Our early Spring rains let up enough to allow eighteen plein air artists the opportunity to paint outdoors for a few days. They competed in the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery's annual Plein Air Paint Out. The results were an interesting and beautiful array of watercolors, acrylics, pastels and oils.
Plein air painting is done outdoors and artists do not work from photographs. It gives the artist a chance to interpret what he or she sees in either a realistic or impressionist style. However, weather and the constant shifting of shadows and light can sometimes be a challenge.
A local group of plein air artists called ‘Shadow Chasers’ meets regularly to paint together and share ideas, as well. Although ten to fifteen people are members of the group, not all show up to every location. They plan three to six months in advance the various locations in the Tampa Bay area where they are going to paint and then spend several sessions over the course of a month at that location.
“We like painting together because of the camaraderie and the opportunity to enjoy nature. It's very relaxing. You can really feel your painting,” states Yolanda Barreto, one of the founders of the group.
Sometimes the artists find themselves with an audience. Sometimes they use it as a means to encourage other would-be artists.
“People are inquisitive and they'll come and watch and won't say a word. You watch their expressions. You find yourself explaining to people that this is just the beginning. You're building your painting in stages,” Brenda Glenny, another member remarks.
“I've had other artists come over and talk to me and mention that they're not doing art anymore. It's given me an opportunity to redirect people and encourage them to join one of the art groups,” Yolanda adds.
Not everyone who signed up to be in the City Hall Art Gallery competition are members of the group. Some are professional artists who have painted for many years, while others pursue art as a hobby or passion.
Judith (Judy) McIntire, a self-taught artist, has been painting since she was two years old and had relatives who were artists. However, she pursued a career in accounting. When Judy retired, she was able to develop her artistic talents and is now the Coordinator of the City Hall Art Gallery. She's enthusiastic about bringing all types of art to Brooksville and arranges exhibits from pottery, basketry and jewelry to sculpture, photography and painting. The exhibits change every five to six weeks and any artist is welcome to display his or her works at no cost. The art is for sale and the gallery asks for a 10% (free will) donation from the proceeds.
Response to this year's Plein Air Paint Out was the best it has been since the competition started seven years ago. Eighteen artists participated and paid just $25 to $35 (depending on how early they registered) to enter. Six cash prizes and ribbons were awarded: First Prize - $300, Second Prize - $200, Third Prize - $100 and three $50 Honorable Mentions.
The judge for the competition was renowned artist, William Sosa who is originally from Cuba. He gave written comments on each artist's work. Sosa told Judy that there were so many good paintings to choose from that is was difficult to pick just six.
“We decided on William to judge because he has a history and groundwork in art and he did not know any of the entrants. We wanted a fresh set of eyes,” Judy stated.
Steve (Van) Benevides received first prize for his work entitled “Kayak Shack,” one of two that he submitted. It was done in vibrant colors with a lot of detail. Sosa commented on the painting: “Good use of color and structure patterns, technique, skills and originality. Good composition, rhythm and balance.”
Benevides is a professional painter who takes commissions sometimes and does murals along with other paintings. He also makes his own frames out of driftwood, old crab traps and other natural materials.
“I've been painting since I was eight years old. It took me ten to fifteen hours to finish the large painting and eight hours to do the smaller one,” Van stated.
Second place in the competition went to Eileen McHargue whose work was done on hand made 300# weight paper, similar to cardboard. She utilized pastels and Conté crayons that are similar to pastels, but made of clay. Eileen is a graphic artist and works for several magazines.
Patricia Hart Liegel took third place for her acrylics work which she painted at the Nature Coast Botanical Gardens in Spring Hill. She won Honorable Mention last year. Patricia has been doing plein air painting for only eighteen months, but has been an artist all her life.
“I had a gallery on Long Island where I sold my own paintings and those of others. I would paint from photographs. This [plein air] is so much more fun. You're out in the open. You have to get it quick because the light changes,” Patricia remarked.
Honorable Mention awards went to Gary Duquette, Jana Withers and Judith McIntire.
You can view these paintings, as well as the other submitted works, at the Brooksville City Hall Art Gallery 201 Howell Avenue on Monday through Friday 8 a.m. To 5 p.m. For more information call 352-540-3810 or go to http://www.ci.brooksville.fl.us/
Find out more about Shadow Chasers Plein Air Artists on their Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Shadow-Chasers-Plein-Air-Artist-158312874819082/