'Plein-air' art contest in PA open to all
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Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
Teaching artist Susan Martin Spar paints plein air — out in the fresh air — on Ediz Hook on a recent Saturday. Spar teaches a class through the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, which is hosting a community plein air painting contest this month.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — The inaugural Community Plein Air Contest is a new Port Angeles Fine Arts Center event open to beginners, families and anyone who feels like painting outdoors.

It's a chance to immerse oneself in art and nature — just in time for summer's final month, organizers said.

Sign-ups begin Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the plein air — aka painting in the open air, a la Monet and Renoir — contest, which is only one part of the arts center's first Paint the Peninsula festival.

Would-be painters are invited to stop by the center at 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd., where the contest entry fee of $5 includes a canvas, a small kit of pastels — and a ticket to go out and paint in a park, on a beach or in the backyard.

People can go out to make their art in any public space, said center Executive Director Robin Anderson.

Right outside the center, for instance, there's the Webster's Woods art park with forest, trails, city views and a meadow. The 5-acre park is open every day from sunrise till sunset.

Those who want to take part in the contest but can't make it in to sign up Saturday can visit the center any time soon after, Anderson added.

The center's gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays.

Contest participants can then work on their paintings through Sept. 4, the day entries are due.

The finished works will become an art show at the center, where people's choice voting will lead to awards — $50 for first place, $10 for honorable mentions.

But prizes aren't the point. The main attraction here, said Anderson, is the process of making art outside.

Sequim artist Ryoko Toyama, a plein-air and studio painter, agreed.

The contest is “a bonus, not the purpose,” she said.

Toyama used to enjoy plein-air painting in New Jersey: “There was no escape from the state bird: mosquitoes,” she joked.

On the North Olympic Peninsula, she doesn't see such bug armies. Instead she feels free to enjoy the breeze, the scents — and the unpredictability.

Toyama is one of the featured painters in the professional artists' Plein Air Competition, another part of the Paint the Peninsula event.

Alongside a number of other painters from around the region, Toyama will display her plein-air canvases in the fine arts center show.

Nationally known artist Ned Mueller will judge the competition.

Susan Martin Spar, a Port Angeles artist and teacher, offers more words of encouragement to plein-air painters setting up easel and palette for the first time.

“The biggest challenge for beginners,” she said, “is when they get out there and see all that detail. They immediately want to paint every leaf of every tree, and in bright colors, too.

“The hardest thing for me to learn was that the landscape is mostly about subdued color,” Spar added.

“So my advice would be to paint big shapes with big brushes, and to squint a lot, so you don't get caught in detail.”

“There is great joy in being outdoors,” Spar added, “and great frustration too.

“You have to hold onto the joy of the breeze, the smells and the warm sun while you struggle with the paint.

“But no matter the battle, it's fun. . . . So get a little messy,” and enjoy the fresh air and view.

Plein Air Contest participants will be asked to bring their canvases to the fine arts center between noon and 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 4, so Anderson will array them all across panels in the gallery.

The public will be invited in to vote for their favorites Thursday and Friday, Sept. 5-6.

Both the community contest and the pro artists' Plein Air Competition will culminate in the center's Open Air Festival on Sunday, Sept. 8.

Along with the art show and awards presentation, activities will include photo hikes in Webster's Woods, bird-watching, face painting and art projects. Admission to the festival from noon to 4 p.m. will be free.

For more information about all of these Paint the Peninsula events, see the fine arts center's website, www.PAFAC.org, or phone 360-457-3532.

Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5062, or at diane.urbani@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: August 12. 2013 6:05PM
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