Easel, Sunset, Aching Back

Last week I told you about the Beauport easel I was going to try out for the first time at the IPAP (International Plein Air Painters) paint out (group of painters congregating outdoors in one area to paint whatever each finds inspiring–not sure why. . . we do look less peculiar in numbers). I had also mentioned that you can’t paint a sunset en plein air. Sharon Allen, who keeps our NH plein air group organized, challenged me on that statement and decreed that we would indeed try to capture the sunset that very day. So I feel obligated to report: 1) the easel was pretty OK, i.e., not as much of a problem getting used to as I had expected; 2) you really cannot paint a sunset en plein air; and 3) my back was killing me by the end of the day.

Above is the 16 x 20 painting I started with, from the bridge on Route 121 near the beachy area on Massabesic Lake, which you can see in the background of the photo below. Here is the easel holding the painting, pochade box, brush holder, towel holder and cup of mineral spirits. Clamps were handy to guarantee no side trips for the painting and for the pochade box, which is attached by its leather handle to the cross bar of the easel.

The easel withstood some pretty good gusts of wind, and my only complaints about its workmanship are the too-snug fit of some components. Rubbing them with a bar of soap might help with that, if I can find a bar of soap.

About the painting–I just want to say that I was trying to show the ripples created by the gusts of wind across the shallow pond water, and then a duck showed up and like a total idiot, I tried to capture her in the painting without first snapping a photo of her for future reference. I must have got the idea that I was some kind of duck expert after the success of my Ogunquit Duck.

The sunset was slow in coming. The three of us who remained foolish enough to attempt the sunset prepared for it ahead of time. I prepared by essentially pre-painting the sunset. Here is my set up:

And here is the actual scene, first while some light was still available for painting, and later when the sun was in the process of taking off with the light we needed to see what colors we were mixing:

Whatever the painting is that I produced from that session, it was not a painting of THAT sunset. Maybe it was a painting of remembered sunsets. Certain elements in the scene before me, pre-sunset elements like the golden light hitting the masts and illuminating the marsh grass, sky lightness reflected in the wet sand, interested me more than the sunsetting sky. Maybe, dare we say, a sunset painting does not have to be all about the setting sun!

Massabesic Sunset, 12 x 16

We started about 1:15 and quit about 7:15. Since one simply does not sit whilst painting on a Gloucester-style easel, I was standing most of those six hours, using my chair to sit down only when I was backing off to get distance from the painting. The pain and stiffness in my back lasted until the next day. Does a back have muscles that react like any underused muscles when they get an abnormal workout? If that is all it is, continued workouts should make a difference. Stay tuned.

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