Monday, November 11, 2013

Paint the Beach--Quick Paint Competition

Sharon Guy from Sarasota
Although I'm in the throes of the Fine Arts Festival at the VAC, I couldn't resist the opportunity to head down to Fort Myers Beach last week-end with my friend (and artist) Susan to check out the Quick Paint competition.  The competition was the final event in the week-long Paint the Beach Plein Air Festival sponsored by the Fort Myers Beach Art Association.  It was great fun.

The concept was simple.  Artists began checking in at Times Square at 8:00 to get their blank canvases stamped.  They had until 9:00 to figure out where they wanted to situate themselves and organize their materials.  Any medium was acceptable; the only "rule" was that no mechanical assistance (such as a ruler) was permitted.  At 9:00 the air horn went off, and the artists got down to work.  For the next two hours, the participants painted feverishly to complete their creations before the deadline.  At 11:00 the horn sounded again, and the artists had one hour to frame their completed work (if desired) and transport it to the tent at Santini Square--approximately four miles away--for the judging. 

Ken Marshall working on his pastel
Susan and I arrived around 9:45 and thoroughly enjoyed walking around and chatting a bit with the artists.  (I had to suppress my tendency to ask too many questions since the artists were under the gun.)   There were 31 artists participating in the event, and we had a chance to watch many of them at work.  For some, it was the first time attempting something like this, and they were both excited and a little bit stressed.  Others, such as Ken Marshall, participate each year.  (Marshall comes down from Ohio for the week to paint and enjoy some Florida sunshine.  This was his third year painting in the Festival.)

Not being an artist, I hadn't really thought about the specific challenges that plein air painting poses.  Susan filled me in on the drive down.  The day was overcast, which was both good and bad.  While conditions were more comfortable for the artists, the colors were on the drab side. There were no rays of sunshine reflecting off the water on this morning.  This didn't, however, prevent the light from changing over the course of the two hours, a factor that the artists had to take into consideration.  Many of the artists had attached small umbrellas to their easels in an attempt to maintain consistent lighting on their canvases.  And one artist shared her secret of placing a second canvas behind the work-in-progress to stop the light behind the easel from shining through.  Speaking of easels, it was amazing to see how compactly many of the artists are able to travel with their fold-up equipment and handy carrying cases.  (Learning how to most easily transport your materials from your vehicle to the painting site is a priority for plein air painters.)

Neil Walling
At 11:00, Susan and I hopped on the trolley (my first public transportation experience in Florida) and made our way to the tent at Santini Square.  We had the chance to view the works that had been created over the course of the week and watch the artists bring in their Quick Paint entries.  Interestingly, some artists had worked in different media for different events during the competition.  Ken Marshall, pictured above working in pastel, had submitted two nice watercolors, one of which was awarded a prize for the work "most representative of the beach."  I was surprised to learn that Plein Air Magazine was a sponsor of the event.   When I spoke with the Festival chairwoman about how she managed that, she said, "We asked."  (Note to self:  Don't be afraid to ask!  The worst that can happen is that potential sponsors will say no.)

All in all, it was another great outing.  My goal for next year is to persuade some of the VAC artists (starting with Susan) to participate in the Quick Paint competition.  With a $10 entry fee, what's there to lose?  As one woman said, "I once heard that Monet had a bonfire every year to burn the works he'd done that didn't make the cut."  Whether that's true or not, I take her point.   Artists aren't always going to be enthralled with what they produce.  Every painting is not going to be the next [insert the name of your favorite work here].   But we all grow with every new experience, and often it isn't even that painful.  Thanks to the Fort Myers Beach Art Association for bringing this great event to the area. 

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