We had a paintout at John Muir National Park in Martinez today. My painting was complete rubbish, so to leave with pleasant memories of the day, I stayed and sketched these two carts that were on the patio behind the visitors center. I wrote “Transit Then and Now” on the page but the ranger corrected me when I handed him my sketchbook to get it stamped (see stamp top left).
He told me the “Then” wagon is actually a sprayer: the wooden barrel was filled with tobacco juice that John Muir’s farmhands sprayed on the fruit orchards to kill pests. He said that modern organic farmers have rediscovered this effective technique and are using it again. The “Now” cart is a neat little electric car they use to get around the beautiful hilly property. The rangers were so helpful, eager to share their knowledge about the park’s history, and very welcoming to the 21 of us who came to paint today.
Unfortunately I’ve apparently forgotten everything I knew about painting in oils plein air in the month that I’ve been focusing on acrylic painting in the studio and sketching with ink and watercolor. But at the critique several people had helpful suggestions about saving my painting. I’d started with a bad composition (despite trying out several thumbnails first) but they reminded me I could use artistic license and change the scene to improve the composition. (DUH! I can’t believe I didn’t think of that!) In fact, many people in the group did just that, deleting one or both tall palm trees that stand in front of the house and evenly divide the scene.
I’m going to give their ideas a try and who knows, maybe I’ll be able to rescue the painting. But not tonight.