Sunday, November 7, 2010


I arrived in Birmingham, Alabama early Sunday morning. I wanted to visit the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute downtown, but it did not open until 1pm. As I sat in my car making phone calls & shuffling papers I watched the parishioners arriving for service at a big and very familiar looking red brick church across the corner. It was another perfect sunny southern fall day and I thought I should set up my easel, but opted for coffee instead. When I returned to the museum later I caught sight of the church sign. It is the 16th Street Baptist important and symbolic center of African American life and the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950's and 1960's. On a September Sunday morning 47 years ago the Klu Klux Klan bombed this church killing four young girls. The tragedy was broadcast on TV screens all over the world. As a high School junior I had followed the developments of the Civil Rights Movement and the facade and story of the building was indeed familiar to me. I spent an enlightening afternoon in the museum and I recommend it to all visitors. I left with a more mature perspective on history...really from the birth of the city to present times.

The core reason for embarking on this trip was the workshop taught by Kim English called Plein Air Painting the Figure in the Landscape. For three days Kim helped us one-on-one as we struggled to paint quick poses one after the other; we'd paint for ten minutes, wipe off the canvas and start a different pose. It was difficult and exhausting work for all the participants. Luckily I brought some skills in figure drawing, value, color and composition to the class because my paint mixing and application skills were nil. Nevertheless, Kim helped me a great deal. He would come around to everyone's easel several times during the day and tell each student one way they could improve their painting. This was just about all I could grasp at one time and it proved to be a highly effective way to teach.

My painting Boy in Tuscaloosa Garden represents a ten minute pose, but I cheated on this one and used the remains of the shrubbery from a previous pose...just scrubbing out the model and replacing it with the next pose. So, it is a 20-minute painting. The other two days of "plein air" painting had to be conducted indoors due to tornado watches & warnings. We worked from two other models and kept right on building our skills!

The workshop was conducted and hosted by 2 southern ladies who love art and have been having these great workshops for quite some time, allowing students from all over the country to learn new techniques and expand on their old ones. Thanks for making us feel welcome, Sara & Leska. You are Tuscaloosa treasures!

1 comment:

Zoe Tilley Poster said...

I really like these paintings. And I'm enjoying your accounts of your travels - lively and interesting!