One typically steers clear of anything marked “wet paint,” but that’s actually the attraction of a fundraiser at the California Center for the Arts Escondido on April 5.
The San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy has partnered with Plein-Air Painters of America to call attention to the importance of preserving the natural environment and raise money to fund conservancy programs. Nineteen PAPA members from California, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Montana, Colorado, Nevada, Oklahoma and Minnesota are setting up easels and put their paintbrushes to work along the coast from La Jolla to Encinitas and from the lower portion of San Dieguito Lagoon in Del Mar to Volcan Mountain in Julian.
To my way of thinking, it takes an extra amount of dedication to be a plein-air artist. First of all, you can’t just wander into your studio in pajamas carrying a mug of coffee, tune to NPR on the radio and start painting.
You probably want to scout a location and maybe even see how it looks at different times of the day. Then you have to check the weather forecast, after which you may finally pack your car with all your stuff (assuming you aren’t painting the landscape in your own back yard); drive to wherever; and then unpack all your stuff and lug your easel, canvas, paint, palette, brushes, etc. to your chosen spot in the great outdoors.
You have to find a nice, level spot out of the wind (unless you want a blustery scene and have sandbags, heavy-duty Velcro strips and other keep-it-in-place paraphernalia, as well as protective clothing). And since you’ll be “there” for a while (unless you’re a “quick-draw” artist), you probably will want to take something to eat and drink. Oh, and of course, you have to remember sunscreen and a hat or umbrella.
If you’re painting a mountain, you probably don’t have to worry about it moving. But if you’re painting a seascape, you must be content with plenty of motion. In fact, even in the case of a mountain scene, you can’t expect the cooperation of birds or other wildlife despite any coaxing on your part (“That’s perfect! Don’t move!”). Of course, this shortcoming in nature’s ability to freeze-frame itself is why plein-air painting is essentially impressionistic.
When you've finished your masterpiece, you have to lug all your stuff back to your car (being careful not to smear your freshly painted canvas), pack it all in and drive home, where you then get to unpack the car and put all your stuff away (a place for everything and everything in its … well, at least not left in the back seat of your car).
So now that you, dear non-plein-air artist, perhaps more fully appreciate what the PAPA artists are going to accomplish, you may be ready to buy a ticket to a gala and sale of their newly created works. The event includes a presentation on “The Art of Looking at Art” by Irvine Museum Director Jean Stern. Tickets are $100 and are available through the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy (artinnaturealliance.org/buy-tickets or 858-755-6956).
The exhibition at the California Center for the Arts Escondido runs April 6-27 and includes a complementary showing of 50+ artworks that document the San Diego area in the early 20th century. Private collectors that are loaning works by early California artists include The Kinsella Library in La Jolla, La Jolla Historical Society and The University Club, the City of San Diego’s Commission for Arts and Culture, The Irvine Museum and Laguna Art Museum.
Also included in the exhibition are studio works from the PAPA artists’ field studies. Works that do not sell during the opening gala will be available for purchase during the exhibition.
Shown above: John Budicin of San Bernardino is one of the artists participating in the collaborative exhibition/fundraiser. Photo courtesy of Plein-Air Painters of America.