PORT ANGELES — Just standing in the summer sunlight is a gift.
There’s more: the fragrance of fir trees, the song of the birds, the feel of the air.
That’s how artist Susie Hyer describes the experience of Paint the Peninsula, the weeklong festival opening Monday at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
One of 22 artists on their way to Port Angeles, Hyer looks forward to painting en plein air — in Olympic National Park, the Dungeness Valley and beyond — and then toting her fresh work into town.
There, it will stay on display throughout the week at the fine arts center, 1203 E. Lauridsen Blvd., where admission is free.
Paint the Peninsula is “this explosion of paintings,” Hyer said, “all done in one week. It’s really pretty amazing — not just the volume of paintings, but also the variety of viewpoints.”
Hyer is from Evergreen, Colo., while her fellow painters come from as far away as Nova Scotia, Ohio, Utah, Missouri, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Oregon, California, Arizona and Victoria also are sending artists to Port Angeles for the week.
By the time this festival wraps Sunday, Aug. 27, some 150 fresh canvases will have been part of the exhibit and competition at the fine arts center.
This is the fifth annual Paint the Peninsula. New this year is the Imagine It Framed Petite Painting Sale, in which 5-inch-by-7-inch and 6-inch-by-8-inch canvases will cap the show, going up only on that final day.
The public is invited to participate in people’s choice voting for the best-in-show winner and purchase the petite paintings — as well as any others still available from the week.
Proceeds from art sales benefit the nonprofit Port Angeles Fine Arts Center, which presents art exhibitions year-round.
Many Paint the Peninsula artists do the plein air competition circuit, traveling from scenic American spot to spot, giving and taking workshops and vying for prizes.
“The competitions push you to do your best work,” said Bill Rogers of Antigonish, Nova Scotia. Rogers was inspired last year to do a nighttime painting of the old pickup truck outside the Agnew Grocery; he won the Best Motors, Wheels and Sails award.
“The Peninsula is some of the most beautiful country on the planet,” added Robin Weiss of Poulsbo. He’s a veteran of plein air competitions in Sedona, Ariz.; West Palm Beach, Fla.; and Telluride, Colo.
Olympic National Park’s wilderness coast, mountain ranges and waterways such as Lake Crescent and the Elwha River are Paint the Peninsula territory, as are the local lighthouses, the farms of the Dungeness Valley and the Victorian architecture in Port Townsend.
Last year, Weiss carried some 40 pounds of art gear, snacks and water on his back to Second Beach, where he made an oil painting that went on to win the competition’s Spirit of the Peninsula award.
That comes with a $1,000 prize. Other categories include Artists’ Choice at $1,500; Best Waterscape at $1,000; Best Nocturne (nighttime painting) at $1,000; and Best in Show at $2,500.
Weiss has come to every Paint the Peninsula since the competition began five Augusts ago. This time, he plans to walk out to the farthest northwest point on the Peninsula and in the continental United States: Cape Flattery. It’s quintessential, known for its high cliffs, gray whales and expanse of blue Pacific.
Much closer in, the 22 visiting artists will converge Friday, Aug. 25, for the Windermere Real Estate Paint Out, a kind of race on the Port Angeles waterfront.
The painters will set up their easels at 1 p.m. on City Pier, along the esplanade or at the Port Angeles Boat Haven, and finish their paintings in time for judging at 4 p.m.
As with the rest of the week, art and nature lovers are invited to keep their eyes open for these painters.
“The Paint Out is particularly popular,” said organizer Anne Dalton, adding that she’s seen groups of downtown co-workers circulating among the artists.
Weiss, for his part, enjoys it when people approach him.
“Kids want to come up and see what I’m doing. The parents are terrified, thinking they’re going to mess up the painting,” he said. “A lot of times, they improve the painting.”
Hyer likes company, too, because she gets plenty of solitary time in her studio at home. Painting outdoors, “to me, is joyful.”
“The life of an artist keeps you young,” added Weiss, 60. “It’s a great life.”
“Come to the PAFAC and see these beautiful paintings of your favorite places,” Dalton said.
Together with a cadre of fellow volunteers, Dalton has watched the event grow with support from local businesses including founding sponsor D.A. Davidson. Coldwell Banker Uptown Realty sponsors the awards party the evening of Aug. 26 at the fine arts center.
For more information, see www.PaintthePeninsula.org, visit Paint the Peninsula’s Facebook page or call the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center at 360-457-3532.
Here’s an outline of public events during the competition. Events are free at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center unless otherwise noted:
• Monday through Friday, Aug. 21-25, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. — Fresh paintings on display and available for purchase at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center gallery.
• Wednesday-Thursday, Aug. 23-24, 9 a.m., 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. — Plein air painting demonstrations at Olympic National Park’s Lake Crescent Lodge and Hurricane Ridge Visitor Center.
• Wednesday, Aug. 23, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. — Awards party for paintings freshly made at various Olympic National Park locations.
• Friday, Aug. 25, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. — Windermere Real Estate Paint Out on the Port Angeles waterfront, with artists painting at City Pier, on the Esplanade and at the Boat Haven; all art will go on sale on location as soon as it’s finished.
• Saturday, Aug. 26, 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. — Some 150 fresh paintings on display and available for purchase at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center.
•Aug. 26, 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. — Caldwell Banker Uptown Realty Awards ceremony and celebration; $10 including appetizers, wine and soft drinks.
• Sunday, Aug. 27, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. — Last day to see and purchase paintings from the week at the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. The Imagine It Framed Petite Painting Sale of 6-inch-by-8-inch and 5-inch-by-7-inch canvases opens at 9 a.m.; gallery visitors vote for their favorites in this one-day-only event.
Dane Urbani de la Paz is a freelance writer and photographer living in Port Angeles.