Friday, August 16, 2013

Adventures in one year of Landscape painting Part 2

Overcoming the odds

 I regained my composure and applied more paint reassuring myself that this mess on my canvas was going to turn out okay.  A man with his girlfriend was looking on curiously and asked me how long I had been an artist.  Not thinking clearly about his question, I responded “for an hour and a half or so…”pausing in midsentence, I corrected myself.
“Oh since high school but this is my first ‘plein air’ or outdoors painting, "
 "I like it and I want it, will you sell it?" 
"Um, this is my first painting and it’s really NOT that good," I stated, uttering the dreaded statement of apology that experienced painters advise newbies to avoid: never apologize for how bad your work may appear!   "No really,” he responded. “I want it because it’s a reminder of this day." 
My head filled with the Rocky themed music, the part where Rocky Balboa knocks out Apollo Creed.  I couldn't believe that I was actually talking about selling a painting, being such a rookie out on my first excursion.  

Self Reflections

A few days later the experience got me thinking about how exotic it is to see someone painting a canvas from life in public.  For the painter, it can be a herculean effort just to gather your gear and get to a location, let alone make a picture that you are happy about. Non painters seem to have the misperception that painting is just a leisurely way to pass the time, often failing to understand just how much effort and hard work it takes to create an image from observation.

The painting is a reminder of a place, but it’s also a unique interpretation that reflects the artist’s mental thought. It triggers a memory, an emotion, or a mental space where you can be immediately transported.  So yes, the painting is a continuing reminder and valuable. And the man who bought my artwork seemed to understand that. In a later email, he said, “That was an important day, and having something that was also created on that day, at that spot, would be great. And the fact that it was a beginning for you, too, for a new type of art … that is cool, too.”

My return

A year later, I returned to the harbor and painted the same scene. I was excited and nervous about the day. It was like a finals exam for which one could never have enough preparation.
Would I be crestfallen with my result or pleased about my progress?  During the year, I stayed the course by painting outside at least one day each week, by attending workshops, reading landscape painting books, and studying blogs of a few professional landscape painters. I have started daily thumbnail sketches on my daily dog walks as well as attending a local atelier school a few hours a week.  
It’s tough to squeeze all this in with the rigors of family commitments and childcare, but struggle is what art is about.  It’s never an easy proposition to make pictures.  Sometimes the pictures turn out good. Some sell, some don't. But the reminder of the struggle of making the picture is even better. 
And after all, in my first plein air excursion, I sold a painting and had my lunch stolen by a dog.

Me (left of center in black)standing watching a demo by Stapleton Kearns

First plein air painting 2012
Same scene a year later of the Harbor in Canton

Jason Witte is from Baltimore, MD and will be exhibiting his work from the past year at
September 7, 2013 7:00 to 10:00 pm at

826 West 36th Street
Baltimore, Maryland
Open Studio: Thursdays 5:00 - 7:00 Fridays 4:00 - 7:00 (with 1st Friday Celebrations)

Saturdays 11:00 - 6:00


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