This summer I was privileged to be asked to jury the 2010 Plein Air Painters’ U.S. Open on beautiful Whidbey Island, sponsored by Pacific Northwest Art School. The five day event from August 24 – 28 drew over 80 plein air artists from 10 states and two countries (Canada and Russia). The Open culminated on Saturday with an exhibit of over 100 works, with awards given to nine talented artists. The many participants represent the diverse subjects, styles and media found in contemporary plein air.
Plein air painting is a tough proving ground. Working outdoors under the rigors of heat, cold, wind and fleeting light — and having to do it in a very limited timeframe — is one of the greatest challenges a painter can attempt. So these hardy and dedicated painters deserve special kudos.
Please scroll down to view all the winners.
Best of Show
Barbara Noonan’s Optimistic is optimistic indeed. It depicts the landscape subject in an atypical way — in how the subject occupies the entire picture window and then breaks beyond it; in the play between transparent and opaque areas; its flirtation with abstract shapes; and its surprising simulation of light with a transparent yellow-green.
Visit Barbara’s website
Award of Excellence
Kyle Paliotto’s Nocturne Light very successfully solves a difficult landscape problem — suggesting light in a field of dark colors required by a night scene. He keeps out of trouble by maintaining an utter simplicity of shapes throughout, and uses the few moments of highlights very judiciously.
Visit Kyle’s website
Award of Merit
David Ridgway’s Across Penn Cove is much more a celebration of bold shapes, patterns and colors than it is a depiction of “place.” Penn Cove and beyond is nothing more than a vehicle for the painter’s personal aesthetic.
Visit David’s website
I was unaware of the title of this piece when I selected it; yet, its title suggests that Sam Schumacher was well aware of the energy of movement captured by this humble landscape. Indeed our eye does hop and jump between the bottom of the painting and the top, through an effective (but not over-obvious) use of perspective and texture.
Rookie of the Year
If William Gullette is now to graduate from the ranks of “rookie,” he is off to a fabulous start. Attempting to capture the glare of light on water, and in such a diffused light, takes guts. What’s more, he nicely embraces a core tenet of plein air painting by aggressively pursuing simplified shapes.
Honorable Mention (in random order)
We see a colorist at work in Janice Kirstein’s Cote de Coupeville. Notice how the lighter-than-usual values of the shadows let more color in and makes them more luminous.
Visit Janice’s website
I could not escape the inner calm generated from Nathan Drushinin’s Grasser’s Lagoon. Its limited palette creates a unified light. Its view-from-a-height perspective and the placement of the circular inlet make for a strong composition.
Mike Wise’s Cultus Road Hay Field is a compositional tour de force. It is a few shapes of color and value organized into a simplified pattern of light and dark. This speaks to us at a level beyond the “surface story” of hay bales.
To be sure, William Hook’s Ready and Waiting to Go is a technical achievement. Yet, the reason I selected it was for an aesthetic choice — the red accent amidst a field of neutral grays.