A hearteningly warm, dry but rather overcast day greeted us at Chiswick House. It was a bit of a shock to find that the car park charges have been significantly increased since last year. An all-day ticket now costs £25. It seems there was no specific regulation preventing our buying a 4 hour ticket at £1.00 per hour, and then traipsing back to the car park at lunchtime to top up for another few hours. So that’s what we did. Parking solved, we gathered at the well-stocked and well-run cafe, resisting the full English breakfast, nibbling instead on a nicely slimming croissant with lashings of coffee. Maps of the grounds were distributed and we all set off to find a tempting feature from a wide choice of architectural, water, garden or woodland scenes.
As always at this friendly and welcoming location, there were lots of dog walkers, buggy pushers, scampering kids and fitness seekers. All very jolly, especially as the local ducks, geese and other assorted waterfowl seems so tame and keen to join in the ebb and flow of movement. Some of the group sought solitude and the avoidance of distraction. They could find it easily enough. Others rather enjoyed interacting with passers-by. most of whom are curious to see a painter at work and are seldom too critical of our efforts.
The only discordant notes (or harmonious background, depending on your point of view) were the soulful songs of praise emanating at high volume from a marquee in the grounds where a big event was taking place. Many of the attendees were wearing marvellous West African national dress and looked stunning. However, the music, unrestrained by the thin canvas of the tent, was a little invasive and certainly impaired concentration!
During our lunch and tea breaks we showed off our work as always and also had a bit of a kit-comparison session. Painting en plein air requires each artist to organise a light, portable set of kit that can be assembled quickly. Water colourists and pastel/pencil sketchers tend to do this quite easily, stuffing everything into a shoulder bag. Oil and acrylic painters, however, have more of a challenge as they try to replicate their normal studio set-up. Some of the solutions are ingenious and, on this occasion, we had a wondrous collection of different pochard boxes, lightweight easels, collapsable stands and goodness knows what. We all admired each other’s approach, swapped the names of online art-suppliers and details of various brands. A magnificently nerdy forum!