Hello, I'm Greg Finnegan and I am a plein air painter.
I'm 66 years old. I live in southeastern Minnesota. I have a degree in geophysics and worked in oil exploration in the 1980s. Then moved into computer programming. I was doing software tech support for international customers before retiring at the beginning of 2019. I'm married and have 3 grown children.
I did some acrylic painting in college. I used to watch Bill Alexander, who taught Bob Ross, painting show on PBS in the 1980s. I always thought that someday I would take up oil painting, but work and family kept me busy.
When I was 50, I found an Alexander painting kit in the local hobby store. It had paints, brushes, even a video. But it was expensive, so I didn't buy it. Two months later, one of my co-workers John, who was about my age, was injured in a table saw accident while remodeling his kitchen. He lost several fingers on one hand. We heard he was getting better and the doctors decided to transplant some of his toes to his hand to replace the missing fingers. The surgery went fine. But a couple of days later John died from a blood clot.
Working with power tools and remodeling is something I have done for years. I realized that could have been me. You don't know how much time you have and should not put off things you really want to do. I stopped at the hobby store after work that day and bought the painting kit.
I started by doing several paintings following the the instructions in the kit. Afterwards, I began doing my own paintings. I did a series of paintings based on the farm where I grew up. My mom was talking of selling the farm. I was upset about that until I realized that most of the buildings and the grove of trees that we played in as kids have been torn down over the years. So I did paintings from memory to illustrate stories of things that happened growing up on the farm.
Through community ed, I took a still life painting class, and a plein air class. I would take six weeks to complete a painting, but the plein air class taught me to get the important details down and paint quickly.
I did a few paintings while traveling. A couple of years ago I joined the Outdoor Painters of Minnesota (OPM) and went along on their painting trip to the Badlands and Black Hills in South Dakota.
Since I retired, I've had time to do a lot more painting. I went to the OPM Winter Plein Air Retreat in January in northern Minnesota, where we were painting in the snow in -20 to -36 degrees.
I took a winter trip to the Big Bend National Park in Texas to paint.
In June, I entered the Plein Air event in Red Wing Minnesota as an open class participant. My painting for the quick paint sold.
I took a summer trip to Oregon, stopping to paint at several national parks including Yellowstone and Crater Lake. I also painted lighthouses along the Pacific coast.
In September, I attended the Plein Air Grand Marais event in open class. I painted along the North shore of Lake Superior and attended several of the workshops. Two of the paintings I did that week were sold. Next year I am planning to apply as a feature class artist for the Red Wing and Grand Marais events.
I like painting with a group of artists. When you take a break, you can walk over and see what the other people are doing. It's interesting that artists in the same location are painting completely different things. While painting in Grand Marais, I joined four other artists on the shore of Lake Superior. When I walked around later I found that Lois was painting moss and lichens on a big rock. Doug was painting the stone retaining wall and trees. Sue was doing a big canvas with bold shapes and colors of the shoreline. Sandy was painting the tree reflections in the lake. I was painting the shoreline and distant headlands. We were all within 20 feet of each other, but doing very different paintings.
I think Plein Air Painting is a spectator sport because people like to come by and see what you are painting. When I first started I was nervous about people watching me paint, but as I've gained more experience, I enjoy people approaching me. They have always been appreciative, especially children. I was once painting in a park along with a bunch of other artists. A young boy and his mother came by and looked at my painting. Then they walked around the park to see the rest of the painters. When they came back to me, the boy said he thought my painting was the best. High praise from an unbiased critic.
Besides painting I have another hobby that I took up 6 years ago. I play the bagpipes. I always liked the sound of bagpipes in the distance, so for my 60th birthday I bought a starter set of pipes and a set of training books and began teaching myself to play. For years at lunch time, I would go to the parking lot at work and practice. After 3 years I bought a set of Great Highland pipes.
In 2018 on the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I on November 11th, I was a participant in the Scottish College of Piping celebration. Pipers around the world playing the song "The Battle's Over" at 6:00 AM local time. 6:00 AM was the time the armistice was signed, and set to take effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I played at the Pine Island Veterans Memorial. There was a WW1 soldier listed on the wall. At 6:00 AM in Minnesota in November it is very cold and dark. Fortunately there are no houses within 2 blocks of the memorial, so I didn't wake anyone up at that hour. I have started a tradition of playing pipes at cemeteries on Memorial Day. In 2017 I went to 5 cemeteries to play. In 2018 I played at 12, and in 2019 I visited 16 cemeteries in 4 hours. I like to find the small country cemeteries that don't have a big Memorial Day service. They say the bagpipe is the only instrument that can be heard in both worlds. So I play for the brave men and women who have passed to the other side, and hope they can hear and enjoy the music.
I am applying for the Great Outdoor Painting Challenge. One item I need for the application is a video. I put that video on YouTube at https://youtu.be/eIbXxIqjtP8