I recommend you set up approximately 1/2-1 hour before dusk, to paint the county fair. Once it gets dark, it gets impossible to see. I don't really like using a headlight because it attract bugs to my face but you can try it and see if a headlight or some other type of lighting works for you. Personally, I like to keep things simple and direct when I am painting.
I scoped out different vantage points and settled on this view. I have my palette already laid out with the paint before I leave home so it is just a matter of setting up the tripod, attaching and opening the pochade and accessories, and I am ready to go.
Quickly lay out a drawing of the painting with a brush dipped in cold pressed linseed oil and pigment.
Using my favorite palette knife, I block in the ground and sky as the sun sets. Working quickly, capturing first impressions, painting the values(lights and darks), makes for a loose, energetic painting. I am near sighted and like to take off my glasses when I paint "en plein air" which eliminates a lot of picky, superfluous details that can bog down and suffocate a painting.
Block in the sunset colors of the sky before they go black. You can see how quickly night falls.
Once the entire ground, sky, and negative spaces are blocked in, start adding the detail of the lights and colors of the rides. A couple of the rides would rise up and twirl whirl through the air and then lower as the ride ended. I wanted to capture those activated shapes and lights and colors as they added more excitement and variety to the painting.
Finish up by putting the final touches of lights, colors, and details on the painting, adjusting between the negative and positive shapes. I had a headlight I would turn on to see how it was progressing but relied more on mixing the colors and values based on where I knew them to be on the palette and the value of the colors on the painting.
When finished, I slid the painting into a carrier case, packed my backpack for the hike back to my car parked a few blocks away. I would wait until I got back to the studio to see how the painting turned out because, in the end, I was painting blind, in the dark.
After stashing everything in the car, I walked back through the fair, visiting the exhibit halls and then walking the midway. By now it was going on 10:00 p.m. and the venue was almost empty. I stopped to talk to one of the carnies.
I guess it fascinates me how a mini village with these fantastic rides and side shows and food trucks goes up, and subsequently down, in a matter of hours, especially given my experience doing the art fairs which also go up and down in a matter of hours.
There was a large semi with a mammoth generator that the carnie said ran all the power for the carnival -- rides, side shows, bunk houses. Bunk houses? Yep, most stay in the bunk houses while long termers with the show have their own RV. This particular carnival, Fun Times, runs in three states: Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio -- from mid-April to mid-October. This young man I was talking with, goes home to Washington State when the show ends in October.
I noticed all the ride operators were at their posts, lights on, ready to go, but no customers. The Midway was virtually empty. The carnie told me that they close around 10 p.m. but that they wait for the lights of the Ferris wheel, the biggest ride, to go off before they shut down for the night. Someone radios the Ferris wheel operator when it is clear to turn off the lights. Sure enough, while chatting, at 10:12 p.m., he springs into action, shutting down the lights and closing up as soon as the Ferris wheel went dark.
Back in the studio, later that night, I pulled the painting out of the carrier case to see how it turned out.
"County Fair, August 1, 2017", 12" x 16", plein air oil on panel, c. 2017, by Charlene Marsh.
Here's a detail of the final painting so you can see the energetic, heavy, impasto, knife work:
I like how the painting captures the energy and the spirit and the joy of the county fair. What do you think? I'd love to hear your opinion. Which is your favorite? You can see the second one HERE and the third one HERE.
Thanks so much for tuning in!