Plen Aire at the Fair: No Sissies Allowed!

"Flower Power" 18 x 22 in Chalk Pastel on Paper
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Sunday, June 26th: one of the most anxiety-inducing, exhilarating days of my life. It was plein aire day at the San Diego County Fair in Del Mar.

After a peaceful drive, a slight snag with the parking permit, and about a half hour of perusing the fairgrounds for a spot to paint, I trotted my "cart" with my supplies to the farm area in the children's section of the fair.

This was my first experience painting plein aire in a public place, and I thought it would be best to get my feet wet in a quieter area. I found inspiration in an exhibit titled "Race to the Farm" (the theme for the year was "Race to the Fair"). It was a VW Bug, parked in the middle of the edible plants exhibit, filled with plants and complete with a ladybug driver. I've never made a painting focused on a car before, so to paint a car plein aire was definitely a challenge.

I'd only intended to paint for two hours or so, but I worked until late afternoon. I was lucky enough to get a visit from a couple of friends, who kindly watched my stuff while I took a quick bathroom break. Other than that, I was in the sun for about five hours, pastelling my little heart out. I brought a large hat, but forgot to roll on the sunscreen (hey, it was still foggy when I started the painting), and I paid dearly for that later in the day.

I was expecting my biggest challenge to come from dealing with curious onlookers. I couldn't have been more wrong-- everyone was polite, friendly, and pleasant. I'm chalking this up to the idea that people who like plants and flower power tend to be nice people. It also helped that I had a nametag on and was clearly involved in a contest for artists, lessening the curiosity factor (I wasn't the first artist they'd seen by the time the came around to my little corner of the fair).

The day at the fair was one of the most pleasant painting experiences I've ever had (and what do you know, no bugs except for the ones in my painting?) It was grueling in some aspects though: people are watching you paint, the sun was pretty brutal, and I had to cart myself and all my stuff back to the exhibit to turn the work in for judging, which was quite a feat considering I had to weave my way through the thick crowds with a highly smearable chalk painting.

I didn't win a prize-- the judge wanted high energy crowd scenes, definitely something I was about to tackle my first time out. The paintings were all beautiful (about 30 artists participated), and it was exciting to see the different interpretations of the fair through the eyes of the artists. I'm already looking forward to next year!

In the meantime, here's a chalk pastel portrait of my daughter at the beach last year, completed in the spirit of summer:

"Little Cali Girl" 9 x 12 Chalk Pastel on Paper
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Click here to see additional California inspired works:

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