Shelby Keefe stalked this scene, and it paid off. But the pressure was on….
EnPleinAir TEXAS is relatively new on the plein air circuit, but its reputation is already strong. Keefe felt she needed a particularly strong piece to hit the list of award winners. It went down to the wire.
“Being a top-notch competition with some of the best painters in the country participating, I wanted to try to really ‘bust the doors down’ with a stunning painting that commanded attention by way of subject, composition, drama, and scale,” Keefe recounts. “So I wandered around all week looking for the perfect architectural subject that spoke specifically to the location, San Angelo, Texas. I found it — what better place to paint than a defunct and funky old theater? The only problem was that the building faced north, and it would never get any dramatic light on it. But I was determined to make a painting of it because of the cool old marquee and the big Texas graphic plastered right on the front of it — which ended up not being in the painting. I would drive by at different times of the day and see what kind of light hit it, and finally, on the last full afternoon of the competition, I set up my easel looking at it from the side instead of the front.

Keefe’s underdrawing and toned canvas

“I busted out my biggest panel, an 18” x 24”, and got to work on my thumbnail sketches to quickly determine my composition. I used the shaded front to create a strong vertical composition and echoed the vertical patterns, using the poles and wires and even the two people in the distance to create a playful rhythm in the darks. Of course, when you pick a subject that is heavily dependent on how the sun hits it, you have to hurry up and claim your shadows. Since this was my last day to paint, I had to get this baby done in one sitting! So it was a race to cover an 18”-x-24” surface before it changed completely.
“By the time I finished, there was actually sun on the marquee and very little shadow on the sidewalk, so I was glad I did a very detailed drawing and value study before laying in the majority of the paint. The rest of the composition consisted of sunlit shapes of the buildings, creating a division of space that held together as if it were an abstract painting. The attention-getters are the little details and bright colors that pull the viewer in, such as the yellow curb with the crosswalk directing your eye into the picture as well as the window details and, of course, the ‘Texas’ script on the marquee. I always hope that the viewer gets transported to the place, as if he or she were walking right into the scene.”
For her fast and sure-footed work, Keefe won the Grand Prize at EnPleinAir TEXAS.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here