30 Paintings in 30 Days - 2022 - The backstory

30 Paintings in 30 Days - 2022 - The backstory

As a busy working caricature artist, wife, and mom of two, I was determined to find a way to fulfill a wish that I had kept putting on hold: to paint oil paintings.  

Merriam-Webster's definition of plein air

This  plein air challenge was daunting,  yet definitely a welcome one. Ironically, it was an online challenge that encouraged artists to go offline, or at least paint outdoors. The idea of painting out in the fresh, open air (despite the presence of covid) seemed safer than breathing toxic paint fumes inside a confined room.  

Organized by warriorpainters.com, the challenge was to do a plein air painting everyday for the month of April, and to post each piece on Instagram with the hashtag #PleinAirpril. 

Anyone in the world could participate, but if you wanted to win a prize, you had to follow the rules.  I craved discipline and really wanted to paint again, so I didn't mind the rules and it helped to have an actual reward - regardless of what it was - to work towards.  However, the rules were strict and plenty -- with no room for error. Elimination was imminent, and the worldwide participants going for the limited prizes were easily disqualified.  In addition to doing the paintings, there were specific phrases and multiple hashtags to be posted, various accounts to be followed, and specific ways to tag correctly, along with posting the art with the theme of "water, fire, earth, or air" on a daily basis. Of equal importance, was a deadline to post a new piece everyday for 30 days before the strike of midnight, otherwise the painting didn't count.

Game on!

My only plan was to drive around the South Bay, and paint some of my local faves. Having grown up most of my life in this coastal environment, I wanted to focus on landmarks and interesting scenery that captured the local beach vibe. From Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach, Redondo Beach and Palos Verdes, everyday was a new adventure. Each day, I was not sure what I would end up painting, or who or what I would encounter outside the comforts and safety of home.  

Though I had general ideas of what I wanted to paint, many of the paintings were based on whether or not there was good parking, or if there was an accessible bathroom nearby. The time for me to do a painting revolved around the hours that my kids were in school, or my husband's work schedule, and my caricature gigs.  After a tough day of completing a new piece, I would remind myself not to get too relaxed because this was just one of the 30 days. If I wanted to complete the 30-day challenge, I still had to get up the next morning and overcome all these obstacles again, and again, and again.

Everyday, I had to deal with the habit of procrastination, and figure out very quickly, how to get the work done.  I tend to over analyze and research a lot before I make decisions, however, there was no time to really think nor feel if I wanted to finish a painting that day.  To think for too long would eat up precious time I barely had.   I had to trust my instincts and get out the door, otherwise I would talk myself out of it with self-defeating excuses like "I'll do it later. It's too cold/hot/windy outside. I don't feel like it today. I don't want people to see me.  I feel weird. I don't know what I'm doing."

Laziness was always quietly tapping on my shoulder, but I was determined not to give in. The easier it was for me to get outside and paint, the better. I made myself a simple plein air kit and kept it in my car or by the door. I prepped and bought all my supplies in advance. Just like investing in an expensive gym membership, from the start, I felt the financial pain of spending a lot of money on art supplies, with hopes of not letting it go to waste.  Anything to make the idea of quitting more painful than doing the actual challenge was helpful.  

Towards the end, there were moments when I would wake in the middle of the night, in a worried hazy panic, wondering if I had actually hit all the correct "submit" buttons to achieve the daily deadline.  It became common for me to dream about oil paints during this time.  At this point, my subconscious was in transformation mode, and my brain was creating new pathways of thinking. 

The challenge not only affected me mentally, but also physically and emotionally. So caught up in the moment of painting for many hours, I would forget about my bad knees until I could barely stand anymore. Despite my effort to be careful, the sand and dirt would always seem to find a way inside my painting supplies and palette. Often, my fingers would be numb and cold from holding the paint brush in the early morning, or after a really long painting session. 

In spite of the wind, sand, dust, sunshine, overcast days, gross smells, and impending April showers, I met many folks from all walks of life. People passing by would often stop to take a moment to look at my paintings, share a personal anecdote, a piece of local history, or just acknowledge my attempt to capture a specific moment in time on that day's canvas. Sometimes, strangers would holler words of support or give a friendly honk from their cars as they drove by. People began to recognize me from having seen me painting at a different location from a previous day. Every bit of encouragement helped me take another step forward towards the finish line.

At the end of the 30 days, I learned more than just about painting.  

On an artistic and logistic level, I learned about buying supplies, scheduling, preparation, composition, brushstrokes, how to observe scenery, and how to actually paint with oils en plein air. On a deeper level, I learned about patience, perseverance, humility, and self-discipline.  I learned about going outside my comfort zone and how to communicate face to face again with people in the midst of a global pandemic.  I learned about our communities on a more intimate level.  I learned about shadows and light.  I learned about humanity and what it means to be a human on an ever-changing rotating planet called earth.  I learned to slow down and be fully present. I became more aware of the fragility and gift of time. I learned about the Golden Hour. I learned that this world definitely needs more art, and for others to physically see a person create art in real time, was a really good thing.

To my delight, I was named as one of the winners of the plein air challenge! But I learned that winning a prize was just extra sweet icing on this already delicious cake. 

This collection is a labor of passion and love. This body of work is a culmination of overcoming many obstacles and struggles.  Every original painting, limited edition print, postcard, tote bag, and mug that you see here was thoughtfully created and produced with love, and serve as tangible evidence of this unique experience.  Thank you for joining me in this journey, and for your time and support.  

May you also be inspired to go outside your comfort zone, and do what you've been deeply longing to do, someway somewhere somehow. 

Yours truly,

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