STORY WRITTEN BY BRIAN BINGAMAN
@brianbingaman on Twitter
Thirty-two juried artists from all over America have set up easels and canvases in various outdoor locations, within a 20-mile radius of Wayne, to feverishly paint up a storm.
The 10th Wayne Art Center Plein Air Festival is underway and will produce somewhere near a jaw-dropping 250 to 300 new paintings of regional landscapes over five days. They will go on view to the public, in some cases with the paint still wet, May 14 to June 25 in the center’s Davenport and Vidinghoff Galleries, 413 Maplewood Ave., Wayne. All of the works will be for sale. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays (closed Memorial Day weekend May 28-30).
A gala marking the official opening of the Plein Air Festival exhibition is held 6 to 10 p.m. May 14, with open bar, heavy hors d’oeuvres, martinis from a hand-sculpted ice luge, Little Black Dress wines and live jazz. Tax-deductible tickets start at $75.
Locations that will appear include pastoral scenes from rural areas and parks, or slices of life from historic Main Line neighborhoods, perhaps the Villanova University campus or Boathouse Row.
On May 14, downtown Wayne becomes the focus. You may even spot the artists documenting everyday life on the main thoroughfare or along the train tracks, from the early morning hours until 1 p.m. The community is welcome to join in for a $15 fee; check in at the tent at the center of town at 9 a.m. Artists are responsible for equipment and supplies. Artists may submit up to two paintings to be displayed in the plein air exhibition, which must be framed and wired for hanging. Paintings must be dropped off at the Wayne Art Center by 2 p.m.
What if it rains while the artists are painting?
“These artists are very resourceful,” said Wayne Art Center Executive Director Nancy Campbell, explaining that artists skillful enough to plein air paint do a lot of pre-planning — for example, choosing a location with a porch or a barn for cover.
“The only challenges (in the rain) are for the people that do watercolor. Sometimes you’ll see people (painting) in their car,” said the center’s director of special projects, Karen Louise Fay.
One year, Fay said, there was a torrential downpour, and the paintings still turned out beautifully. With overcast skies, there’s not as much fussing over the nuances of sunlight, which changes over the course of a few hours.
With all these artists from out of town, how do they know where to go?
“We’re very grateful to our patrons, who donate their homes for a week,” Campbell said of committee and board members, and other families in the community, that provide housing. All the ins and outs of getting around were covered at the Artist and Patron Welcome Dinner held on May 9. “Can you imagine an artist coming in from Michigan and not knowing where anything is … trying to find a parking spot?,” she said.
According to Campbell, there’s $15,000 in prizes that will be awarded and the festival is “a very competitive event.”
Fay likened competitive plein air painting to marathon runners.
“They have to be physically and mentally focused,” she said, noting that the artists will spend 10 to 12 hours painting in the elements to produce two to three paintings.
Why would somebody choose plein air painting over the comfort of a studio?
To authenticate incorporating natural light, color and movement into the works.
“The plein air (revival) movement recently started in California. They get great weather all year long,” Campbell said. “I attended the Sedona Plein Air Festival 10 years ago with another board member. We thought: ‘Gee, our area is great for this — vistas, architecture, streams, flowers …’”
Does anybody try to cheat by pre-painting a landscape?
The artists must have their blank canvases stamped when they check in, which verifies that all work was executed during the festival.
Proceeds benefit the center’s educational, outreach and exhibition programs. According to Campbell, this year’s goal is to raise $100,000.
Other special events
May 15, 1 to 3 p.m.: Lecture and book signing by festival juror T. Allen Lawson.
May 19-20, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.: Two-day plein air workshop with back-to-back Best in Show winner Mark Boedges. Non-member cost is $255.
June 1, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.: Plein air demonstration by Wayne artist Valerie Craig. Fee is $15.
June 7: Trip to New York Botanical Gardens, with private tour and lunch. Cost is $225.
June 14, 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.: Plein air lecture by The Barnes Foundation’s Marilyn Bauman. Fee is $15.
For more information, contact the Wayne Art Center at (610) 688-3553 or go to www.wayneart.org or www.waynepleinair.org.