Columbus Folk Fest Plein Air Contest

The annual Columbus TX Folk Fest has a “Plein Air Contest” where artists find an area near downtown Columbus and paint on location. My plan of attack (wing it) was to have three paintings to enter and hope to score first ($1000), second ($500), third ($250) or at least “honorable mention” (handshake).
Thursday, day 1: After falling to sleep watching a Bob Ross YouTube remix, I woke up with the tune still stuck in my head “happy little clouds”. Looking out of the window, the fog was so thick I couldn’t see across the yard! Bingo! Thank you Bob Ross!! I threw my plein air kit in the truck and raced down Hwy 90 to Beason Park and the Colorado River hoping to catch a dramatic scene. Knowing full well police radars are useless in thick fog, I pushed the gas pedal to 66mph, trouncing the 65mph speed limit. I’m a true Wild Hog. Here’s a pic of the river for my first painting:

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Reference pic of Beason Park in the fog

Within an hour the painting was basically done and the following two hours were spent stepping back and making little adjustments.

“Misty Morning” 9×12″ Acrylic. 1st plein air painting for the contest done!

While I was painting the fog scene, I saw a crusty aluminum boat on the other side… painting #2! I ate a PB&J sandwich and apple for lunch, thinking of the possibilities for a crusty boat painting. I got in an under-painting (looks like colored rough sketch) in the humid, hot mid-day heat and headed for some shade.

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Quick color sketch of the crusty boat

Columbus TX is famous for their Live Oaks and I realized as I sat in the shade at Beason Park, the tree right in view of me was HUGE. The trunk was almost as as big as the picnic table! Painting #3. As I stepped away to see a composition, the sun was just dropping enough to light up the twisted trunk almost like it was a model posing. I took this reference pic and finished a quick under-painting around 5pm.

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Reference pic for the Beason Park Live Oak

Friday, day 2:
By now I’ve saved the Bob Ross video and the happy trees and clouds has become a mantra. It’s my last day to paint, so I need to make the most of it. I’m pleased with the “Misty Morning” painting and feel less pressure. The lighting has changed directions for my crusty boat painting, so I reorient my lighting on my under-painting quickly. Just as I’m about put in a delicate highlight, a slightly overweight, old man with a white t-shirt and overalls walks up and says “Well, guess I’ll take a hike then!”. A little startled, I looked around and said “Nice day, sounds good.”. Strange. As I’m laying in another sweeping brushstroke there’s a big splash about twenty feet to my right! I look and a Caracara, or “Mexican Eagle”, just plunged down and lifted up a nice fish! Amazing. The man walked up again and said “I’m glad you’re painting my boat.”. Aha, so that was it. The pieces fit from his last statement that he wanted to go out on the boat, but did me a favor and let me paint! We talked a bit he told me about fishing and times in the boat. It was really cool to now have a personality to the bent handle, rusty chains, and all the parts that were some part of this old man’s history (I later named it “Untold Stories”). Here’s the reference pic:

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Reference pic for the crusty boat

I changed the color slightly for composition, but kept the personality intact:

“Untold Stories” 11×14″ Acrylic. 2nd painting for the plein air contest

So, back to the “Beason Park Oak” painting. Just as I was finishing up the painting, a man drove by and said his little girl demanded to stop and see the painting up close. About five minutes later, we’re talking about his road through prostate cancer and I explained my speech problems from brain cancer. Funny how that happens. It felt good too, to see an inspired little girl ready to paint! I packed up the finished painting and it started to rain as I drove off.

“Beason Park Oak” 11×14″ Acrylic. 3rd plein air painting for the contest. The concept was to capture the grace and immense power.

So, tomorrow we’ll see what the judges say of the last two days of work, but somehow that doesn’t seem important. The journey of each painting, people I met and the image of eagles gliding down to clutch a fish are priceless. Any prize would simply be a bonus to a completed story.

Results: 3rd place on “Misty Morning”! Plus, a lady bought three bird paintings! Art pays for art, so the next backpacking art trip is funded!

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