Adventures in Plein Air

New Orleans is blessed with perhaps 10 perfect days, weather- related, each year. On one of those gorgeous mornings in April, I trucked down to the French Quarter and began a watercolor study at one of my favorite locations: the 1200 block of Royal Street. Actually, most streets in the French Quarter are my fave spots....but I digress. This perfect April morning, I set out to paint 2-3 very small watercolor studies, to get back in shape. I found my spot in the shade, across the street from a beautiful window box planter, saluted on either side by ancient aquamarine shutters. Watercolor is the type of medium that can be very accommodating, but she/he also demands regular and repeated attention and practice. Like preparing for a triathlon every day. Skip a few days, and the muscle memory needs a bit of refreshing. So it was this April morning.

I painted happily and obliviously for a while. Someone stopped to ask me something, perhaps directions, and as I changed my focus to look at him, I found that I had no words. No, it wasn't a stroke. It was as if I was enveloped in a thick gauze and it took a few moments for his words to penetrate that haze. I forget what he wanted. Not three minutes later, a second gentleman stopped. He looked at my study, walked six feet away, and brandishing a very sophisticated and large camera shot several photos of the same subject I was painting. He turned, facing me and triumphantly declared "Done!".

All I could do was laugh quietly. My visual concentration had already ebbed, as I wondered at the mystery of the creative process. I had been in no hurry, save that the light would give me about 2 hours before shifting radically. And that time frame was quickly coming to an end. Some days you work hard and nothing happens worth keeping. Other days, everything flows smoothly, before it rains. Most days, it's a good idea to suspend judgement on the merits of the work until a few days, sometimes weeks, have passed. Moreover, after analyzing all the difficulties inherent in Plein air painting, and any other painting or sculpting for that matter, I've come to accept the fact that it's really about enjoying the process and results are the icing. 

In the process is the real joy. 

Let me know what you think. 
Cheers, Joan


Elizabeth Merchant said...

I find your plein aire work refreshing. I have bookmarked your site.

Joan DaGradi Studio said...

Thanks very much, Elizabeth!