After spending the last 25 years painting all over the country, plein air painter Gavin Brooks moved to Laguna Beach earlier this year from Owings Mills, Md. She describes the town as ground zero for today’s generation of plein air painters, an art colony with an art legacy that few other in the U.S. can claim.
Brooks is not alone in her enthusiasm for Laguna’s beaches and its endless horizons, verdant canyons and easy accessibility. Altogether 40 plein air painters from as far afield as Hawaii are due to converge upon Laguna Beach for this year’s Laguna Beach Plein Air Invitational. The contest begins Sunday, Oct. 13, with artists completing a work in two hours on location in Treasure Island Park.
For the 15th year, visiting artists will spend a week in the area immortalizing favorite locations. For the first time, though, they will enjoy an outdoor studio unlike any other: unfettered access to the majestic vistas deep within Aliso Canyon. On Thursday, Oct. 17, Aliso Creek Inn is closing the nine-hole golf course to players to allow painters to set up their easels and the public to wander the course observing them at work, said Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA) executive director Rosemary Swimm.
Since the Invitational’s partner of 14 years, the Laguna Art Museum, decided to quit participating, the new owners of Aliso Creek Inn, a group led by Laguna Beach entrepreneur Mark Christy, offered the premises to LPAPA.
With Aliso Canyon remarkable as “Laguna’s Yosemite,” the artists should have plenty of new territory to explore,” remarked Swimm.
“This is clearly a moon shot,” Dana Point artist and educator Rick J. Delanty said of the Invitational’s independent status. Delanty leads the contest’s educational events for students, which take place at Heisler Park. He will once again mentor Laguna College of Art and Design students competing in their own Paint Out for recognition and prize money.
While the museum served as the contest’s previous venue, LPAPA seems prepared to pull off the event independently with its own volunteers and $200,000 in raised contributions, Delanty said. “Rosemary is an army of one.”
Independence forced the organization to add new board members such as Jeff Sewell, who is responsible for outreach, and Toni Kellenberg, director of social media.
In addition, Swimm developed East Meets West, an alliance between LPAPA and Plein Air Easton, a summer invitational held in Easton, Md. The two organizations plan to exchange each other’s winning best of show artists, eliminating the need for both to jury in entrants. This year, Garin Baker, of New Windsor, N.Y., will be Easton’s first ambassador. The as-of-yet unknown winner of Laguna’s best of show will go to Easton next summer.
Another new wrinkle are presentations of an honorary lifetime achievement award to Irvine artist Mian Situ and an honorary lifetime member award to long-time sponsor and event co-chair Julie Padach-Mathewson.
Calendar of Events:
Sunday, Oct. 13:
Quick Draw paint out at Treasure Island, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.
Reception with artists, 1-2 p.m.
Quick Draw auction, 2-3 p.m.
Monday, Oct. 14
Kids Paint Out & Cupcake Reception, Heisler Park, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.
Lecture on French Impressionists, 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 15
Tours of Laguna, Aliso & Wood Canyon Wilderness Parks, 9:30 a.m.
“The Art of Looking at Art,” Jean Stern lecture, 7 p.m. $20
Wednesday, Oct. 16
LCAD Next Generation paint out at Heisler Park, 11 a.m.-2 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 17
Aliso Creek paint out, 8 a.m.-noon.
Friday, Oct. 18
Artist demos at Heisler Park, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 19
Collectors’ Party, 6-10 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 20
Public Art Show and sale, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.
*All events at Aliso Creek Inn except as noted.