Day Two of the Saunders Workshop

Day One of the Patrick Saunders’ Workshop went very well for me and I was excited to get on to Day Two. I was, however, dreading the heat. My body just really doesn’t like heat and while we were promised there would be plenty of shade, I’m familiar enough with Virginia weather to know it was going to hot shade.

And I knew I had to give up my little red wagon for hauling all my heavy plein air equipment. We were warned there were many stairs to traverse and we needed to carry everything. So, in the Maymont parking lot, as folks began to arrive, I emptied all my bags and boxes and pared everything down to bare minimum. I estimate that by the end I was leaving 15 to 20 pounds behind and was down to just about 20 to 30.

Now, those of you who have known me a long time know that I used to be very heavy. Doctors call it morbidly obese. My knees, ankles and back were simply unable to manage the load. I had weight loss surgery and dropped very close to 100 pounds! What a difference! And I don’t miss it at all. But I’ve gained back a few pounds in the last two years (about 15) and there in my troubles on Day 2 began. Heat and weight gain… not a good combination for me at all. And now I was looking at carrying an additional 25 or so pounds down about four flights of stairs and back up again. Ugh.

And these are not normal stairs. They are slabs of granite. They are not evenly spaced and many of the risers are over the standard 4 to 6 inches… in some cases closer to 8 inches. And two of those flights are in full-ass sun!

Okay. It was okay. I was just going to do it. I would get everything down and if it took me all damned night to make two or three trips back up carrying stuff, well, doggone it, I was going to do it.

The second challenge was the bathroom. Guess where it was? Yep, at the top of the four flights of stairs. And at 9 a.m. as we entered the park it was closed, not to open until 10 a.m. and I already needed to use it when I arrived. Hmmmm. Patrick Saunders, hearing our dilemma (I was not the only early rising coffee drinking in the class), assured us there would be a bathroom break at some point in his morning demonstration.

Well, we all made it to the bottom and I think we all agreed that the trip was worth it. The Japanese Garden at Maymont is just stunning. And, as promised, it has a lot of lovely shady spots. The only hard part was deciding, amid all those wonderful views, which one we were going to paint.

Patrick chose, what I thought, was a relatively innocuous view of a pine tree and at little pagoda and the water reflecting his view. And yet, he created an amazing painting and if I had the money in my pocket, I would have purchased that demo painting before the day was out. As it turned out, I think another student managed to snag it.  IMG_0494

This was his view. And over the course of two hours or so, he turned it into this:


I took lots of photos and a video of his progress throughout both demonstrations Day 1 and Day 2, but those are for my own reference. But isn’t his work just amazing?

In any case, we had a bathroom break when I finally could wait no longer (he had just started on the sky, when I bolted for the ladies room)… lol. When his demo was completed, we all scattered to various points in the Japanese Garden. I had been looking at this view IMG_0485just to Patrick’s right throughout his demonstration and just could not settle for anything else… but I had to have some shade!

So, I wandered a bit further down the pathway up under some trees where the shade was wonderfully heavy and cooler. It was on a pretty narrow point on the pathway and so I carefully put down my drop cloth and hitched all my gear into a tight line behind my easel set up.

I got my lunch (the dear folks from Brazier Gallery arranged to bring us box lunches both days) and following as much of the instructions received that morning and the day before and while nibbling on a wonderful turkey sandwich, I set to work.  About an hour in, I realized I was really having a hard time seeing my painting surface.


It was bad enough I took my pallet down, removed my OMS and moved the whole easel forward and reassembled things only to realize I was now in the sun and could not correctly identify or mix the colors on my palette. So I decided to move back into the shade.

And I did not take my time. I did not remove the palette. Thankfully I did remove the OMS can. But as I got the easel back into it’s original location, the whole thing jostled and my palette took a dive onto the drop cloth that was laid over the rock walkway. And the glass inside the palette box shattered!

Well, I said a few colorful words. Thankfully, there were no children nearby. I carefully picked up all the glass shards and just put them in the box. I sat down with my spare painting surface and carefully transferred the paint from the broken glass shards onto the painting panel and then sealed the broken glass into the box. What else could I do but just continue? My neighboring painting student was very kind and brought over an extra tube of one of my new favorite greens: cadmium green (Patrick had generously given me a glob of it the day before). So I got back to work.

In order to evaluate where I was, I just kept pulling the painting off the easel, walked three steps into the light and made a decision about what was needed next and returned it to the easel and carried on.

I was well into the painting… nearing the end in fact, when Patrick wandered by for about the fourth time and realized what was happening and quickly helped me rearrange things again. Looking directly over the top of the painting (my preferred way to paint) at my subject, I was, in fact, looking directly into the bright reflected light bouncing off the water and sky and trees. It was like being snow blind.  It cast my painting into DEEP shade and I could no longer see it. By turning the whole thing 45 degrees, it allowed my eyes to adapt between the subject view and the painting itself.

In the end, I was very happy with this painting. It is, I believe, the best one I’ve done this year and possibly the best plein air I’ve ever done. I learned so much.

One of the best parts of the whole workshop was on Day 2 when Patrick warned us that there would be lots of people walking by and talking with us about our work. “If someone asks to buy your painting,” he said, “sell it!” We all laughed, but I did get a lot of complements if not an outright request about purchasing. I suspect most folks would not know to ask about buying a painting in progress, but perhaps with more and more folks getting out to paint plein air, more folks will come to learn to ask.

Now, to get back to painting!



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