Remain calm: The adventures of plein air painting

I just got back from this years Carmel Art Festival event in Carmel CA.  I won’t share a lot of details about the whole event in this post but I do want to share a great story regarding the Quick Draw event held on Sunday.

As you may or may not know, the Quick Draw event is held for those artists that received awards for their work on Saturday.  I was fortunate enough to receive one of these awards for my painting “Pebble Beach Gold”.

Pebble Beach Gold, 14 x 16, oil on Linen

On Sunday morning I decided to paint the dunes on the southern side of 17 mile drive along the coast.  Artists are required to arrive in the town of Carmel to have their canvases stamped for the morning competition. (The stamp on the back proves that the painting was painted that morning.) Once the canvases are stamped the artists are free to go to their painting locations to set up and wait for 9:00am to begin painting.  Each artist has 2 hours to paint, frame and deliver the painting to the show and sale which begins at 11:00am. (this is why it’s called a Quick Draw).  Most artists decide to paint somewhat close to town so they have the more time to paint, frame and deliver their painting.  I, on the other hand, decided to paint in an area that takes about 15 minutes to drive to.  This gives me about 1 3/4 hours to paint, frame and get the painting back for the show and sale.  A bit risky, but I’ve done it before on a number of occasions and never had a problem…until now.

We ( my wife, Janice, and I) got to my painting location with plenty of time to get set up and start painting at 9:00am.  The painting process went well, even while it rained fairly hard for about 15 minutes.  My wife was in the car reading a book and enjoying the view of the coastline while I painted.  I loved having my wife out with me, it’s not very often tat we get the chance to do this.  At one point she had to turn the key on (not to the point of the engine starting) so she’d be able to turn the wipers on to clear the rain that was impeding her view of the coastline that was quickly clearing.

I ended up finishing the painting at about 10:20, plenty of time to get it framed, get everything back in the car and to drive back to town..right?

I get in the drivers seat to head back to town.  I go to turn the the engine on…nothing.  Let’s try it again…nothing.  THE BATTERY IS DEAD.  Remember when Janice turned the wipers on?  Well that process also turned the lights on. She did turn the the key back to the off position but the lights stayed on (design flaw). By the way, I did get her permission to tell this story, she’s got a great sense of humor, one of the many things I love about her.

The battery was dead.  We had 30 minutes to get the problem fixed and get back to get the painting turned in.  Remember, it takes 15 minutes to drive back to town, that leaves 15 minutes to get the problem solved.  We quickly prayed  a simple prayer: “Jesus, help us remain calm and solve this problem”.

We did remain calm but the problem still needed to be resolved. The road we were on only had about 3 houses on it.  I ran up to the first house to see if anybody was home…there was.  A nice woman who answered the door in her aqua colored bath robe as her little dog rushed out to greet us.  I introduced myself and explained to her what was going on and asked her if she’d be able to give us a jump.  She agreed but did not know where the jumper cables were.  She tried calling her husband on his cell phone with no luck…we could hear his cell phone in the house ringing.   She was at a loss.  So I asked if she’d be able to give us a ride into town, she actually agreed. She told us she had to go change her clothes and that she’d be right out.  We started walking down the hill back to the car.  As we did, a car was coming up the road so we flagged him down.  Maybe he would be able to give us a jump.  It ended up being the woman’s husband and he knew where the cables were. He quickly got the cables and was able to get the car jumped and we were back on the road at 10:45…10:45!  We should make it.

We got back on the road only to have slow motorhome in front of us, it seemed everything was going against us.  We remained calm and the problem was being resolved.  After a short time the motorhome pulled off which cleared the road for us.  We got back in town just in time to get the painting to the show, it was 11:00am.  We had made a phone call to make the organizers of the show aware of the possibility of us being a little late, so by the time we arrived the news of our adventure had been circulating through the crowd of artists and patrons of the show. I ran into the park where the show was being held, quickly set up my easel with the framed painting and stepped away to take a breath and unwind a bit.

About 15 minutes later they announced the winner of the Quick Draw event. It was my painting!  The award was given by the judge of the show, John Stern, a renowned California Art historian and writer. It was an honor to receive this award among so many great painters.

A simple prayer was answered. We remained calm and the problem was solved. The painting also sold to a very nice woman from Sun Valley, Idaho. My wife and I will continue to share and laugh about this story for many years, it’s part of our great life together.

I  love great stories, I think this qualifies as a great story…at least in my small world.

Note: I never got a chance to get a photo of the painting, my apologies.


5 thoughts on “Remain calm: The adventures of plein air painting

  1. AHHHHHH…I can’t believe your story! Talk about cutting it close. I’m so glad it turned out happily and with an award too! Since there isn’t a photo of the piece I can’t comment on it but I’m sure you worked the hardest to get your piece there by 11. Glad your prayers were answered and it was great chatting in Carmel.

  2. It always seems there is at least one unforeseen problem which crops up during a plein air event. It is wonderful that you where able to maintain your cool and get back in time. Your adventure while painting the Quick Draw winner makes the award even more memorable. Wonderful painting and glad you made it back in time.

  3. it is so wonderful to see how God helped you in such a practical way, kevin & janice. please post all the paintings you did this weekend. “pebble beach gold” is special!

  4. I love your story. I will be in my first plein air festival, (San Luis Obispo), this year and am soaking up all the plein air stories I can find. Your experience here is very fun. Keep calm, pray without ceasing and enjoy. Thank you for sharing this. P.S. Your work is very beautiful.

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