Saturday, September 7, 2013

Week 36 of the 52s...En Plein Air

In the midst of my hellish and injurious week, the annual three-day En Plein Air event was happening at the Arts Center in my little town, an event I had fully expected to photograph, and experience, for my week of the 52s.  Thanks to the bloody mayhem, I missed most of it, though I did manage two things.

En plein air, ("in the open air"), is a style of painting that started the Impressionist movement--Monet and Renoir in particular--in France.  By the mid-19th century painting by natural light was all the rage.

The adventure began on Wednesday, with a two-hour "Quick Draw" competition, both for adults and children.  The participants pick any spot around the Center and have two hours to paint--watercolor, oil, acrylic, pastels, whatever.  I really wanted to see this one, but by Wednesday I was hopelessly wounded.

Regarding Gallery Photos:  The glaring sunlight in the gallery this morning was brutal.  Perfect if you want to clearly see the paintings, horrible if you're trying to photograph them.  My apologies to the artists...their work was beautiful in person.

Here's the winning Quick Draw piece.  It seems incredible to me that someone could create such a lovely thing in two hours.  This is a view the boys and I see most days as we walk along the river at the soccer field park.

Crossing Over, by Janis Ellison, Pastel...

Another painting from the two-hour competition.  I really loved this one.  Last month I posted a photograph of one of these Cannas where they're blooming near the parking lot.

Canna Beauty, by Marylou Andes, Watercolor...

Thursday and Friday were the actual en plein air days.  The artists met early each morning at the Arts Center.  There were eight local places--four for each day--that the artist had to choose from.  It was a "pull the rabbit out of the hat and see where you're going" kind of deal.  I had looked over the choices and decided to wait for the Friday four...partly in the hope I would be able to gimp around, and partly because one of the locations was down in the valley below my mountain.

Doc Bailey's homestead, circa 1910.  I never knew this place was there.  Down a long, dusty dirt road, then out of nowhere appears this wonderful barn and outbuildings, a Victorian house and acres of mountains and fields and trees...and absolute peace and quiet.  There were already about twenty artists scattered around the grounds when I arrived at 11:00am...

I was captivated by the landscape, and the contrast in the ever-changing light from the restless, shifting clouds.  It was brilliantly sunny one moment, then darkly overcast the next.  I posted two pictures on the Shot of the Week showing contrasts of land and light. 
Tucked into this hidden, remote little valley, with the old buildings and the quiet, you could easily feel that time had stopped here.  A few shots I took of a most wonderful piece of local history, and an adorable little donkey...

I wasn't in good enough shape to attend the En Plein Air reception at the gallery last night, but this morning after walking the boys, I went to see the exhibit.  In a way it was more fun: I was by myself, it was early so there weren't any other people around, and I could wander at leisure taking photos.  And because the paintings were fresh and barely dry--if at all--the entire gallery was permeated with the strong scents of oil paint and turpentine.  I stood in the middle of the largest room, closed my eyes, and took a deep breath...filling my head with the magic.
So, as I mentioned above, the sun was blinding, the reflections were terrible and my photos aren't good, but here's a smattering of paintings that caught my eye...
Above the Falls, Paul Zegers, Oil

Urban Coast, Brenda Boylan, Oil

Swiftwater Blues, Bets Cole, Acrylic

Morning at the River, Patricia Pierce, Oil

What I found most interesting and cool about this whole en plein air experience is the amazing ability of these artists to go out--sight unseen so to speak--pick a spot, create a work of art, frame it and have it hanging in an exhibit...all in one day.

And after the week I've had, it was truly a joy to lose myself in my photography, and to marvel at the artistry in taking a blank canvas, tubes of paint, a few well-loved brushes...and bring a vision to life.

My aches and pains were forgotten for a little while...and after all, isn't that the purpose of art?  Transcendence works for me...

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