Painting Smorgasbord: 2012 Frank Bette Center Plein Air Paintout

It was a busy and fun-filled week in Alameda. I participated in the Frank Bette Center Plein Air Paintout for the 2nd time this year. Alameda is a very unique area to hold a paintout for several reasons. For one, it’s a small city, you can drive for 15 minutes in any direction and reach the borders of the small island. It’s a flat island, with not much notable natural scenery inside of its borders, either. Plein air painters used to painting mountains, creeks, and trees might find themselves at a loss for inspiration. So what is the draw here anyways?

Well, for an artist comfortable with cityscapes, there is abundant urban scenery. The Naval legacy is not to be overlooked, and neither is the “boat” culture here, with its entire northern shore filled with boats, docks and other nautical structures. Because of all the Victorian homes in the city, the entire city resembles the 2 blocks of every other California city’s historical district. Although I do love’s me some nature, I welcomed the change of scenery as a way to practice and expand my repertoire.

Day 1 – Sunday(Quick Draw):

I came to Alameda on Sunday for the Quick Draw. It was meant to coincide with the Alameda Art and Wine Festival. A few issues I had with this; one, I don’t like the art having to share the spotlight to everything else, especially blaring music, and two, I am tired of trying to paint generic street fair scenes with their homogenous white tents and nearly identical looking booths. I chose this view of the fair from a distance which gave me a good view of the historical building that makes the focal point. I got a lot of kudos on it, and apparently was one behind on the votes for the “Artist’s Choice” award.

Day 2 – Monday:

The next day kicked off the official start of the event with the check-in, grabbing maps, suggestions on where to paint, etc. I didn’t have a great idea of where to paint yet, but I knew I was looking for good views of industrial scenes. What better than the big white cranes loading and unloading the cargo ships in Oakland’s main harbor?

I enjoyed pushing the atmospheric perspective between the ships and playing up the lost/found edges. A side note: I actually ruined a part of the painting when it was still wet so I had to fix up the messed-up parts. Didn’t keep it quite as fresh as I hoped I would, but it still looks ok.


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There is an awesome view from Ballena Bay that has SF, the USS Hornet and the Bay Bridge all in the same view, and it lights ablaze in color as the sun goes down. One of the more iconic views from Alameda.

Day 3 – Tuesday:

Again I was attracted to more industrial scenery. I found this construction crane near the old warehouses  I moved a few things around and played around a bit with the relative values to push depth. I also changed the color of the sky to give it a different mood, rather than the nice clear morning blue sky.


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Afterwards, I did some scouting around for where I was going to tackle in the next few days. Once I decided on what I was going to paint, I went to the USS Hornet museum, which is an aircraft carrier from the 1950′s. It’s a really cool subject for a painting, not to mention an interest place to explore as a museum.

I saw something in the cables that I thought would make for an interesting composition. I didn’t find exactly what was in my head, so I looked for a different angle I would like to paint. This is easily one of the most unorthodox compositions I’ve attempted. I went for trying multiple lines swinging you into the depth of the picture, and using the bright orange to bring it forward. Believe or not, the seagull resting on the chain on the far right of the picture serves the composition in a very important way. Without it there, the line of the chain would lead you out of the picture.

Day 4 – Wednesday:

I was lucky to be able to be out of everyone’s way when I painted this scene at the Alameda. They were working on the trimaran ship on the right side of the picture. I did a little changing to the composition to make the darks all connect to each other.

I found an old house that has been long-uninhabited. There were a lot of interesting colors and textures in the peeling paint and dilapidated walls.


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One of the better paintings of the event for me was this scene of boats resting in the yard of the Grand Marina. I made the darkest part of the painting in the middle ground to give some reinforcement of the focal point, and I did some very Rockwell by making the port of the boat in the foreground point to the boats in the middle ground.

One of the most exciting yet difficult scenes to paint was the sailboat races from the dock of the Encinal Yacht Club. The evening light was turning the whites of the ships orange, and the boats were on the move. I painted the scene quite rapidly, in about an hour and a half. I had to wait for the one sailboat on the right of the photo to come back so I could paint it. I had to do it in like 2 minutes or else it might go away again. Ah the joys of plein air painting!

Day 5 – Thursday:

This was my favorite painting I did of the paintout. It was a boat I had eyed for a couple days in a row, and it wasn’t until Thursday that I decided to paint it. Only obstacle was a car that decided to park in front of me to get its tire changed. It parked exactly where it said “No Parking,” which was baffling. Sometimes things are made unnecessarily difficult, and you just have to work around it if you want to make the painting you’re after.


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We returned to the USS Hornet, this time we hopped aboard and went up to the deck to check out all of the amazing views up there, and all the cool air vehicles. I decided to paint this helicopter and get a close crop of it. I started it off with a wipe-off technique with a soup of raw/burnt umber and ultramarine blue. Iwish I had kept it more of a warm monochrome, it went too cool and gray in the for my taste.


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I did this one more as a challenge to myself. I did a close-up of all the machinery on the gunboat. This was done over 2 days. I blocked it in the first day, then added the detail over the dried underpainting. It actually wasn’t as hard as it looks. It breaks down to a bunch of cubes and cylinders stacked on top of each other. I don’t think it’s a “pretty” enough painting to sell at an event like this, but I can see someone with a more industrial taste going for it.

Day 6 – Friday:

There were a couple of gaps in the body of work I wanted to present at the exhibit the next day, so I set out to paint a couple of more paintings. I wanted to tackle a couple of buildings that I had seen around town. This was the High Street Station Cafe. A few people painted it, but I went for a bit more of an intimate view of it. Normally all the detail might be intimidating but with all of the practice during the week of painting detail, I was able to get into the groove of it.


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I jet on over to the southwest side of the city to do this quick painting of Wilmot’s Books. Some of the drawing is a tad shaky in retrospect, but I like the feeling of light on it.

Day 7 – Saturday (Sale):

On Saturday we brought all of our paintings to the South Shore Center to show off the fruits of our labor.

Here are the rest of the paintings in frames:

I detest standing around my paintings waiting to sell something, so I will do anything else to pass the time. My friend Yvonne became my gorgeous portrait model for the afternoon. I spent the next 2 and a half hours doing this portrait for the enthralled onlookers. I don’t do a whole lot of painting portraits outdoors from life, especially on a cloudy overcast day. It was a tough challenge because the light would change and then return to how it was supposed to be. It’s a decent study, but I am the hardest on myself when it comes to portraits, especially of pretty girls. I am always reminded of how far I still need to go. Never be satisfied!

Want to see photos of the rest of the exhibition? Check out the Frank Bette Center’s page on Facebook:

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151740258545288.497434.81929700287&type=1

One of the nice things about this exhibit is that it will be up for quite a while. Way longer than most other paint-out exhibits, with almost 2 months to check out the work.

PLEIN AIR EXHIBIT

AUGUST 10 – SEPTEMBER 29

GALA OPENING:

FRIDAY, AUGUST 10

7 – 9 PM

Paintings created during Frank Bette’s 7th Annual Plein Air Paintout week will be on display and for sale.

Regular Gallery Hours: Wed – Sat 11-7, Sun 11-5

Our Address: 1601 Paru St., Alameda, CA 94501

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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

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  1. Jeez Sergio! Your posts are forever epic. Great stuff here as usual. I hear you on not enjoying standing by your work waiting for people to buy something. I never liked that about art sales and conventions. It can be a fun way to meet and interact with people you would not meet otherwise. Got to love the double edged sword.

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