This is a journal about Elaine Lisle's paintings and art events                                                     |     Visit My Site

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Plein Air Easton

So if you've wondered what it might be like to be a new artist at Plein Air Easton- the largest and most selective Plein Air competition in the country… here is what it was like for me… I worked harder than I have in a very long time, I made some wonderful new friends, pushed myself in a new direction, and am so grateful to have had the opportunity to meet and work with such a great group of artists, organizers and patrons.

Although I have painted "en plein air" throughout my career as an artist… starting when I was 16 in my backyard in Connecticut… I have largely stayed away from all the festivals and competitions that grew into the current-day "plein air movement".  It really is a movement, so many artists consider themselves (and are) plein air masters, and often they travel from competition to competition, zig-zagging around the country, picking up prize money and making sales at the big closing events that alone make the travel worthwhile. Even more rewarding can be the artist friends made along the way and connections with collectors and communities. Even though I had a lot of experience with plein air painting, the years and circumstances had led to a more studio-oriented approach to finishing my work. What would it be like to work exclusively on site, under a time-crunch, in a competitive situation? I worried a lot about whether I would be able to keep up and produce work that would sell and most importantly that I could be proud of.

This year, with kids launched and an open summer, I thought I would jump in and try some of these competitions, so I started by applying to Plein Air Easton. My plan was to apply to a few others as well, once I found out I had been rejected. But amazingly I got in… so for the last couple of months, I got ready. on July 9-21st I planned to be in Easton painting my heart out. When I got there I found out that over 500 artists had applied for 58 spots, so getting in alone was a huge accomplishment. The prize money at stake was huge- $10,000 first prize award.

Getting ready to go was daunting. I prepared about 25 boards and canvasses of all different sizes, (since you never know what sizes you are going to want to paint once you are sitting in front of a subject), and ordered and wired the frames to go with them. I upgraded some of my outdoor painting equipment, treating myself to a new easel box and painting hat. I also made sure I had all the paint and brushes and other supplies I would need for this marathon.

On July 9th I packed my car full to the brim with what felt like my whole house and studio and headed down to Easton and my host family, Kate Quinn. Kate was a wonderful host… relaxed, totally accommodating… always trying to make sure my needs were met. Thank you so much Kate!

 Here I am being greeted by the son of an Avalon Foundation staff member as the "first artist to arrive"
I was given a badge to hang on my easel and a name tag to wear at all times… Wow! I'm a celebrity!

The first 3 days involved "pre-competition paint outs". The first of these was at Tilghman Island… a 45 minute drive from where I was staying. Our task was to complete a painting on the island, then to present it framed on an easel at 6PM during a crab feast at Tilghman Island Inn.  There was a $1000 prize at stake here - the "Artists' Choice Award". The award-winning painting was by Ken DeWaard whose piece was one of my favorites-

It was a long day… the day itself could not decide if it was cloudy or sunny, but it was definitely hot and humid.  I was able to finish a painting (below) - and I displayed it on my easel and began to look around for my choice for the award. The paintings that had been produced by the other artists were amazing.  I was truly awed by what I saw and wondered at my fortune to land in the company of these artists.  I was relieved to find that although I liked many of the paintings more than mine, I felt that mine was acceptable… maybe not the best I can be, but I had passed.  But after that long day on Tilghman island I also realized how hard it was going to be for me. I was no longer thinking about winning a prize at this point, I just wanted to be able to produce 2 paintings that I could feel proud to hang at the Opening Exhibit the following Friday. 

Rain or Shine, Tilghman  12 x 12

After 3 days of pre-competion practice… Friday evening our canvasses were stamped and we were treated to a pep-talk by Avalon Foundation Staff. They were amazing.  Also amazing were the canvas sizes the artists were bringing in to be stamped. A number of artists brought in not one big canvas, but several, as large as 30" x 40". "This is plein air, right?" I thought. For me to do a 30x40 canvas would take the entire week. I wanted to have 2 competition paintings to hang, but also another 8 back up pieces which could be sold throughout the weekend. Some of the artists had "backups" from prior years, but I had never painted at the Eastern Shore before, and I wanted to produce those 10 paintings… time to get to work!

I learned there was a Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings in Easton, so I headed over there early on the first day to start this painting. I worked on it for more than 4 hours, so the result was I was exhausted for the next event… painting out at a private estate followed by a "Welcome Artists and Preview Party", going from noon until 10PM that evening.

Saturday Market, Easton 12 x 16

Painting that afternoon I was not only exhausted from the morning, but I found myself in a poorly chosen location with the sun beating down on my inadequate umbrella… an hour in and I wanted to give up and go home... but I somehow "finished" my painting in spite of my misery. Although it was the absolute low point of the week for me, there was also a special side to it as the kindness of another artist, Stephanie Marzella  who offered me a cold drink to help me keep going was incredibly touching and made me feel even more welcomed by this amazing community of artists.
As I watched the sun go down that night with a beautiful sunset over the bay, I was determined to make better choices about what and where to paint, and to work my butt off over the next 6 days to do the best job I could.

During the first days I was there, I spent a lot of time driving around looking for spots to paint. In fact I drove over 500 miles during the 9 days I was there, (there was a lot to cover).  The first 2 days you can paint anywhere on the delmarva peninsula, the next 2- all of Talbot county, and the final 2 within the limits of Easton itself.  Eventually I found some places, some by chance and some with the suggestions of Kate, my host, as well as other artists, especially fellow Pennsylvania artist, Elise Phillips…  Thanks for all your support Elise!

Sunday morning, Oxford  9 x 12

The Treasure Chest  8 x 10  SOLD
I began getting up earlier and earlier each day… found I needed very little food to get through the day, but lots of water. And even when the water got hot, I found it still took care of my thirst. I surprised myself, not thinking I would be able to paint so many hours in a day, or so many hours day after day… Just knowing now that this is possible energizes my painting each day.

Morning confab of oreo cows  16 x 20
Robert Morris Inn  12 x 12
Time to Open  9 x 12   SOLD

St Michaels Afternoon  8 x 16   SOLD

Port Street Dock View  12 x 9

Morning cows  6 x 8   SOLD

 The following Friday, July 18th, was the big Opening night and Awards ceremony. Here is a link to a video about John Brandon Sills  First Place Award-winning Painting.  This snapshot does not do it justice, but you get the idea...

All the work in the exhibit was amazing, and sales were brisk as promised. As works sold off the competition wall, they were replaced with the backups from the library. This meant that every time I went back to check out the exhibit, it was nearly  an entirely new set of paintings, and everyone's work continued to amaze me.  I was excited to sell an acceptable 5 of the 10 works I had submitted for the show.  I have never seen such an enthusiastic buying crowd of collectors. Typically on Opening night at Plein Air Easton they sell a piece of art every 45 seconds. What artist would not love to be a part of that selling machine!

Opening Night- relieved to get my first red dot

But Wait… it's not over yet! Saturday July 19th was the Quick Draw Event. More than 200 artists (including most of the 58 Plein Air Easton artists) competed in this 2-hour competition on the streets of downtown Easton. The place was mobbed with onlookers and the horn went off at 10AM. I was thrilled that my little street view sold off my easel at noon, and even better won an honorable mention from the Judge, Peter Trippi, Editor of Fine Art Connoisseur Magazine.

Honorable Mention Award winners in the Quick draw

Harrison Street View  10 x 8   SOLD
Artists checking out on Sunday

If you want to see some more well-crafted videos of the event… go to this site!  
All in all, this was an amazing experience, so well run, such a great community of artists and art lovers. I hope to be fortunate enough to be able to attend again!

Some of my Easton work as well as several new local landscapes can now be seen at
Newman Saunders Gallery in Wayne, PA. Open Wed-Saturday 11-5.  610-293-1280  Stop in!

Verbascum Symphony! Chanticleer 12 x 9

Friday, June 13, 2014

Painting trip to Charlottesville

Recently Barbara Buhr of Warm Springs Gallery  in Charlottesville, VA invited me down to paint in order to put together an exhibit for next Spring. I headed down on Sunday morning June 1st. It turned out to be a perfect few days in Charlottesville…

Sunday Stroll  11 x 14  oil on board
I spent a lot of time on the pedestrian mall…

Pedestrian Conversation  12 x 9  oil on board
I completed a number of plein air sketches and will be doing some larger studio works over the next few months.

I'll be heading back down to the area in the Fall… stay tuned!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Featured in International Artist Magazine!

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International Artist Magazine Feb/Mar 2014
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