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Draw-In at the L.A. Air Force Base

En Plein Air by Hillary Mushkin

Last Saturday artists were invited to "capture the essence" of the Los Angeles Air Force Base through painting, drawing, or writing en plein air, for artist Hillary Mushkin's Incendiary Traces series. The sprawling flatness of El Segundo was the perfect setting to create their take on landscape paintings. The artists set up on a small strip of grass directly across the street from the base and began their "draw-in" as they called it.

Despite the efforts to blend into the landscapes they painted, these artists could not help but stand out against the endless gray office-scape. As they sat along the edge of the sidewalk, a passerby in his truck pulled over, handed out his business card and asked the artists for their services to design illustrations for his decorative stone business.

Diane Ward with board and art supplies begins to break down her subject
Diane Ward with board and art supplies begins to break down her subject

Each had their own favorite medium - watercolor, indian ink, charcoal, and ballpoint pen. While plein air painting in the traditional sense was not their priority, the artists, such as Susan Silton, kept busy with observing, translating, and sketching - the same exercises plein air artists at the turn of the century took in order to portray their subject.

Watercolours handled by Robby Herbst
Watercolours handled by Robby Herbst
An HB pencil handled by Susan Stilton
An HB pencil handled by Susan Stilton
Susan Stilton and Robby Herbst
Susan Stilton and Robby Herbst
The artists' stash
The artists' stash

Poets Diane Ward and Jane Sprague recited original poetry, followed by a reading about both the base and adjacent defense contractor Northrup Gruman by organizers Hillary Mushkin and Robby Herbst. The only interruption was a confrontation by the Air Force Police, who questioned but were unable to verify the legality of this gathering. They certainly had procedures for dealing with protestors, but not with this odd situation--neither party was confrontational, and the officers seemed genuinely interested, standing their in solitude as the artists continued to paint and draw.

Readings by Hillary Mushkin and Robby Herbst
Readings by Hillary Mushkin and Robby Herbst
Air Force Police question Hillary Mushkin and Robby Herbst
Air Force Police question Hillary Mushkin and Robby Herbst

With the series Incendary Traces, Hillary Mushkin explores the likeness of landscape portraiture to war imagery, such as Los Angeles' palm trees to news footage of Baghdad during Desert Storm. Robby Herbst and his collective "Llano del Rio", has been mapping public and private locations, particularly national defense sites such as this air force base for the upcoming book, "An Antagonists Guide To Jerks and A*holes In LA." Both hope to continue this as a monthly series. So stay tuned for next year!

A Watercolour study of the Air Force base
A Watercolour study of the Air Force base