View Full Version : Meeting art critics while working en pleine aire??

08-10-2004, 11:03 AM
Hi guys,

I was out yesterday, working on painting a local waterfall/river in soft pastel. I didn't bring my easel because of the hike up, so I was sitting cross legged with my pastel drawing resting on a board.

Anyway, I was really happy with what I was getting on this particular painting. After sitting in the heat, suffering many mosquito bites, and somehow able to keep my 3 boys occupied long enough to allow me to get as far as I had, at least 2 hours worth. Along comes a lady with her dog. After she let the dog go for a swim, he proceeds to hop out of the water and do exactly what you'd expect any dog to do. Shake shake shake shake, right beside me. Not only was I soaked, but my painting was as well.

Now, I understand that dogs are on their own agenda, that's just fine. What angered me is that the dogs owner stood right beside me and saw what happened and didn't even offer an apology. She simply said "Come on" and continued up the path. Leaving me soaked and watching splashes of water slowly sink into my painting. After that I decided that I'd been bitten enough and it just wasn't my day, got up and left. I guess the dogs owner wasn't an art lover??

So that got me to thinking, I wonder how many other people working en pleine aire have had things like this happen to them. I'd love to hear anyone elses horror stories. :p

Oh yeah, and another thing I forgot to add. My sassy 4 year old, god love him, saw the whole thing happen. As the owner and her dog were walking away into the woods he gets up and yells "Get that dog outta here!". lol...Always protecting mommy :p

Kathryn Wilson
08-10-2004, 11:19 AM
How totally RUDE! Not even a word of apology - we encounter all sorts of people and their dogs on hikes, and believe me, it's them and their dog's agenda that is most important.

On our hike on Sunday (not plein airing tho), we encountered a couple with their two dachsunds - knowing my dog, I politely told them that it would not be a good idea to come too close. Wouldn't you know, the guy picks up the male dog and brings him over to our dog and shoves the dog in my dogs' face - guess what, the other dog growled, snapped and bared his teeth. My poor dog just sat there wondering what the heck he did. Sheesh.

My only experience plein airing is people viewing the painting way too early in the process - ya know, when blocking in color and it looks like yesterday's wash - :eek: You can explain all you want, but they don't get it.

08-10-2004, 11:21 AM
LOL...how awful! Just goes to show that dog lovers can lack class just like so many others, I guess. I've never had anyone bother me while painting plein air, but I think that's mainly because we worked especially hard to find places that were otherwise deserted...a sort of chicken principle that worked okay most of the time.

I do know that my "solitary" tastes in plein air work have kept me from working in some lovely places simply because they ARE overrun with thoughtless, milling herds of tourists and "sports" practitioners who tend to think they own whatever place they happen to be at the moment. (I've been run over by bicyclists and joggers a time or two when trying to take pictures with my digital camera.) Kids and dogs are notoriously oblivious to the pursuits of others, but adults can be even worse.

The upshot of my experience is that I have at least a dozen "perfect" spots I'd LOVE to paint in and probably never will. The reason? Every body and their dog makes a beeline through these places all hours of the day or night and I'm just plain chicken.

I hope your painting wasn't totally ruined! And good for your son; he reminds me of my youngest who, at about 4, put her hands on her hips and hollered at the retreating back of a disaparaging art critic at a park show, "Hey! Are you IGNORED or WHAT???" (She hadn't quite figured out the difference between ignored and ignorant yet, but she made me proud.)

08-10-2004, 01:38 PM
lol - love the ignored comment.

Sorry to hear it was such a bummer experience and I'm not sure I wouldn't have smeared the pastel dust on the wet dog after that point - just to give the puppy some color and the master some headaches...

I'm always capable of warding off critics by wearing a set of headphones when I paint - sometimes they aren't plugged into anything but it wards off the critics.

My only two bad plein air experiences had to do with supplies - not critics...

Never paint in watercolors in the frequently rainy Pacific Northwest. Even if the sun is out.

Never flip your Sennelier leCarte paper over onto the grass - the dew dissolves the vegetable matter tooth.

All this said... I do check out other artist's work when they are painting en plein aire - and am very respectful. Perhaps I'm teaching other viewers a lesson when I approach them gingerly and quietly.


08-10-2004, 03:05 PM
Kat, how ignorant of that man! lol Some people's children :rolleyes: And I know what you mean about the people approaching as you're blocking in. Sigh

Sooz, funnily enough, I thought I had hiked far enough up the falls to where I wouldn't get bothered...Next time I'll just hike until I hit the North Pole, that way no one will bother me :p . I do understand what you mean also. There are at least three spots that are so cute here in my town, I'd love to sit down and go at it, but I think I'm going to have to settle for my digital camera for them. Too many people walking by.

By the way, don't you just love 4 year olds for their tenacity? :D

B, What mishaps! I'll remember to be very careful with the leCarte on dewy mornings :p . I always have headphones on when I'm working, yesterday was the exception because I needed to keep a sharp ear as to what my boys were doing. You're right though, it does ward people off.

Oh, I was just thinking too of another thing that happened to me a few weeks ago. Due to the fact that my spots usually have to be kid friendly, I decided to bring the boys to the waterfront/park. I found myself a nice shady tree to sit under and decided I was going to paint this gorgeous birch tree with a park bench underneath it (one of many, I should add).

Not that I feel, at this point, I own the park or anything. I did, however, have my easle set up pointing towards this area, so it was obvious I was painting something. I also should add that I wasn't very far away from the subject, maybe about 8 metres or so. Wouldn't you know, these two women with six kids, looked right at me and sat right down, not on the park bench, they literally set up chairs and sat down, completely blocking my view. I just sighed and continued my work on parts I could see until they left. Thankfully they only stayed for about an hour.

Anyway, I've got to run. Hopefully there will be some more stories when I get back. :p

08-10-2004, 03:38 PM
A Dutch friend of mine came on one of my overseas art holidays. She was painting near the lake, in N Italy, and a group of people came up behind her and asked questions, in English, on her painting. She answered in English. They then proceeded to talk amongst themselves in German, without considering that my friend might also speak German, and they made very unflattering remarks about her work. She had to stand and listen to this, until in the end, rather fed up, she turned around and spoke to them in German, so they knew she had understood all they had said ... there were a great many pink faces, she told me!

How horrible must that have been for her! And her painting was super in the end, they happened along at the rough and messy stage.


Mary Robinson
08-10-2004, 04:07 PM
ayeceaeph, I would have presented the thoughtless dog owner with a bill for about $150.00 or more. :D


Kitty Wallis
08-10-2004, 05:17 PM
I've done a lot of painting in public over the years and it's my belief that I am responsible for teaching those folks I meet the ettiquete of WIP viewing.

When I was 18 I returned to my portrait spot, in a long line of portrait artist's spots, after a break. There was a drunk fool drawing crap on my portrai! I walked up and slugged him. I was furious.

I've answered rude, discouraging remarks with my real response, in kind. If it was an understandable blunder of ignorance I've tried to gently teach the person. If a malicious or uncaring attempt at damage or one-upsmanship,they got something more pointed in their craw.

I've told controling arrogant parents who have commissioned a portrait of their child that I was 'waiting to start until they left the room'. Or 'they were trying to hitch a horse to a Farrari', or 'I had to protect the work from them'. And I did have to. Their actions almost dictated my failure if I let them continue.

The good news is that people accept such bold, even abrasive statements from artists because we are doing something they don't know how to do and have a mystic about...most of them. I've only lost one commission out of hundreds with a harsh remark. And that time I definetly was wrong. I was trying to convince myself and them that my portrait was good when it wasn't.

On the plus side, I've had these experiences:
I was sitting in the shade at a beach, painting, A five year old boy stood at my elbow watching for a long time. He said " Where do you sign up to be an artist?" I told him "You don't, the way to be an artist is; you paint a lot, get real good and then people will call you an artist."

I was painting a fast motion twilight sunset on the Oregon coast. Oblivious to my surroundings I painted the underpainting, making small noises of frustration and satisfaction as I worked for 15 min. The underpainting was a successful watercolor, to my surprise. I announced to myself I was done. The small crowd that had silently gathered applauded, really surprising me.

I've done hundreds of portraits on the sidewalks of New York City to respectful, quiet audiences and happy subjects. Over the years my responses to ignorant behavior have become more gentle and understanding, but I have not changed my attitude of responsibility to teach the public about their part in the creation of art.

Your 4 year-olds know what they are doing.

08-10-2004, 06:50 PM
Kitty, I only hope to develop chutzpah more like yours ( or what you have toned down over the years, apparently!) to make the pointed comments I feel! My process seems to be a mirror image of yours :p

I have to admit, the thoughtlessness and downright rudeness of some people never ceases to amaze me--and some dog owners do think their Fido is never wrong! --just like the parents of rude and obnoxious children. It's a known fact of nature that a cat immediately gravitates to the most allergic visitor, the wet or muddy dog will only greet the person in white, large dogs are automatically drawn to the fearful or unsteady, and animals in general believe artworks, like clean cars, are for walking on, shedding on (if wet) or shaking next to (if water-soluble)! :rolleyes:

As a fellow dog-owner, I am saddened that these were so clueless. I hope your painting wasn't ruined completely, and bully for your 4-year-olds!!!

Our rather large (70-lb.) half-Great Pyrennees mix is fearful of other dogs due to inadequate socializing when she was tiny, and reacts very aggressively as a result--at least until/unless they bark back at her LOL! (then the tail drops to the ground, and she cowers and runs away--even from the neighbors' Chihuahua!) We have and continue to work hard with her to overcome it, but I couldn't tell you how many times I've called or motioned to other dog walkers to keep their hounds away from us, only to watch them continue right on down our side of the street while I try to manage this lunging, snarling beastie, as well as another, more mellow 65-pounder getting tangled in the leashes! while looking scornfully at me, like I'm the problem. Or, worse, their dogs are loose, and won't return to the owner's feeble whisper of "Here, Fifi" ----but I'd be the one sued if Katie scratched their darling.

Thankfully, Katie is responding very well to our work with her, and may even soon graduate to the dog park!!!

As for plein aire critics, my only experience has been in my front window (the only natural light source) and when I've taken my dust out to the front yard--and with our friendly little community of fellow students in my building, it has proven to be good for me--one neighbor finally persuaded me to keep my easel turned out so he could watch what I'm working on, and passersby have become my biggest fans after my partner and son! Maybe I'll eventually work up my courage to graduate to the wider world, just like my dog....:p

08-10-2004, 07:29 PM
Our rather large (70-lb.) half-Great Pyrennees mix is fearful of other dogs due to inadequate socializing when she was tiny, and reacts very aggressively as a result--at least until/unless they bark back at her LOL! (then the tail drops to the ground, and she cowers and runs away--even from the neighbors' Chihuahua!)

You've got the counterpart of our Maggie, the monster border collie. She's frightened and aggressive toward ANY new human who "invades" her territory, greeting each such person with ear-numbing barking and wide, terrified eyes. She's never even come close to biting anyone, but I do worry if some nitwit decided to push her too far. She's especially afraid of strange men (well, who isn't??? :)) and we've just given up on trying to take her anywhere. Just goes to show that the canine psyche can be messed up just like those of humans...glad your work with Katie is paying off!

Kitty, I would've LOVED to see ya smack that drunk guy! The NERVE of some folks is amazing. Luckily, the only other bad experiences with the public that I can remember is the dingbatty old buzzard who hung out at my booth during a summer show as if she lived there, crowing in a loud voice over and over about how her five year old grandson could paint MILES better than me! Another artist friend finally came along and called her bluff. "Oh, is that so?" he asked the woman and when she reiterated her claims, "Well, tell ya what, why don't you go get this idiot savant and bring him and his work here to the park? You could surely sell enough to put him through college!" I think she was insulted by the reference to "idiot" and stalked off finally in a huff. Come to find out, this same woman was known for choosing a different artist at this event every year to pick on!

Pinecone Conniff
08-10-2004, 08:06 PM
I don't have a dog story but I was painting today at a waterfront park on the Chesapeake & a very handsome tanned guy approached to chat. After talking art for a bit (he paints also) he said he was at the park for the wind. He was a kite boarder!! How cool! He could do flips & tricks as he skimmed across the water!!...

Kitty Wallis
08-10-2004, 08:53 PM
Sooz, Have you heard the one about Picasso. About the guy who hung around Picasso's opening in Paris, calling it an outrage, "Don't go in there! The stuff is **** This guy can't paint. He thinks he can."...and on and on.

Picasso was seen paying him off later that night

08-10-2004, 10:04 PM
I've had a few bad experiences but most of the time plein air is so fantastic that a few bad times don't last long in my memory.

Dog owners can be some of the most insensitive when out walking their pets. so here are some tips that have worked for me....if you see a dog running toward you its intent is usually shown in the body language. Bared teeth and upraised bristles are a sure sign that he is not friendly. Use your deepest "loud" voice and shout ...NO! NO!....several times. The main thing is to not lose control and run.

I have had a dog charge me and shouting NO! scared the other artists as much as it scared the dog and his owner....who was running trying to stop his 'beast'. He did apologize and I told him to put his dog on a leash.

Comments don't bother me....I suppose I've heard a lot of them :) Things like...What are you doing? Are you an artist? and Do you sell those? usually make me laugh....I always reply with "What do you think?" and a smile. Answer a dumb question with a question....unless it's a child who usually has much better questions. They will ask, Why did you put that color there? or after watching awhile, they will say, "I don't see any purple in the water....where do you see it?" And I show them how to scan for color. They always get so excited and want to show Mom or Dad :).

One day while painting at the park, I was really engrossed and painted for about twenty minutes without stopping. When I began to step back to take a look at the painting, I almost stepped on four children sitting on the grass quiet as mice....right behind me!! The Moms were standing a bit more away keeping an eye on them...lol! I stopped to chat and let them all ask questions before I went back to painting. I didn't even realize when they left.

If I don't want viewers, I usually just get off the pathways and most folks will walk on by. I'm at the same park so much that only a few regulars stop to talk each time they see me and kids will run over and say they missed me :)

Tomorrow I'll be painting at a horse ranch and the organizer has given a lot of rules about how to behave around the horses....they will be roaming free in the pastures where we'll be painting. I just hope none of them get chased by a horsefly and gallop my way. I'll be yelling Whoa! instead of No! :D


08-11-2004, 07:36 AM
Such great stories! I cannot belief that dog owner who let her/his dog shake off the water next to you. That is so rude! And even no apology! Very strange. I am sure I would not have been able to keep quiet. At least a 'gee, thanks! That picture was rubbish anyway!' would have slipt out. :D

I don't paint plein aire (yet, too chicken, always excuses) but I can sympathise with the dog stories. Bogbeast, do tell me how you do it with your dog. Our 9 month old springer spaniel thinks she is human and is afraid of all dogs. She barks at them boldly but tries to climb up my legs out of fright if they come near. Not enough socializing, I suppose, like you said, although a dog meets plenty of other dogs when out on a walk. My dog is, however, VERY font of people and runs and jumps towards them with a waggy tail whenever she sees them. Most people do not appreciate such an canine act of love and the muddy paws on their (white) trousers, so whenever I see people I put my dog on the lead and tell her 'no'. I suppose the person who let her dog shake off the water next to an artist (or anybody for that matter) has never heard of good manners.
I cannot image going out painting with my dog, she'd put all her paws on my pastels or picture in order to get attention and playtime.........:D

Great stories everybody!

08-11-2004, 02:40 PM
Sooz, Have you heard the one about Picasso. About the guy who hung around Picasso's opening in Paris, calling it an outrage, "Don't go in there! The stuff is **** This guy can't paint. He thinks he can."...and on and on.

Picasso was seen paying him off later that night

HAHAHAHA! Sort of reverse advertising? Cool!

08-11-2004, 05:42 PM
I went on a watercolour art weekend once and we were painting outside. It was my first time and I was nervous of people watching. My art teacher said "you know the best way to get rid of people who stand right up close to you to watch, is to dip your brush in your water pot and shake off the excess water over your shoulder before you start painting!!!!! they soon run!!" I haven't tried it as I haven't painted outside with watercolours since, but we pastelists could always have a pot and brush handy!!!! they wouldn't know we don't use brushes would they!!!! :p

On the bright side though. I went with my art group to some college grounds which had a lovely lake and sail boats. I sat painting with my pastels. When we had finished and were drinking our tea, someone came round looking at our paintings. He asked if he could buy mine!!!!! It was only my second time painting en pleine aire, I was so flattered.

08-12-2004, 11:37 AM
wow, this was great reading, hahahah! i too have had run-in's other's dogs, which dont' get to me much, we have 4 dogs ourselves. i feel for you tho., having been shaked on, eww! i always take matters into my own hands before giving most owners a chance cuz i'd bet your situation happens more than 90% of the time, rather than the owner dealing with 'precious' themselves. and the part i will never figure out is, when you thwart evil doggy actions, they look at YOU like, oh my, what an awful person!! funny how i dont' like 'cuddles' peeing on my easel!? (at an art show once i seen a dog pee on a watercolor perched against a table in a booth!!) but it makes me sad cuz i also loose--lost some places to take my own dogs cuz of the irresponsiblity of others. mine are all very well trained, and come with obidience trophies!

my mom and i once went to a large shopping mall, sat on the benches and did tiny gestures of passerbys. no one much cared, got a few ''whadya lookin at'' stares then ''the man'' came by--he was NOT impressed with my stares and wanted to know just what was i doing?? (he wasn't mean, but sure not friendly either) i showed him and he was so pleased, sat back the way he was til i was done! i gave him the sketch, and gave up mall drawing! don't need any more of that, or problems with model releases etc.!!

and those questions, oh boy! but with anything, i think the questions are simply put to be ice-breakers, cuz really, they certainly can see what i am painting, right??! (hey lady, you paintin that tree?) here's yer sign, pal!

keep it up tho., and dont' forget to post the stories, how fun!

08-12-2004, 03:13 PM
Wow, I had another sickie day yesterday :crying: but it was worth it! I had a whole lot to read today...yipppeeee!

08-12-2004, 05:47 PM
Soap, lots of patience, consistency and treats! We started by getting her to sit and focus on my face whenever there was another dog in sight--lots of rewards! Then rewards anytime she saw a dog and didn't bark and lunge, on to rewards for staring quietly, getting closer to other dogs without reacting, etc. A couple of friends with very tolerant dogs let us bring her up close and sniff, with lots of her favorite treats (of course, everybody gets some!). She still goes crazy occassionally, but it's rare. If both dogs are off leash it's easier--being leashed when someone else isn't seems to really up the ante. And yours is young enough that getting her out to dog parks NOW if you can would help a lot! Obediance classes (positive reinforcement, no choke chains) help too--although Katie hated the "let's play" pushiness of other puppies from day one! Good luck!!

08-16-2004, 12:49 AM
Thanks for sharing the dog story -- I'll keep it in mind when I work outdoors along the coast to make sure I don't inadvertantly experience it also. I think a lot of verbal abuse would have spewed from my mouth before I could have edited or stopped it.

I've been lucky with my recent forays into pleine aire painting. In July a group of about 45 artists joined a paint-out to support the Wood Island Lighthouse Preservation society in Biddeford Pool, Maine. We painted our pictures on or near the island during the day and they were auctioned off that night to raise $$ for the lighthouse. Plenty of people came by to look over our shoulders and they were silent, complimented the work, or asked a tentative question. I think I was comfortable with that because I've been going to a painting group on Fridays where we work on portraits and we check out each other's work during and after the session. Many people at that portrait group belong to the Pastel Painters of Maine and we held our own paint out at a house along the Saco River -- the owner later came by with his young son to look at our pictures. I thought that was a nice way to teach him to value art.

- Laurie L.

08-16-2004, 06:16 AM
Thanks bogbeast! I suppose we need to 'borrow' somebody else's dog! :D :D Shame I don't know anybody with dogs. Whenever a friendly dog comes towards us in the park I now talk to it and show my dog it is alright and he won't bite her or anything. Maybe that helps. Earlier I tried to avoid people (and their dogs) as my puppy would run to everybody she sees and jump up to get cuddles. Not everybody appreciates that! But she's getting better now so I can go towards more dogs.