Last month, I spent a week in Santa Fe, NM at the Plein Air Conference and Expo. It was fun! Ron went with me. I've already signed up for next year's conference that will be in San Francisco in late April.
There were 1100 people at the convention. It was very crowded. Quite honestly, the demos and lectures were the least enjoyable part of the conference. There's just no way you can get more out of a painting demo when there are hundreds of people crowded in a room, and you can only see the artist by looking at a monitor. No personal interaction with the artist. The expo part was a large ballroom that had vendors for all the major art suppliers. It was so fun and cool to see all the things available. I bought paint, bought a mini plein air setup, some brushes, wet-panel carriers, and other assorted supplies and t-shirts.
I had never been to New Mexico, and I learned that high altitudes can really affect one's body! I didn't have a serious case of altitude sickness (although a few of the conference attendees did!), but all week I felt out of breath and tight-chested. I actually wondered if I might have had a slight heart attack, but dismissed that since I felt okay otherwise - just easily winded. The minute we got off the plane in Dallas on the trip home, I felt completely back to normal. It was just the altitude.
I was initially disappointed that we decided to fly commercial at the last minute because of the weather forecast. I had planned on taking my paintings for the art exhibit with me, and it was too late to ship them ahead to the hotel. We didn't have room to take the paintings with us on our commercial flight. So I sold my space for the exhibit to another artist. However the wind was horrible most of the week. It would have been dangerous to have attempted the flight in Ron's small Bonanza. So flying commercial was definitely the right decision.
In preparing those three paintings to take with me, I learned how to very nicely frame a painting. I'm really pleased with how professional those paintings look (the framing). I learned how to cover the back with brown paper, and I had stickers to put on the back of each painting - 3 per painting - one for the "story" of the painting, one for the poem, and one for identifying info (title, medium, size, date etc.)
I did two paintings while there. I started a third one, but it was so bad, I cleaned off the panel entirely. I also took many photos of scenes I'd like to paint someday.
The highlights of the conference were the paintouts. We traveled to Chimayo to paint - hundreds of artists setting up all around the village of Chimayo to paint. Ron and I got there early and looked around. There was a chapel that was hundreds of years old - adobe, small. There was a room lined with crutches where people had gone to the church to pray for healing and then left their crutches there. There was a feeling about the place - holy - real. I immediately went to the altar, knelt down and prayed for Lily. The sense of being on holy ground was overwhelming. It was surreal in many ways - I was near tears the whole time we were there. I knew that the chapel was what I wanted to paint. I still want to work it more - but it is essentially finished. I love it simply because of the meaning behind it.
Another day we had a paintout in downtown Santa Fe. I saw this tree right in the center of town and I wanted to paint it. The background, though, was so busy that I decided to paint a simpler background by painting the building in the far background in the near background. Artistic license, you know. There were so many interestingly shaped trees around downtown. There were lots of unique shops, churches, stores and other buildings, too.
I told Ron and my children that after I looked at that tree for a long time it looked like someone upside down with their butt and legs sticking out of the ground. It's kinda funny looking, I think. I still need to finish this painting, too. When I painted this downtown Santa Fe scene, I had set up my plein air easel/tripod on the sidewalk across from that park. My friend, Sheryl, was painting next to me. She painted the same tree. It was an interesting experience to have people walk by and watch me paint. That happened in Chimayo, too. It was good to help get me out of being self-conscious.
I'm waiting for my art studio to be finished, and then I will finish the two Santa Fe paintings, and the other approximately 7-8 paintings that are just waiting for me to have the space to work on them.
The other great paintout for the Santa Fe trip was to Ghost Ranch - where Georgia O'Keeffe lived and painted. What an interesting place! I didn't take my paints on that side trip. I decided I would take photographs and paint later, and I'm glad I did. If I'd painted, I wouldn't have had the time to do the tour and all the walking around that I did. Fascinating place!
All in all, the PACE 18 experience was a good one. I'm looking forward to San Francisco next year. It will be fun - and I will have the opportunity to see another part of the country that I haven't visited before.