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Painting under pressure: Fifth annual Plein Air Painters’ U.S. Open this week

Plein Air painter Anne Bogle of Nanaimo, B.C., paints on the corner of Front Street Tuesday morning. - Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times
Plein Air painter Anne Bogle of Nanaimo, B.C., paints on the corner of Front Street Tuesday morning.
— image credit: Katie McVicker/Whidbey News-Times

For the analysts and art majors, the joy of walking through a gallery is theorizing what motivated the artists to create such paintings. Why did they make their brushstrokes just so? What mood were they trying to capture? Or what message did they want to portray?

For the black-and-white folks who ended their art education with crayons, theorizing’s only reward is a headache. Luckily for them, this week’s Plein Air Open on Whidbey takes the guesswork out of the gallery.

The fifth annual Plein Air Painters’ U.S. Open presented by the Pacific Northwest Art School started Tuesday, Aug. 24, and ends Saturday evening, Aug. 28. The term “plein air” means outside and was originally used by a French journalist to describe French impressionism painters.

Until Friday painters will take to the streets, fields, beaches and trails to capture scenes in the fresh air. The painters are marked with a yellow sign and community members are encouraged to watch them paint and ask questions.

“What you have is an artist who has a limited amount of time to capture what he sees because the light changes,” Pacific Northwest Art School Executive Director Sue Symons said. “Spectators can see the scene the artist is seeing themselves and then see how the artist interprets it.”

The Art School’s Plein Air Open was one of the first in the Northwest and is the largest. This year Symons estimates between 75 and 100 painters are participating.

“It’s an exciting event that brings in people from all over because the beauty of the island and the camaraderie with other artists,” Symons said.

Coupeville oil painter James Moore has participated in the Plein Air Open every year. This week he’s looking forward to painting a partly-restored barn off Fort Casey Road.

“It’s very stimulating to paint with a bunch of other painters and see the result of their work,” he said. “And it’s a real personal test to be stimulated by something’s beauty and then try to capture it on canvas.”

Other artists, like painter Kyle Paliotto are traveling further to attend the event. Paliotto is coming from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.

“I love to come to Whidbey Island and paint because of the beautiful pastoral scenes and the timeless historical preserve which evokes memories of a time when man was one with the land,” he said. “The really neat thing about painting in Coupeville is that you can pull your car off about any where and set up and paint.”

Artists are coming from Washington, Montana, Hawaii, Oregon, Idaho and California. Registration for the event is open until Friday at noon. Registration costs $50 and includes entry to the gala and auction and Saturday night at the Pacific Northwest Art School. The gala, which includes fine wines, appetizers, desserts, live and silent auctions, is open to the public for $50. Artists will receive 65 percent of the proceeds from their sales. The other 35 percent will support Art School programs.

The juror for this year’s gala is Mitchell Albala, the author of “Landscape Painting: Essential Concepts and Techniques for Plein Air and Studio Practice.” Albala’s work has been showcased in New York City, Washington D.C., Seattle and Portland.

To register for the event or get information on gala tickets, visit www.pleinairopen.com. Painters of every skill level are welcome.

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