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San Clemente Journal

Painting San Clemente

May 05, 2005 02:53PM ● By Don Kindred
By Bill Thomas

Plein Air artists at North Beach.    For seven creative days, local artists will be lugging their easels, paint kits and portable chairs, scrambling over the beaches, bluffs and byways of San Clemente to capture on canvas the essence of our fair city. Why? The fourth annual “Plein Air Competition” convenes here June 25 to July 1, 2005. Sponsored by the San Clemente Art Association (SCAA), organizers anticipate at least 100 artists to vie for portions of the $10,000 prize money. 
    Local artists can be involved in one or all of three ways: 
    Submitting two original works painted during the seven-day period of the Plein Air contest. 
    Entering the two-hour Quick Draw” contest, and/or,Exhibiting their previous work as outdoor exhibitors on July 2. 
    The week-long event culminates with the Paint San Clemente Plein Air Gala. Awards will be presented to artists in both the Plein Air and Quick Draw competition, and an award ceremony and silent auction will be held at the July 2nd Gala, with the BeachFire Restaurant providing dinner. 
    The Plein Air Paint San Clemente event requires competing artists to submit blank framed and wired blank surfaces (canvas, paper, board, etc.), 22” by 24” between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, June 25 to the San Clemente Art Gallery. Artists can bring as many framed surfaces as they wish; all will be stamped with the official contest logo before the competition begins. However, artists will be permitted to deliver only two of their selected works on the following Saturday, July 2, between 8 and 9 a.m. for the actual competition judging. Using oils, watercolor, acrylics, or pastel, these brush-bearing painters will be recreating the images of parks, beaches, buildings, and selected environmental elements that comprise the lovely city of San Clemente. 
    The two-hour Quick Draw competition will be held at the Ole Hanson Beach Club on Friday, July 1, where artists can submit their blank framed surfaces between 8 and 9 a.m. for official stamping. Painters can work anywhere in the North Beach area within sight of the Club as long as monitors can see them: in the grass, up on the hill, down on the beach. A loud air horn will start them off at 10 a.m. At noon, the horn will declare the contest over. Artists will turn in one painting for jury consideration. 
    Artists wishing to exhibit and sell their works are invited to set up their displays on Saturday, July 2 for an all-day showing. Some forty booths are planned around the grassy area adjacent to the Community Center. 
Artists submitting their artwork for competition.    Pam Hill, Art Gallery Director, who’s directing the entire project, with the assistance of event co-chair persons, Debra Hughes and Richard Thomas, is visibly excited about this year’s competition. 
“It’s going to be bigger and better than last year’s, which was great,” she reported. “We want to promote the talent of our local artists and the beauty of San Clemente. We’re aiming to attract more art collectors, both local and out-of-town, and enable our artists to display and sell their works.” 
    This year, unlike last year when only the winning paintings were displayed, all of the plein air paintings will be hung in the gallery after the contest for a three-week period.
    “We can sell more paintings that way.” Pam’s favorite of the weeklong art festival is the Quick Draw contest. “It’s really fun. The artists are like horses at the starting gate. Some shake with anticipation; many have never been so nervous,” she said.
    What is plein air painting? In French, “plein air” means “out-of-doors” The form began in 1630, was fully in bloom by the 1800s in Italy, and moved to England with such artists as Constable working outside in 1815. Once the collapsible painting tube was invented, it freed more artists to move their studios to the great outdoors, capturing fleeting scenes of nature. From the early painters in Rome, to the Barbizon painters in Fontainebleau’s forests, the French and later the American impressionists, the movement came to California in the early 1900s. Colonies developed in Pasadena, Laguna, Carmel and other regions. Today, the term “plein air” generally means a painting is completed outside, although some may be “touched up” in studios. 
Jim Wodark, last year’s Plein Air winner.     Plein air competitions have become popular in many parts of California, enabling artists to paint and gather together socially, collectors to open their homes for exhibitions, tourists to purchase reproductions of their favorite locales and residents to decorate their homes with examples of the talent within their communities. 
    Plein air art has become the “people’s art.” Affordable and easy to collect because of its small size, plein art is very personal and affords the owner images of favorite beaches, buildings, or mountains, and to know the artist is added incentive. Artists view plein art contests as opportunities for exposure, to meet collectors and sell paintings. The Worldwide Web has revolutionized the marketing of paintings, becoming a rather inexpensive way for artists to display their works to anyone with the ability to log on. Still, there is no substitute to viewing the real thing. 
    Local artist Steve Kell “…loves the lure of a blank canvas coupled with the challenge of an endless supply of scenes to capture,” adding that “…there is always something new about a particular scene in nature,” citing light, colors, new growth, the tide and time of day. Two hours of painting work best for him. He emails, “The best way to prepare for painting plein air, especially if you’re at the beach, is to stand barefooted in a small box of sand fleas and have a friend throw sand in your face.” 
    Plein Air competition judge Jeff Horn emphasizes, “Plein air requires that a painting is made outdoors, from direct observation of nature without photographic reference.” He feels that, “…strong composition and design is crucial, that the craft includes believable drawing and evident knowledge of aerial perspective of color going back in space, as well as variety in brush strokes. A plein air painting should make the viewer say, “Oh yes, I’ve been there and felt that.’”
    The 2004 surprise winner of both Plein Air contests, Jim Wodark, who looks forward to the June competition, said, “It’s great to win them… the challenge is in going back and painting a place you’ve painted, to make it new even though you’ve painted it before.”
Joey Varholick painting at North Beach.     Art Association president George Gooch announced, “The Paint San Clemente week is putting all the art communities on notice. Not only is it the ‘Village by the Sea,’ it is rapidly becoming the Plein Air competition to be at.”
    Last year’s SCAA proceeds from the sales of paintings provided $3,000 for art supplies and $2,000 in scholarships for students in all of San Clemente’s public schools. Artists must register for any or all of the Plein Air activities before June 1, 2005. The rest of us should count on purchasing an artist’s impression of a piece of San Clemente for our own at-home galleries. b

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