By MICHELLE SCHMIDT
It’s only fitting that several artists are scattered throughout the landscape, paints and blank canvas in hand.
Plein air painting is what people who aren’t artists might imagine that artists do all day. Plein air simply refers to painting outdoors. The truth is, though, most artists spend their time in a studio, not outside at an easel, which is why artists involved say that plein air competitions provide both enjoyment and challenge.
This particular plein air competition — In the Vineyard — is the first of its type held by the Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History. “We want to be very hands-on with the art community and offer opportunities for artists,” says Kelsey Grafton, exhibit and program coordinator.
And looking across the vineyard, that’s exactly what’s happening.
In the center of the vineyard is Calen Martin of Moscow, who is fairly new to the art scene. This is his first plein air experience. His impression so far?
“It’s relaxing and it’s nice to meet a lot more artists,” he says. As he works, Grafton looks over his shoulder and offers some tips.
Sitting in the shade of a large tree about 20 yards directly in front of him is Judy Mousseau of Moscow. At 80 years old, she’s done this a time or two, which may have informed how she selected her vantage point on this hot August evening.
“I thought I’d pick a shady spot so I don’t cook.”
Plein air painting — especially in a competition like this one that has time and place limitations — is different from studio painting, she explains. Artists paint what they see and they have to do it quickly. Not only does the light change in the two hours they’re working, but the piece must be completed in the field for this competition.
“You have to simplify when you plein air paint and I don’t know how to simplify,” Mousseau says, though the watercolor paper in front of her seems to indicate otherwise.
Five plein air paint-outs were held in early August at the vineyards of four local wineries for the competition. In spite of the heat, most of the 14 participants came out for each event.
If time is the challenge with plein air painting, then camaraderie is its pleasure, at least for Jan Vogtman of Moscow.
“The hardest part for us is tweaking it, putting on the finishing touches,” she says. With plein air events, she explains, there are plenty of artists around to offer feedback so that a piece can be finished there on site.
She sits near artist Joyce Tamura of Moscow and the two talk, paint and enjoy the setting together.
“You lose track of time,” Vogtman says.
For Jill Hosmer of Moscow, part of the incentive is knowing that she’ll be able to show her work at the end of the event. But the main reason?
“It’s totally fun,” Hosmer says. “That’s the bottom line, it’s fun.”
Interested in participating in a plein air competition?
The eight-day annual Palouse Plein Air begins Sept. 10 and runs through Sept. 19, when an artist reception and awards ceremony will be held at 5 p.m. at the Third Street Gallery in Moscow. The competition is open to artists 18 years or older and all painting mediums are welcome. Applications are available at Moscow City Hall or online at the city of Moscow website.
if you go
WHAT: Grand opening for In the Vineyard, featuring “Lifecycle of a Vineyard” by Lynne Guillot, results of the plein air competition and a history of vineyards and vintners throughout Lewiston’s history
WHEN: 5 p.m. Sept. 5, reception. Work is on display now.
WHERE: Lewis-Clark State College Center for Arts & History, 415 Main St. in Lewiston
2014 CAH Plein Air Competition Winners
Best of Show: Judy Mousseau at Arnett Vineyard
First Place: John Kirkland at Colter’s Creek Vineyard
Second Place: Jill Hosmer at Lindsay Creek Vineyard
Honorable Mention: David Berry at Colter’s Creek Vineyard
Honorable Mention: Nick Bode at Umiker Vineyard
Winemaker’s Choice Awards
Umiker Vineyard: David Berry
Wasem Vineyard: Joyce Tamura
Arnett Vineyard: Dana Aldis
Lindsay Creek Vineyard: Kelly Palmer
Colter’s Creek Vineyard: Jill Hosmer