Sergio Lopez - North SF Bay Area Fine Artist

Upcoming Shows and Events

•Spoke Art: April 7, 2016. "The 5th Annual Moleskine Show." San Francisco, CA.

•Bakersfield Museum of Art: April 9th, 2016. "Kern County Plein Air." Bakersfield, CA.

•Christopher Queen Gallery: May 1st, 2016. "The Golden Hour." Duncans Mills, CA.

•Abend Gallery: May 13th, 2016. "Contemporary Figuration." Denver, CO.

•Paso Arts Fest: May 26th, 2016. "Signature Exhibition." Paso Robles, CA.

•Los Gatos: June 18th, 2016. "Los Gatos Plein Air." Los Gatos, CA.

Sonoma Plein Air: September 10th, 2016 "Sonoma Plein Air." Sonoma, CA.

•Modern Eden Gallery: September 17th, 2016. Beautiful Bizzare Invitational Show. San Francisco, CA.

•Christopher Queen Gallery: October 2nd, 2016. "A Splendid Journey: 40th Anniversary Show." Duncans Mills, CA.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Plein Air Events: 2011 in Review + Rankings

Last year I made a post about the plein air events I did in 2010. I thought I would do the same thing for this year since not only did I participate in some events for the 2nd time but I did some new events as well. This year I kept it pretty local for the most part. I didn't have the chance to apply for most of the out-of-town events so I kept up appearances by doing so many local events.

Marin Fair Plein Air 2011

I started off this year a little later than usual with the first event being early July. The plein-air-circuit season actually starts back in May with the Carmel Art Festival. Since I've yet to participate in these events I started a bit later, with a lot more local events.

I did this one last year as well. It's a fun little event, if you don't mind painting amongst crowds in the middle of July heat. It's a cheap event, unjuried at $12 per panel. You get a good 4 hours or so to paint anywhere in the fairgrounds. I won first place again this year. If I keep this up, it's a good way to win 250 bucks a year for not a whole lot of effort.

Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2011

I returned to Northern Oregon this year to participate in this year's Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2011. I had such a great time last year and was highly anticipating my return to the Gorge. I made friends last year that I was looking forward to seeing again. A few things changed this year, a bit to the detriment of the event.
Last year they put us up in a condo, about 5 or 6 of us in the same house. It was fun because we all could get together at the end of the day and comment on each other's paintings, share drinks and stories, and generally have a good time.  This year they had us a bit spread out amongst separate generous hosts. It was still nice, and we managed to hang out a lot with some effort, but that aspect of the event was noticeably missing.
I didn't get to attend this year's reception but from what I heard, sales were not nearly as good as last year's. I didn't sell any paintings, but I still had such a good time painting there. I would love to come back next year but it's tough to justify such a big travelling expense without any guarantee of compensation. I would have to consider this event more of a "vacation" than a viable method of generating sales. 
The event itself is consistently well-organized. Being the premier event in the area, they do get good prizes donated to them by the big art supply companies. They have pretty good events for the artists and they do a decent job of picking "suggested areas" if you care to paint with fellow artists. Most artists however, go find their own favorite spots.
Without being an established artist in the area, sales are tough in that part of the country. This event still gets a high recommendation from me for the same reason it got high marks last year: a gorgeous varied locale with no shortage of amazing scenery, well-organized events and great camraderie with the other artists.

The Great Petaluma Paintout

This is a local one-day event in Petaluma. It's a small event, open to anyone who wants to participate. You are confined to a small section of Petaluma with about 3 hours to do what you want. I chose to paint something I knew the other artists wouldn't be compelled to paint. I don't know if it backfired or what, but I didn't get any prize or sale. At 20 dollars to apply, it didn't seem that worth it for most people unless they won something or managed to make a sale. I am a bit leery of outdoor exhibitions nowadays. They don't seem all that conducive for sales and networking.

CWA Paintout: Marin Art and Garden Center

I participated in the California Watercolor Association's paint-out at the Marin Art and Garden Center in Ross, California. It's a place I've painted at for fun a bunch of times, which is the reason I applied to this one. It was open to oil painters, but something doesn't feel right about painting in oils at an event focused on watercolors. This was the first time I have painted in gouache for an event like this. It was a bit tricky painting here on such an overcast day. There was a decent mix of professionals and hobbyists who painted at this event. I squeaked by with a third place award. The reception was really short, and it was pretty much attended only by friends of the artists. It was a decent event, but I'd put it in the "do-for-fun" category instead of the "must-do".

Calistoga Plein Air Paint Out 2011

This event has a lot of potential. It's the first year for this event, and for first-timers, they did a pretty good job. It was a 2-day event with a 1-day reception/sale. The cool part about it is that a lot of the local wineries opened their property to us artists who might not normally be welcome. It was fun because it's really close to home. The participants were a mix of amateurs and local semi-pro's. I may have been a bit out-classed by them, so I feel like if higher-caliber artists applied it could grow into a pretty cool event. It's tough to sell in my range when everyone else sells so low.

Clunie Festival: East Sacramento

This is another first-time event, but it's actually a morphing of a different event from a few years ago called Capitol Plein Air. A few of the people I've painted with and since became friends in Sacramento helped run this show. It's another 1-day event which means opportunities to sell are  limited. McKinley Park is in one of the nicest neighborhoods of Sacramento so one would hope that the big spenders come out. Truth is, a lot hangs on the reputation of the event. It's really hard to establish credibility in the first year of any event. The organizers did a great job of trying to do so, though. The event was extremely well-attended, and some big sales were had, but they were either by well-established artists or inexpensive art. If they keep expanding the event and attract art organizations to donate good prizes, they will get great publicity. They are doing everything else right. This is what happens when veterans of plein air events learn from what works and what doesn't and try to establish a new event with the hopes of getting something good going.

Valona Plein Air Paint Out 2011

This was my second time participating in this event. It's put on by the Epperson Gallery in Crockett(North East SF Bay). I like this event because so many friends of mine participate and the receptions are pretty well-attended. I tend to focus on different things there because it's so unique of an area to paint. The town is very industrial and there is an interesting muted tone to everything in the area. The prizes are different at this event as well because instead of cash prizes, this year I won another Pam Glover painting (much bigger than last year's) and a weekend workshop with Randy Sexton. I am not sure if they are doing it next year, but I hope they do. I do well at this show and it is helping me to establish my credibility in the area.

3rd Annual Paint Allied Arts

The final event in the season. It's a bit far-out in the season so the weather is gonna be hit-or-miss. The Allied Arts Guild buildings and park is in a great neighborhood in Menlo Park and is a beautiful place to paint. I think I would much prefer painting here in spring when everything is in bloom. It's got to look amazing. It's another one-day event and sale. To me I find it a bit weird to have an outdoor show when they have a gallery. For some reason it kind of works here, though. The gallery is a bit too small to be comfortable with lots of crowds anyway. The reception was well-attended despite the gloomy weather. People were somewhat willing to buy if you had the right price. A couple of people sold but the paintings were $300 and under. I got a lot of people interested in my work, but I may be out of their range. I did give out a lot of cards, though. Word did spread. It was nice to see some familiar painters there as well.

So here are this year's order of plein air events, from least-likely to want to do again to most-likely.

#8 CWA Paintout: Marin Art and Garden Center
#7 The Great Petaluma Paintout
#6 3rd Annual Paint Allied Arts
#5 Marin Fair Plein Air 2011
#4 Calistoga Plein Air Paint Out 2011
#3 Clunie Festival: East Sacramento
#2 Pacific Northwest Plein Air 2011
#1 Valona Plein Air Paint Out 2011

Closing Thoughts:

In the 2+ years I have done just about every local event in the area. I've only done 1 of the larger events in California, and only one out-of-state event. I think I have a pretty good idea of which events are good and which aren't quite as good. Next year I plan on cutting back on the smaller events and go instead for the better-recognized events. I feel like the money I spend on applying for local events for negligible benefits could be much better applied to going for national events. I don't know if I have the reputation or accolades to make it to the big leagues yet, but I feel like I am ready to start trying. There are some events in California that I still need to try out, as well. It's not gotten to the point that I can rely on these events for steady income. At best they are like paid vacations, but at worst they can be really expensive busts.
Next year I am trying out a lot of new (to me) events, and if I don't get juried in, I will cut way back in participation in local plein air events.

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