Plein Air Painting is the New Golf

Green Doors

Green Doors…another good day

I grew up in a golfing family. After dinner, we’d all go out to a few holes before the sun went down. The sound of cleats on gravel brings memories of sunny days spent on the course, chasing a little white ball around. Recently I overheard someone say, “Well, plein air painting is the new golf…” and I couldn’t agree more.

Golf and painting are challenging and fun but they are also frustrating. In golf, some days you’re hitting the ball like a pro and other days you’re just shanking and slicing from the rough to the sand traps and back. Painters have the same problem: some days the stars align and the painting just flows. More often you’re struggling, desperately trying to get it on canvas. Both painters and golfers wonder who snuck into the garage at night and switched out all of our equipment.

Prepare for Sudden Weather

Prepare for Sudden Weather

This is going to be a good one

This is going to be a good one

The gods of both golf and painting play the same game with your head: when you’re just about to give up and throw your clubs in the lake or your paints in the trash, the gods give you a birdie or a sweet painting and pull you back in (think of Al Pacino in the Godfather). Painting has mental sand traps as challenging as the ones on the golf course. There are techniques for “getting out” but it takes lots of study and practice.

Weather is a factor. Both golfers and painters hate wind and rain. Some golfers use brightly colored balls to play in the snow. Some painters keep their white paint in their pockets so it won’t freeze in the snow. Both activities also require special umbrellas and clothing. Oh boy, an excuse to buy more stuff!

Lots of doctors and lawyers play golf and I’m meeting more and more doctors and lawyers in workshops. They’re focused, determined and have the latest top-of-the-line stuff. Men dominated both activities in the beginning, but now women want to be frustrated, I mean challenged, too.

Plein Air equipment

Plein Air equipment

Travel to new places is exciting for both golfers and painters. Vacations to golf courses all over the world are very popular. Then golfers gather at parties, drink and compare notes on the courses they’ve played. Artists love to travel to paint, drink and compare notes on where to find turpentine in foreign countries. Travel gear is a challenge for both activities. Golf clubs are bulky and may incur extra airline charges. Paints, tripods and other painting gear require special packing and cannot be carried on. Both groups hold their breath until their precious cargo appears on the baggage ramp at their destination. Phew–there’s my bag!

When I was growing up my parents used to joke that they were spending our inheritance on golf clubs, shoes and paraphernalia. There was always a new gadget or golf ball that would improve their game. An entire side of our garage was devoted to golf stuff. Painters have the same opportunity to taunt their kids with how much money they’re spending on “stuff.” Exciting conventions offer tempting new paints, brushes, view finders, frames and videos that will change our “game.”

7. Endless Videos & Sketchbooks

Endless Videos & Sketchbooks

My mom took golf lessons for 40 years. She would be convinced that each new golf pro was “the best ever” and was going to lower her handicap. (There’s a thought: why don’t artist’s have handicaps? it would make sense when signing up for workshops, entering shows, etc. “Artists with a handicap above 12 need not apply.”) Back to my mom: she took copious notes in little spiral notebooks, bought books by masters like Arnold Palmer and Gary Player, and watched golf TV on weekends. I have dozens of sketchbooks with workshop notes and, like my mom, am convinced that each new instructor’s palette choices, etc., are just what I needed to conquer the art. The painting videos are endless and serve 2 purposes: they instruct and entertain, just like the golf TV did for my folks. Unlike my parents’ golf TV shows, I can pop a DVD in or even download a YouTube demo any time I want, not just on weekends. (Here’s a personal note to my kids: you can toss it all when I’m gone.)

Rehashing the Day

Rehashing the Day

Clothing is a big deal. In golf, collared shirts are required at certain clubs and there are a variety of choices for golf gloves, lightweight windbreakers, the “newest” cleat- less shoes, golf hats, even golf socks. Compare that to the artist uniform: safari style shirts, hats, costly shoes that make it more comfortable to stand for hours, rubber gloves to keep your hands clean and chemical free. The one difference here is that golfers look clean and tidy and only have to remove their shoes to enter the house. Artists look like bums and transport paint on their clothes in unlikely places and manure and other goop on their shoes (depending on their plein air location of the day). After a day of painting they should strip to their underwear before entering anything but a cave.

Golfing buddies or artist buddies: if you’re lucky, you’ve got ‘em. The best friends will encourage you when you’ve had a lousy day and you’ll do the same for them. The shared experience, whether on the golf course or on a painting site will be revisited again and again. “Remember that time we…(were caught in a monsoon on the 9th hole…were chased by a bear while painting in Yosemite…)? Speaking of friends, golfing buddies or artist buddies, they’re the best!

I can paint water every day

I can paint water every day

Sunscreen is essential for both pursuits, but the most important thing the two “sports” share: it’s so much FUN! One day I asked my dad how he could play the same course three to four times a week without getting bored. He replied that every day was different: the ball landed in a different spot, the weather varied, he played with different friends. Well, painting is the same. Monet had his haystacks, Van Gogh had his rooms, Constable his skies. I can paint water every day and find a different, exciting view. I get it, Dad.

Whether you’re a professional or not, standing on the first tee looking out at a sea of green grass or you’ve set up your easel on a dock with a view of the Aegean sea, every beginning is filled with hope and the joy of just being out there in the fresh air. You smile at your buddies, pick up your driver or brush, and go for it.

Upcoming OPA Events

OPA Fall 2018 Online Showcase OPA Fall 2018 Online Showcase
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OPA 2019 National Juried Exhibition OPA 2019 National Juried Exhibition
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