PORT ANGELES — The Elwha River, the smoky air and a Disney movie animator converged in this year’s Paint the Peninsula competition, which wrapped up Sunday night.
In the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s juried plein air art contest, 21 artists from across the continent arrived Aug. 18.
They were ready to paint the mountains, rivers, farm fields, beaches and boat havens, all while vying for $12,000 in cash prizes.
The artists found a North Olympic Peninsula shrouded in smoke and ash from wildfires across the Pacific Northwest.
They got out there anyway.
Yong Hong Zhong, a Chinese-born artist who worked in Hollywood for many years, took the haze in stride; so did J. Brad Holt, a painter from Cedar City, Utah.
Holt conducted a plein air demonstration atop Hurricane Ridge last Tuesday, when the sky was a strange shade of yellow.
The two were among the big winners.
Zhong’s watercolor of the Elwha River, “Free Flow,” won the $2,500 Best in Show award while his whole body of work from the week brought him the Artists’ Choice prize — awarded by his peers — of $1,500.
Holt’s “Lincoln and Railroad” canvas won the $500 first-place prize in the City Pier Paint Out.
In that competition last Friday, the artists gathered on and near City Pier to finish at least one painting between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
In addition, Holt won the $1,000 Best Landscape award for his “Smoke on the Elwha II,” a reflection of greens and grays.
“He leads your eye into the painting every chance he can,” judge Eric Jacobsen said of Holt’s work. “It’s just a beautiful knitting-together of brushstrokes that’s very unique to Brad.”
Of Zhong’s watercolors, Jacobsen added: “Every painting is about movement … [with] a beautiful feeling of light.”
“I’m in shock,” Zhong said of his wins. About his days painting in the haze, he was philosophical.
“There was nothing I could do about the smoke. I tried to make the best of it. It added a lot of atmosphere,” the artist, who lives in Lake Oswego, Ore., said Saturday. He moved north from Los Angeles in 2009, having worked on Disney movies including “Tarzan,” “Mulan,” “The Fox and the Hound 2,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “Home on the Range” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.”
Zhong’s work here ranged from paintings of the Elwha and Salt Creek to downtown Port Townsend; they, like dozens of others from Paint the Peninsula artists, can be seen in the online store at PaintthePeninsula.org.
Of some 150 oils, pastels and watercolors created last week, 38 were sold; a portion of the proceeds benefit the nonprofit Port Angeles Fine Arts Center. The rest are available for purchase online.
For the first time this year, the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center invited the public to vote for four people’s choice awards: two in the whole display of fresh art and two in the petite paintings, works 5 by 7 inches or 6 by 8 inches.
Zhong took second place in the main people’s choice balloting, receiving a $200 prize, while Shuang Li, another watercolorist who is from Escondido, Calif., took the $300 first-place award.
Among the petite paintings, Richard Sneary of Kansas City, Mo., won the $200 second-place prize for “Fog at Quileute Marina;” Melanie Thompson of Richland took first place and $300 for “Ediz Hook Evening.”
Other prizes — each $1,000 — include the Best Architecture award for “Port Angeles City Pier” by Kathryn Townsend of Olympia, the Best Motors, Wheels and Sails award for “Last Chance to Romance,” a boat image by Robin Weiss of Poulsbo, Best Waterscape for “Hollywood Beach” by Sneary, and Best Nocturne for “Nocturne” by the Evergreen, Colo., artist known as Susiehyer.
A pair of awards, both $500, were presented by Olympic National Park in light of the artists’ full day of painting in various park sites last Monday, Aug. 20.
The Superintendent’s Award went to “Madison Symphony,” an image of Madison Falls by Gretha Lindwood of Portland, Ore., and the Interpretive Rangers’ Award was presented to Zhong for “Tranquility,” another river image.
The Paint Out around City Pier yielded two prizes in addition to Holt’s first-place win: $300 for “DQ Fix,” a painting of the Dairy Queen by Wendy Brayton of Petaluma, Calif., who also did a painting earlier in the week of the Frugal’s restaurant. Third place at the Paint Out, $200, went to Li for her watercolor “Towards Ferry Landing.”
The works from 2018’s Paint the Peninsula will stay on display — and available for purchase — on the online store for two months.
More information about the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s shows and activities is found at PAFAC.org and by calling 360-457-3532.