Horton Iris Garden (Loomis, CA)
This one kicked off the season for me. It was more to get me in the swing of things than to have it be something prestigious under my belt. The Horton Iris Farm is a small farm north of Sacramento halfway to Auburn. It’s beautiful, and it has every type of iris imaginable. The black irises were particularly stunning to me. The fees were a little higher than most to participate in the Quick Draw ($35) and I ended up winning a $25 gift certificate so I came up a little short on the deal. I think if you win 1st or 2nd in this event it’s a bit more lucrative. Not a good one for selling paintings either. I think next year I’ll just go to the farm and do my own thing while everyone else participates in the official event.
Paint San Clemente
This one was the first serious plein air event I took part in. This one will also cost you the most. The fees are by far the most expensive, at 60 dollars to participate in the main event and 40 dollars to participate in the quick draw. This is justified by the generous prizes for earning a high rank. If I remember right, first place was $3,000? Someone who knows can correct me... No jury means anyone who pays the fees gets in. On the one hand you would think that no jury means worse quality, but on the other hand, the high fee means mostly more serious painters will participate. No hosting is provided by the event coordinators, so it’s up to you to find a place to stay around the LA area. Good if you have friends in the area, expensive if you don’t. San Clemente is a nice area. It’s a beach town in southern California with Spanish-influenced architecture... and affluence. It does look like they spend time advertising the event. I saw fliers for it all around town. It’s a week-long event. Painters are limited to the San Clemente/San Onofre area. I spent a lot of the week visiting galleries and museums though. I could have painted much more than I ended up doing but it was worth checking out everything else the city had going on. The Irvine Museum left an especially big impression on me. I had a good time during the event and ended up taking home prizes totaling $1,500 along with art supply swag, so it turned out to be well-worth participating in. I hope to have the ability to participate next year as well.
Marin Fair Plein Air
This was a very small event that took place one day during the Marin County Fair in San Rafael. Registration was inexpensive ($12) but unjuried. You pay for each panel you want to register, though. The neat thing about this one was being able to paint in a county fair. I ended up doing a nice little painting of a carousel which landed me a first place prize of $250. Turns out I was way over-qualified for this little event. Would I participate again? Maybe... If nothing else is going on at the time and I have a good feeling about snagging first place again.
Paint Alameda Plein Air
This is an interesting event because Alameda isn’t a place that is especially known for its scenic areas. Truth be told, before this event, I didn’t know a thing about Alameda before this event. It’s got its own charm being an island separated from Oakland by a bridge and a tunnel. You can get to anyplace on the island by car in 10 minutes. Its very convenient. The city itself is like a flat mini-Berkeley minus the college vibe... This event forced me to paint much more architecture than I was used to for a plein air event. There are a lot of interesting Victorians and industrial buildings. This event also gave us the opportunity to paint on top of an aircraft carrier. The weather was unseasonably cold for the year. I know it’s the Bay Area, so it’s not expected to get all that warm, but still, there were some really cold mornings and evenings. I painted a lot of different subjects, which in turn made me try many different styles. I had a good time painting, and also good times catching up with painters I knew and getting to know painters I didn’t.
When it came time to the exhibition of the paintings, we had our pieces on portable walls in the middle of a shopping plaza. In theory it sounds like a good place to exhibit, but the buzz amongst the veteran plein air painters was that it instead attracted the wrong type of foot traffic. There were a few sales but overall it seemed like painters were disappointed. I sold 3 pieces in the span of the exhibition. I think since now that the Frank Bette Center has an actual gallery space, they might find a good way to present the work with the respect it deserves.
The organizers of the event are super-nice, very accommodating, and go out of their way to treat the painters well. Can’t say enough good things about them. Aside from a few miscommunications between the host and I, the treatment was exceptional as far as that went. Looking forward to next year, as I have a few ideas about what I would like to paint.
Pacific Northwest Plein Air
I took a chance with this event since I didn’t know anyone else who had attended this event. Going to the event, I learned it was the premier plein event of the Pacific Northwest area. I had never been to the Hood River area. My God it is a gorgeous area. A paradise for landscape painters. Two majestic mountains and a grand river surrounded by some of the best scenery in the country. I had a great time spending the week in the house that a generous patron put us up in. I didn’t know anyone there, but they made me feel very welcome. Since this is the best event in the area, it attracts some of the heavier-hitters in the local plein air scene. Mitch Baird, Thomas Kitts, Eric Bowman, Randy Strauss and Mike Kowalski participated this year. I had as good of a time exploring the area as I did getting to know the other artists. The reception of the event was pretty cool, too. At the collector’s opening event, in addition to the juror’s prizes they had an interesting idea. They gave collectors ribbons to give out to the paintings they bought and called them “collector’s awards.” It gave a little bit of a special touch that elevated the status of the paintings; it was kind of nice to have that on my painting. Another interesting thing they came up with was having the Quick Draw and the end of the event. The idea behind it was to encourage painters to come back and pick up their artwork on time. It’s fine if you live in the area, but it sucks if you’re out-of-state. Plus I believe you lose your mojo so far out of the event if you do the quick draw 3 weeks later. This was by far the best experience I had doing a plein air event this year. Not only am I really hoping to be able to participate next year, I am hoping some more California painters give it a chance. I understand it IS a long travel up north for a potential bust, but I’d say this one is so much fun it’s worth the risk.
North Tahoe Plein Air
Tahoe is definitely another scenic area to paint. The mountains, the trees, the lakes, etc. The location is great. The hosts of the event are super-nice and very generous as well. There were a lot of good painters in attendance. The main problem with the event was the way that the exhibition was handled. The space we had to exhibit our work was in a dark corridor between one of the main open areas of Northstar Village and the outer buildings. The lighting, which was basically the shaded sun, was terrible. We tried to use some portable lights to help the situation but it didn’t quite do the job... There were no real signs or anything much to attract attention from the passer-by’s to our artwork. There were a few sales, but for the most part the artists were fairly disappointed. It took us artists to get off our asses and start getting involved to attract potential customers to us. I forgot to mention that there was a wine and music mini-festival about 20 yards away from us. A few of us started painting portraits, and that got people at least noticing us. It’s too bad that there’s so much wasted potential at this event. It can be a lot better. Nevertheless, it was a fun event because of all the camraderie between the artists and the gorgeous scenery.
This event is run through the Epperson Gallery in Crockett(across the bridge from Vallejo, in case you didn’t know). It is pretty far out in time compared to the other events, so it has the pontential for bad weather. It was decent, there were a few cold cloudy days but overall it was nice enough. I knew a little bit about what I was in for since I attended last year’s reception. The cool thing about this event was that there was no restriction over where we were able to paint. The freedom in that makes you lose a bit of the camraderie when you’re in a restricted area, but you can get over that if you end up painting with other participating friends. The event is still a bit of a work in progress; I know a few painters who probably would have participated if the information for entering was more clear. Even so, I believe there were more than 40 different participating artists, so there was no shortage of talent. The reception is fun to attend, and it’s well-attended. This is a good low-key event to finish off the plein air painting season.
So there are my observations for all of the events I attended this year. Next year I’ll see if I get into other events I didn’t get into this year, and also see if my experiences for these events change in 2011.
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