Paint in the Park Day is an annual en plain air painting day for artists in the city of Glen Eira. It is run by the Glen Eira Artists Society and has been running for about four years. Artists of all ages and experience are encouraged to participate. The event takes place in Caulfield Park and runs from 10am until 4pm. Artworks can be finished off at home or back in the artists studio, but are returned to the Glen Eira Town Hall for an exhibition that takes place from the 2nd of December until 16th December 2013.
This years event was the second one that I have participated in. It would have been tempting for me to have "called in sick" for last Sundays event given the chilly weather and the fact that I had had a big day at Flemington the day before! However, it is an event I would not miss……"for all the tea in China", as they say.
Painting in public can be somewhat daunting. You have to contend with packing all your gear, the weather, people looking at you and errant dogs who are inclined to see if your paints are edible. Overall, it is an experience that is challenging, but it can be rewarding. The atmosphere is terrific and the public are generally enchanted. The music played by the city band in the rotunda is another dimension that adds to the convivial atmosphere.
I set up beside the cricket oval as I wanted to capture the clubrooms and the activity of people in and around the building; it also follows on well from my paintings of footy ovals and their clubrooms. We are limited to a canvas size of 40 x 50cm so that determined the size of my painting. I stopped by the ground during the previous week to determine where I would camp, factoring in where the car would be parked and how far I would have to walk with my stuff, given I had packed for every possible scenario. I also did a sketch. Once I had set up my working space on the day, I embarked upon my work just after 10am.
We all know the day was cold, but I can't tell you how cold I was by the time I finished up around 3pm. I was fine until about 1pm when my husband brought me some lunch and coffee, but after that the freeze set in; I guess due to a lack of movement. I would be surprised if you could not detect a quiver in the brushstrokes especially the fine ones required to finish off some of the details. Despite the cold, I was amazed at how quickly the time passed. I did not finish my coffee because I was so engrossed in what I was doing. The breeze was moderate, but did not hinder me greatly. The odd insect got stuck in the paint; one in the sky so I left him there. There also seems to be some pollen that fell from the tree above me which created a fine white speckle in some areas. A dried up blade of grass also landed on my canvas and on the grassy bit so I have also left that there too.
As for the cricket club…..all clubrooms can have that sterile, dull and municipal look to them from the outside when not in use. So I was intrigued to see the change take place from 'not in use' to 'in use'. When I arrived the clubrooms were closed, locked up and with no one around. Gradually over the period of the day Caufield Cricket Club came to life. The council groundsman arrived to prepare the ground hours before the game scheduled for midday. He was busy doing all manner of things that I had no idea about lifting tarps, marking lines, setting out cones and putting up banners. Slowly, the cricketers arrived. They warmed up and donned their gear in preparation for the game, firing each other up with lots of banter, pumping each other up…"carn boys, carn boys…. go freddie" etc etc. You could feel their energy.
Whilst the game was entertaining, my focus was mainly on the clubrooms. The game started with no spectators other than the batters awaiting their turn. By 3pm people had congregated under the veranda, leaning against the veranda posts and grouping together in twos and threes for conversation, breaking at times for the odd falling wicket and the change of over. Scorers sat at their desk, concentrating with due diligence.
I managed to get the painting done with some finishing touches added during the week. I had a few visitors stop by to look and comment, including some young boys going off to play soccer on the ground behind me. They were intrigued and suggested I paint them next year and to make sure I paint "their muscles". Another fascinated passerby declared my painting was "3D".
At the end of our days painting, myself and the other 20/30 participants of the Glen Eira Artists Society regrouped around the rotunda. We displayed our works and discussed with each other our varying experiences and results. It is always fascinating to see how differently we all take and translate our view of our public space…Caulfield Park.
All is good.