Painting the island in thin air

ABOVE: A painting of Crockett Barn, done by Coupeville resident Paula Spina at last year’s U.S. Open.  - photo courtesy Paula Spina
ABOVE: A painting of Crockett Barn, done by Coupeville resident Paula Spina at last year’s U.S. Open.
— image credit: photo courtesy Paula Spina

Painting the island in thin air

At dawn on the bluff of Ebey’s Landing State Park, the sun sends its rays horizontally over Admiralty Inlet, spotlighting the dewy cabbages and alfalfa of nearby farmland. Just before sunset, as tapered clouds darken against the western sky, a pinkish light tints the tips of sailboats.

“The lighting is only there for about two hours, and then it’s gone. You have a completely different scene,” said Linda Bernhardt, assistant director for the Coupeville Arts Center.

Beginning this Wednesday, Sept. 3, over 100 artists will set up easels across Whidbey Island to paint “en plein air,” a French expression coined by early impressionists that means “in the open air.” They will work along roadsides, on hilltops, by the seas, in gardens and in cities to capture as many natural elements as sunlight permits.

But it’s not restricted to professionals.

“Plein Air Painters’ U.S. Open” is for anyone. For professional artists, it’s a way to have exposure and show their work and for amateurs, it’s a friendly place to get your feet wet,” Bernhardt said.

Last year, Coupeville resident Paula Spina participated by painting two perspectives of Crockett Barn and the ferry dock. The year prior, she stood on the corner of Patmore and Fort Casey roads, developing an oil painting of a dahlias and umbrella cart.

“I had no idea what I was doing my first year, but I think I’ve progressed,” Spina said.

Different mediums used by artists are watercolor, pastels, acrylics and oil-based paints and the style is usually impressionistic. This is easier to accomplish in a short time line, Spina said. Impressionist paintings have visible brush strokes, open composition and an emphasis on light and its changing qualities.

“You paint pretty fast,” she said. “You try to get the shadows done first and get the direction of the sunlight. Then you fill it in.”

Bernhardt said the biggest concentration of painters will be near Coupeville Wharf, Madrona Way, Deception Pass, or other “scenic hotspots,” from Sept. 3 to 7. Artists can pre-register at the Coupeville Arts Center until Sept. 5.

This is the first year the entire island is invited to paint, as opposed to just the Coupeville area. Artists will likely be seen from the Clinton ferry dock to Deception Pass Bridge. Proceeds will support the Coupeville Art Center.

Spina said she invited a few mainland painters and expects several more, which should give local economies a boost.

“Plus it’s a great social experience. It’s not often that we get to hang out with that many artists,” Spina said.

For more information, visit www.plein

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