Art theory Oil Painting Painting People Portrait

Quinceanera Party Boy and When to Stop Painting

Quinceanera Party Boy, oil on panel, 14x11"
Quinceanera Party Boy, oil on panel, 14x11"

When I saw the photo I’d taken of this boy at the Legion of Honor where he was posing for his sister’s Quinceanera party photos, I knew I had to paint him (see my original blog post about that day). He is such a beautiful boy.

When to Stop Painting
Lately I’ve been focusing all of my art time on oil painting, and discovered something that might be of interest to other painters.

One night I’d been painting into the wee hours, trying to “fix” a painting. I’d put on paint, step back, then scrape it off. When I realized I didn’t know why I was doing anything I was doing, I went to bed, frustrated that after hours of painting I’d accomplished very little and in fact, probably just made things worse.

The next day I was driving to a plein air paint-out using my GPS to get me to cross streets near the destination (a little park with no address). Once I passed those cross streets, my GPS began scrolling the words “Driving….driving….driving” on the screen because it no longer had any directions for me—I’d passed the target with no further plan.

That’s when it hit me: When I’m at the point with a painting where I am just driving….driving…driving (or dabbing, scraping, dabbing) I need to STOP.

Without a conscious and specific intention (make this area cooler, warmer, darker, lighter, bigger, smaller, sharper, softer, etc.) and an overall goal, it’s just like trying to reach a general idea of a destination by driving mindlessly and randomly, hoping I’ll get there. Not too likely.

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Workshop, Weddings, Wheels at Legion of Honor, SF

Legion of Honor, SF, Ink & watercolor
Legion of Honor, SF, Ink & watercolor

My plein air painting group held a workshop today at the beautiful Legion of Honor in San Francisco’s Lincoln Park at which Ed Terpening demonstrated.  After an hour some people set up and started their own painting but I watched the full demo so had only enough time for this quick sketch. At the critique Ed pointed out the problem with the size of the guys in the foreground compared to the cars which made me laugh.

Ed is one of those rare artists who can paint while at the same time explaining the how, and why of what they’re doing. I learned so much! I’ve enjoyed following Ed’s blog, Life Plein Air for years and it was a real pleasure to meet him in person.

Afterwards I tried to walk over to the museum to see the Impressionists in Paris show (wonderful!) but was prevented by this craziness:

There were about a hundred noisy, smoky mopeds, coming up the hill and then circling around and around, more and more of them. Finally they left and I made it across the street and directly to the museum’s café for a much-needed latte. While I sipped I sketched the view out the cafe’s french doors (except they didn’t have Ed’s name above them):

Cafe view under my notes about the workshop in sketchbook
Sketch under my notes about the workshop in journal

I took notes during the demo on a page in my journal that had an unfinished sketch done with green pen which is what that green mark is under Ed’s name.

Apparently the Legion of Honor is a place people go to take wedding and Quinciaños photos (even though their ceremonies weren’t actually held there). I noticed five different groups being photographed and took my own photos of a few. Since I used a zoom lens you don’t see the tourists and museum goers that were all around them:

Wedding #1, Very serious and stoic
Wedding group #1, So formal and serious
Getting the flower girls ready
Wedding Group #2: Flower Girls
The Quincianera and her court of honor
Quincianera and her court of honor getting ready for photos

The Quinciañera is a Latin American tradition for celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday. Formerly a religious celebration, it has become an obscenely expensive event that can match weddings in cost and extravagance, including ball gowns, banquets, limos, huge parties, photographers, bands and more. I wish they’d save their money for college.

After their photos they left in a huge stretch limo as long as a bus but made out of a Hummer.

Priceless expression (great hat, too)
What is he thinking?

Nobody looked like they were enjoying themselves much in any of the groups. Except maybe the photographers, but they were getting paid to do their art.