I am happy to tell you that the Carmel Art Festival this year was a success! Even with such an amazing roster of artists, I was able to grab an award this year and sell the award-winning painting! Unbelievable. But before I jump the gun and get into all of that, I’ll walk you through the rest of my time there.
Remembering how last year went, I knew I was going to have to change up my strategy of tackling the task of creating 2 knockout paintings in 2 days. Calvin Liang was the judge, so I knew I was going to have to step my game up for a prize.
You are almost guaranteed a day of fog and clouds on the Monterey Coast anytime you decide to visit. As I was arriving to survey the scenery, I ran into the oppressive grays of the coast. It is still possible to create beautiful pieces full of life and color, but the name of the game here is to create a couple of quick masterpieces. I stopped at Monastery Beach to create this quickie before going to check in for the event.
It was now about 6 o’clock in the evening, so I knew I had a small amount of time to explore the scenery. It was still foggy in the peninsula, so I scurried back over to Moss Landing to find the last remnant of sunlight in the area. I went to Zmudowski Beach. Wasn’t too impressed with the beach scenery (especially in comparison to the beauty of Carmel proper) but I did like a lot of the farm road and wetland scenery along the way there. I also wasn’t thrilled about painting with the Pacific Ocean’s wind and sand smacking my face, either. I found a decent scene with potential to work up into something substantial.
This was a quick study on a 6×8″ board that I was going to use as reference for a 16×20″ painting.
The next morning I woke up to a bit of a depressing scene. It was actually drizzling a bit in the AM. A day at the coast was not looking great. The interesting thing about Carmel(and most of the Northern California coast) is that you can go inland behind some hills and find a completely different climate. I decided to go down Carmel Valley Road to find a surprising amount of sunshine awaiting me at Garland Ranch Park.
It is a completely different look and feel of the scenery here than the coast. Reminds me a bit more of the parks around Santa Barbara than what you typically find up here. After walking around the trails and waiting for some sunlight to pop out, I worked on this tree study. This is an example of looking better in context than it does at home. I chose a tough subject with fleeting sunlight on top of it. Oh well, it warmed me up for the next painting.
After getting some expensive lunch, we stepped outside and found a very bright blue sky above us. I decided to see how far the clouds retreated. I drove back to Carmel, only to find the same wall of fog I escaped from in the morning. Because I had planned to paint one of the great Carmel vistas from the road, I took this opportunity to try my hand at it.
Though this painting is relatively large for me to work on all outdoors in one shot, I wanted to give this scene a try. I did a quick study of the scene first, which took me about 30 minutes. This gave me a road map for the color/values I was going to need to remember if the scene was going to change drastically. Fortunately for me, the fog behind me was able to somewhat obscure the sun long enough to keep the light consistent for almost 3 hours. I was able to knock this out in 2.5 hours. I owe a lot of that to the consistency of light as well as the study guiding me. I knew what colors to use because this was the second run through. I would have wasted valuable time trying to figure out what color to mix had I not done the study.
The fog was not yet relenting, and going all the way back to Moss Landing to work on that painting I tried to start the day before was a huge gamble. One I didn’t have the time to take. I decided to go back to Garland Ranch Park. The amazing thing about this was that the sky got more and more clear the closer to the park I got. The beauty of this area is best seen under the golden light of the late evening. Sundown was approaching fast, so the only thing I could do was paint this quick study of fleeting light.
I was exhausted but satisfied with the day’s effort. I had met up with Carole Gray-Weihman over the course of the day, and after we shared our findings, we ate at a surprisingly good little pizza spot. I learned something, though. Pacifico without lime is terrible.
I was happy to wake up to a beautiful blue morning sky. This was the day to paint on the coast! I went to the southern part of Point Lobos for a change. I skipped the often-painted scene of China Cove and went down to Gibson Beach. The sand and color of the beach there was so luxurious, yet hardly anyone actually ventured down here. I felt like I had snuck onto someone’s private beach for some reason.
The stimuli of everything in front of me was quite overwhelming. It was tough to simplify even to this level. I need to come back to this scene and make a more careful and directed study, because there was too much to take on in a couple of hours without making some brutal edits.
I finished up my painting here then went back to the hotel to shoot photos of everything, and undertake the perilous task of choosing which two paintings to hang for the show. I went with “Carmel Valley Splendor” as the obvious first choice. I knew it was my most successful painting of the event so far. I went with “Perilous Bridge” as my second choice. It was not easy. Even though I thought “The Distant Monastery” was a better painting overall, I felt like “Perilous Bridge” has more universal appeal whereas “The Distant Monastery” had more for artists to look at. In the end it didn’t matter because I didn’t sell either. (Spoiler alert! :P)
Competition was stiff! Had maybe the best paintings overall of any CAF event I’d seen. There was great work created by just about everyone, and if you want to take a look at it, you can view my slideshow on Youtube. (Click the link to view.)
I snuck away from the show to check out Paul Kratter and Randy Sexton’s two-man show at the Nancy Dodds Gallery before having some excellent Spanish tapas at Mundaka in downtown Carmel. The great thing about doing events with other artists is learning where to go to have the best food and drinks. I met Hans Versfelt, who is not only one of my favorite plein air painters, but a super nice guy. A pleasure to chat with. I also met Roos Schuring, who’s not only a great plein air painter in her own right but a social media maven, a rare human being with a ton of spirit and vivacity, and an inspiration for anyone who wants to balance an “artsy” lifestyle with real-world business savvy. It was a highlight of the event to get to know her.
Finally one morning to relax! I spent the morning with Carole Gray-Weihman recharging the battery a bit at the Wild Plum Cafe in Monterey before heading down to Big Sur. The only thing I had to worry about was getting back to Carmel by 5:00 before they announce the award winners. In the midst of all the events, this was my only chance to escape for a while and explore the grand scenery that is Big Sur. I went all the way down to McWay Falls. It was a place I’d never stopped at before, but was determined to check it out this trip. A little nugget of paradise! Everything around here screams “Gorgeous!” Well worth the trek. I started this scene from life (and forgetting all of my small brushes at the hotel!) but I finessed some of the details in the studio. I also fixed up some of the weak points that I didn’t see at the time. I think it’s a lot better now than how I exhibited it.
I got back to town just in time for the award ceremony. It was especially important for me to be present for the awards, because I needed to accept my Honorable Mention award for “Carmel Valley Splendor!” There was so much good art displayed this weekend that I’m still surprised to have gotten any recognition for my work, so I am extremely grateful for the award. I’m also happy to say that my painting also sold! All of the pressure and stress of the financial aspect of the event was gone now, so I could go ahead and enjoy the rest of the event. However, there was one important part of the event still left to participate in….
*sidenote, we went and met Ken Auster at the opening reception of his show at the New Masters Gallery. Always great to meet a painter of his caliber as well as taking in an entire body of his work.
Quick Draw!! We have to check in by 9 AM, then find our spot, create a painting, frame it, get back to the designated display area, set up our easel to display it, all by 11 AM…. Can you say ‘pressure?’ The shore of Carmel Beach is the favored spot of many a Quick Draw participant, and it’s easy to guess why. There is a lot to paint in the area and only a few minutes away from where we need to be. I knocked out this quick study of a lovely and popular cypress(Paul Kratter’s tease: “that’s never been painted before”). I planned on painting further down the beach but with time being of the essence, I couldn’t afford to waste 10 extra minutes if I didn’t need to. Even being very conscious of the time, I still barely checked in on time. Paul Kratter won the Quick Draw award for a lovely scene he did near the beach. My favorite painting was Stacy Barter’s knock-out study of some flowers, done in a loose thick style. God she’s good.
I chatted with fellow painters and gallery-hopped a bit while waiting around to hopefully grab another sale or two during the rest of the festival. We then packed up the rest of the evidence of our hard work and went to Jack London’s pub to have deep conversation with Roos over a couple of margaritas. We convinced the remaining crew to mosey on over to the St Tropez restaurant. The food there is soooo good. I think I’m going to have to go there every time I come to Carmel. A few teary goodbyes, and the adventure is officially over.
- Length of the event. Since they don’t host the artists for the event(which is also something you can rant on if you want) there isn’t a real reason the painting time has to be so short. You get just over two whole days to create 2 paintings to the best of your ability. Although that sounds like plenty of time if that’s your only goal, it would help to have some extra breathing room to create the best paintings you can. Better paintings sell easier.
- Check-in times. They make you check in at 5pm on Wednesday. Any plein air painter knows that the light starts to get really good at that time. By the time you’re done taking care of business and end up at your painting destination, half of one of your 2 paintable evenings are gone. Then on Friday, you need to check in between 6 and 8PM. That means you need to quit painting and start to get ready for presentation by around 4PM if you want to be on time to get your work up. Saturday morning is when judging happens. Why no morning check-ins? If we could check in Wednesday morning and turn in our paintings Saturday morning, that gives us almost a whole extra day to work. There might be a reason they do it that way, but for now it seems arbitrary to me.
About Sergio Lopez
North Bay Area based Fine Artist Sergio Lopez. Oil paintings, gouache paintings, plein air paintings, and charcoal drawings. http://www.themainloop.com