rather shy and I thought I was going to die the first time I went out doors to paint. Instead, I had a blast and, as a bonus, my painting abilities improved more in one summer of doing plein air than in the entire time of painting before then.

I believe in it so much that I now take people on plein air art retreats and workshops all summer long. And they all love it. If you're a studio painter, you owe it to yourself to try plein air.

From: Jim Ramsdell -- Jun 28, 2013

You forgot the bugs! I once counted 17 gnats on one of my paintings! I thought, "now that's a bona-fide plein air painting!"But certainly the human attention is much more fun. I usually get, "I have a relative that paints." But every once in a while you get a comment that stops you in your tracks. One women came up to me and wanted to know if I was a famous artist! I wondered how many famous artists she knew? I should have said, "Yes!" One cute young lady wanted to know if I did that free hand?
Occasionally someone will come up and say, "I brought my paints with me but haven't had the courage to unpack them." I always say, "go get 'em!"

From: Steve Yardley -- Jun 29, 2013

I've had some strange things happen when I've been painting out of doors, but I've never had intercourse.

From: Vicki Ross -- Jun 29, 2013

I learned an excellent technique while on the Amalfi Coast, Italy, with the master, Charles Reid. Dip your brush in the water, then in a swift downward movement, shake the brush from the easel to your side. Follow through. Sightseers will give you wide berth!

From: Allan Green -- Jun 29, 2013

Actually, after finishing a reasonably good painting out of doors, a bit of intercourse with others in the group is quite nice providing they are agreeable.

From: Barbara Youtz -- Jun 29, 2013

A gentleman was watching my friend paint and finally he said, "That's nice. I like paintings...you should see the ones mother and I have collected; they are so good that you can't even tell them from a photograph." Then he proceeded to sing the praises of the artist who painted them. I could hardly wait for him to leave to hear what my friend had to say. We had a great laugh at all of the responses she could have made and didn't.

From: Nancy Oppenheimer -- Jun 29, 2013

One day, while painting outside, an elderly gentleman and his wife pulled their car off the road and the gentleman leaped out of his car and walked up to my easel. As he did this, his wife leaned her head out of the window and yelled "Did she get it right?" and he yelled back, "She ain't done much yet, but what she done she done it right."
Another time I was painting a dead character engorged tree and a man stopped his truck in the road and yelled out "There's a prettier tree right up the road. What are you painting a dead tree for?" People are funny!

From: B. Traficonte -- Jun 29, 2013

I am part of a foursome who paint out in Maine. We have been doing this for 16 years and have encountered many different onlookers. I think this year took the cake! We were painting in Acadia National Park in a place which is backed up to overgrowth and a deep ditch. We were busily painting when a couple came along with cameras. Normal. Without a word, they stepped in front of our easels and took about 5 minutes standing in front and next to each of us. They stood and photographed so close to me, adjusting their camera and leaning this way and that, that they bumped my brush. I felt it was not only rude but hysterical!

After they left we four decided that if we were all painting that scene, it most certainly must be worth photographing!! But what we were doing was not worth a comment like, "I know you are painting, but please excuse me" or " do you mind if I stand in your space for a minute?"

Most always people are very chatty and interested in what we are doing, which plein air painters get used to, but this was a first for all of us!!

From: Rick Rotante -- Jun 29, 2013

Funny, in all the years painting out of doors, I've never had one person give a disparaging remark. The difference must be in the quality of the work.(!?) :)

From: Jill Campbell -- Jun 30, 2013

Best helpful advise I can actually use. Some of them are very creative but easy to do. Like the hat or iPod.
Thanks again Bob!!! You always say it straight up.

(I've gone back to my maiden name Campbell. My old married name was Bukovnik)

From: Preston -- Jun 30, 2013

Great article. How interesting that we all seem to have very similar experiences painting plein air. Humans are rather predictable in their reactions to us artists. If a painter really wants to improve his/her studio painting skills, I recommend experiencing plein air. Love it!

From: Jackie Knott -- Jun 30, 2013

The hat comment is curious. Working in the sun demands protection whether you're in the garden or painting. I can't imagine an observer not engaging an artist just because of a big hat.
I knew a lone woman plein air painter who was always leery of people approaching her from behind without warning. She clamped a rear view bicycle mirror on her easel so she could see behind her.

From: Kathy Howard -- Jul 01, 2013

I agree with the consensus here, plein air painting is a blast, either way, with an audience or all alone. I thought I would die of embarrassment the first time. I decided to bite the bullet and take a plein air workshop. I found in no time I was so wrapped up in my painting I never noticed or cared about any onlookers. After that when painting in more public places, I have never had anything but a whole lot of fun talking to people who generally think if you have a paintbrush in your hand, your are working some sort of magic. I've had people bring me fresh baked bread to freshly picked cherries and met some interesting people. Don't be intimidated.......just do it!

From: James Carrington -- Jul 01, 2013

Men are more "exhibitionist" and may naturally take to showing off in public and be more comfortable doing so. This may also account for the fact that most demo doers are men. Take any classroom or club; it's very often a man demonstrating to a bunch of women.

From: PK -- Jul 01, 2013

While sketching in a small town in China children would come up to me and feel the hair on my arms. Then, the smaller ones about 4 years old would laugh at my long nose. Later, teenagers asked for my autograph. What else is that much fun?

From: Doug Elliot -- Jul 02, 2013

I have had nothing but positive remarks. I once gave a short talk to a passing party of schoolchildren encouraging them to try it. Another occasion two little girls maybe 4 or 5 had their noses almost on the paper. I am sure they went home and took out their paints.

From: Barbara in AZ -- Jul 02, 2013

My sister and I both paint but her story of a kid asking her what she was doing while painting outside, she replied "cookin' dinner, what does it look like I'm doing"?? LOL!

From: Judi Axthelm, CO -- Jul 02, 2013

In the Fall a few years ago I had an interesting plein air experience. I was standing away from my pastel painting friends at a popular tourist spot. A group of foreign students starting hiking down the trail toward me. They were talking jovially and I anticipated some kind of interaction, but instead they became quiet, stopped smiling and kept a wide berth. Odd, I thought until I looked in the mirror at home and saw a rather bizarre person with disheveled hair, wearing a very weird snowman apron over a torn and battered sweater. My painting must not have helped since I was experimenting with a brightly colored underpainting!!

From: valerie norberry vanorden -- Jul 03, 2013

I do names and meanings of names in calligraphy in public, as well as sketch plein air, the venues I am at, in public. Yesterday as I was doing a name I could hear munching behind me, a youngster was eating an apple and watching me intently, I didn't break my focus and turn around, I kept on and laughed internally.

From: Jan Layh -- Jul 04, 2013

Recently three artist friends and I collaborated on a painting that was to be auctioned off at a "Gala" fund-raiser. There were four stages set up in a very large complex. Three stages hosted musical performances and our stage hosted a "live" painting process.

We were delighted at the interest shown by the patrons as we painted away. They asked many questions and were obviously intrigued by the entire process. We have all painted "in public" before (on roadsides, in town and at artist gatherings) but painting as a stage "act" was a first. At the end of the evening the painting was one of the pieces auctioned and it drew a substantial bid.

From: Jennie Tomlin -- Jul 04, 2013

I enjoy your twice weekly letters so much as well as your book "The Painter's Keys" This letter reminds me of the time I took my easel out on the beach and continued to work on a columbine painting while facing the ocean. Was so engrossed in my flower that when I backed up and bumped into someone I was startled- only there were about 11 someones behind me, all with puzzled looks on their faces ..... but no one said a word! Still am wondering what they thought, maybe I don't want to know!

From: J. R. Baldini, IPAP -- Jul 05, 2013

Having taught workshops in St. Lucia for 8 yrs, one day 2 boys of 9yrs. came over to talk, one was small and the other who hung back (obviously the leader looked older) The smaller was interested in what I was doing and asked a lot of questions. I learned they had told their mothers they were sick and were playing hookey instead of being in school, grinning as they told me. I said, that's really too bad, because you see all these art & crafts supplies I have here are going to be given out later in the day when all the kids come home from school, but you didn't go, so I guess you won't be able to get any.He said he liked art & I said if he finished school, he could someday maybe be doing what I was doing.He was silent for a few minutes then they left. A while later the smaller one appeared in his uniform and announced he was going to school. I look at painting as a communication tool that crosses, age, culture, language and any other kind of barrier. I like to think maybe he got something out of our conversation, I know I did...

From: Donna Dickson -- Jul 05, 2013

One of the many reasons my husband and I live in central Mexico is we both love painting en plein air and can do so year round! Rarely down time due to weather.
People here love to see painters....it doesn't matter how bad it is, you always get encouraging comments. Congratulations is their favorite comment.
Don't be intimidated I tell my students you'll be too busy painting and trying to figure out what you're doing to worry about what people are thinking. The mere fact that you've got your stuff set up and pencil or brush in hand, you already look like a pro.!

From: Tracey Kutschker -- Jul 05, 2013

I love the passing comment you mentioned, "You should take up painting." Reminds me of one excursion I made with a large 36" square canvas. A women spent a few minutes watching me and then said, "that's pretty good, I'll bet you could get a hundred dollars for that on the internet."

From: Susan Leith (Boley) -- Jul 08, 2013

My husband, Earl Boley is a painter and I'm a photographer --- we both enjoy your insights but this one hit home for him…
Earl has painted outdoors for decades and never sees onlookers as problematic - he especially loves painting outdoors in France where people often watch, quietly and respectfully while he does an entire painting - even kids watch quietly for an hour or more.




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