Opening doors to the art outdoors
Organizers of plein air festival encourage newcomers to test waters
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | May 12, 2016|
Newcomers to outdoor painting should start small, and work towards the exquisite vistas, suggests Tory Hill artist Gary Blundell.
This September’s Plein Air Arts Festival in Highlands East, combined with plein air (outside) opportunities offered by the Rails End Gallery in June, are ideal starting points for people looking to scratch that creative itch without any competitive pressure, he adds.
“You don’t have to be an expert and it’s not a competition,” Blundell said. “You enter these events to benefit from the fact that there are other painters more experienced than you who also want to learn, but also teach.”
This will be Blundell’s third year organizing the festival with Rails End curator Laurie Jones.
The all-inclusive nature of the activities they’re providing for the next couple of months is a tonal shift from previous years when there was a more competitive atmosphere.
“I’m trying to dispense with that,” Blundell said. “We’re not discouraging good paintings, but we really want to allow a new group of painters to rise up, and we know there are people who want to do just that, but are a little nervous about it.”
Even today, Blundell said he is sometimes intimidated by people looking over his shoulder while he paints.
“I understand their reluctance,” he said. “But we will make these events as comfortable for them as possible.”
Blundell will lead pastel plein air workshops at the Rails End Gallery from June 3 to 4.
Other activities at Rails End, such as the Trash n’ Treasures Market June 18, will give people who are still on the fence about painting in a public space, a chance to interact with members of the local arts community and test the waters.
“It’s a perfect day to meet new people and draw people,” Jones laughed.
Blundell and Jones said they hope that the interest around plein air painting grows during the summer, which will ultimately benefit the Plein Air Arts Festival when it kicks off Sept. 8.
In addition to the summer events at Rails End, Highlands East’s plein air festival committee has also contributed to the festival’s growth and overall awareness.
Consisting of Blundell, Highlands East Reeve Dave Burton and multiple other residents and councillors, the committee does the majority of planning and site set ups.
There are 15 sites in Highlands East that are slotted for artistic endeavours.
Chosen for their natural beauty and historic qualities, places such as the Old Parrish Place on Gooderham Lake and the Terrace Inn will provide artists with a wide range of vistas, Blundell said.
The festival is limited to the Highlands East area because of transportation challenges that make other parts of the county difficult to access without a vehicle, Blundell said.
An invitation has also been sent to various college art professors across the province who will not only show off their talents, but share their knowledge.
“It’s adding to that all-inclusive environment where newcomers have a chance to learn from experts on-site,” he said, but stressed people can travel from one site to another at their own pace.
Plein air kits, which were purchased with the help of funding from the Haliburton County Development Corporation, are also available at Rails End. A $10 donation is encouraged.
“People can borrow one throughout the summer, maybe walk over to the park and just start painting,” Jones said.
Anyone interesting in signing up for the festival or have questions, can email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit highlandseastpleinair.wordpress.com.
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.