Paint Out Revisits its Plein Air Origins

San Clemente’s Rick Delanty, a high-school art teacher is involved in the competition’s companion art demonstrations, at work in Laguna’s Willow Canyon. Photo by Jody Tiongco

About 40 selected painters from all over the nation arrive for the 14th Annual Plein-Air Painting Invitational beginning next week, transforming Laguna Beach into an outdoor studio.

Artists will also be purposely propelled into Laguna Canyon as part of the organizer’s  efforts to educate local youth, college students and art lovers about the fundamentals of the plein air genre that took root in the town’s art colony a century ago.

This year, the Laguna Canyon Foundation seized the opportunity to press   awareness of its mission protecting and conserving the canyon by inviting the public to hike into the Coastal Wilderness Park and meet the artists in the morning hours on Tuesday, Oct. 16.

With a similar goal in mind, the Crystal Cove Alliance Art Council is sponsoring a paint-out to raise awareness of the protected environment within the state park on Thursday, Oct. 18.

“When there is a marine layer at the beach, I head for the sycamores,” said painter Debra Huse of Newport Beach, who says Laguna’s Heisler Park provides her favorite subject matter but concedes affinity for the canyon as well.

Throughout the week-long paint out, hosted by the Laguna Plein-Air Painters Association and Laguna Art Museum, artists are free to explore and paint vistas between Huntington Beach and San Clemente.

The nature tours and three museum lectures fall in line with this year’s emphasis on education, which again includes a paint out for Laguna elementary and middle-school students, led by Rick Delanty, Jeff Yeomans and Jeff Sewell at Heisler Park on Monday, Oct. 15. “The event takes kids away from their school routine and teaches them what artists do and the importance of relating to the environment,” he said. “It opens another world for them.” The students will receive art supplies to keep and their work will be displayed at the museum, where the public can pick-up a small masterpiece for $50. All proceeds will revert to the students’ schools, said LPAPA executive director Rosemary Swimm.

Undergraduate and graduate students from the Laguna College of Art and Design will try their hand at plein-air painting also during the “Next Generation Paint Out” on Wednesday, Oct. 17. The event aims to introduce students more strongly versed in studio painting and figurative representation to painting out of doors. “We are a school that focuses on representational painting so students are likely to be drawn to plein-air painting as well and many take it up on their own,” said Perin Mahler, chair of the college’s masters program. Although the school lacks specific plein-air courses, selected students got a chance to attend a prep workshop led by Delanty, explained Mahler. “Plein-air painting utilizes available light and involves the elements; it is different from studio painting,” he said.

In the spirit of education, invitees will demonstrate their techniques in the Heisler Amphitheater on Friday, Oct. 19.

Irvine Museum director Jean Stern calls landscape painting the most noble of pictorial arts and on Thursday, Oct. 16, he will hold a lecture on what makes a great painting and the genre’s lasting appeal. “Viewers see the landscape in a beautiful light, and a good painting is a good substitute for being in nature. It recharges the spirit,” he said.

New to the experience is Malcolm Warner, the museum’s executive director, who has yet to witness the competition. “It’s like a well-oiled machine by now,” he predicted.   From an art historian’s point of view, he is looking forward to the Sennelier lecture on the history of color by Pierre Yann Guidetti of art supply distributor Savoir Faire and lectures and art demonstrations by artists Vanessa Rothe and Huse.

“This is an educational event for me. One always learns something from the person who makes a work of art rather than just looking at a finished product,” he said.

The event kicks off with a two-hour quick draw session in Heisler Park on Sunday, Oct. 14. Afterward, the public will have a chance to meet the artists and, with the paint barely dry, be able to buy the resulting works during a silent auction at the museum.

The week will conclude with a collectors’ soirée and sale of works produced by the visiting artists over the last week on Saturday, Oct. 20. On Sunday, Oct. 21, the museum will open its door to the public for a chance to buy a painting of their own.

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