More than 150 people sipped wine and strolled around to view artwork on display at The Lodge at Mallard’s Landing last month. The third annual Plein Air Art Show was sponsored by the Peninsula Art League.
“Residents are so enthusiastic and responsive to the artwork and getting to talk to the artists,” said Jen Drake, a community relations director for the retirement facility. “Many are already involved in different art forms or are inspired to start something creative on their own. For others, it’s a opportunity to see the snapshots of outdoor life around Gig Harbor that some of them aren’t able to get out to see. They love recognizing places they have been to. It’s a comfort to them.”
Plein Air is a French art form of painting in the open air. Its roots are with the impressionists in the late 1800s who were inspired by capturing light. With Plein Air, artists are challenged to capture the essence of the scene as the sun, clouds and weather constantly change the shadows and dimensions of the piece.
For this process and particular show, painters could not take a photo and take it back to the studio. Each piece needed to be painted on site, either all in one day, or during multiple time periods.
There were more than 30 artists from around Gig Harbor with more than 65 pieces of art entered. Three judges from the Gig Harbor Arts Commission examined the work.
“Plein Air style is more challenging but more rewarding,” said Anne Knapp of the Peninsula Art League. “It captures that moment of what attracted the artist to do the piece in the first place.”
Participating artist Feather Hilger said she loves Plein Air because it gets her out of the studio.
“I love that you can be by five different artists with views of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge, and each one is completely different,” she said.
Hilger won the People’s Choice Award and also the Grand Prize for best overall piece with “Enchanted Cottage.”
The winning piece was painted at the 2012 Gig Harbor Garden Tour. Hilger came across a children’s playhouse that Jerry Baranski had built from refurbished wood. The cottage, combined with the surrounding area, turned out to be a perfect scene to capture.
Hilger has been painting Plein Air for four years but has been an artist for a number of years. It was her first major award.
“I feel like this was chosen for an award as I was able to capture the scene so well,” she said. “People ask me if it’s a real place, and it is. Jerry built the playhouse for kids, and I saw it and thought it was a ‘wow place.’ I completed a 9-by-12 on site in two days, and then the owners wanted to buy it. I said yes, if they’d let me come back and paint another one.”
The award-winning painting took 40 hours over about two weeks. As Hilger painted each morning, she got to know the sheep on property, as well as the owners.
“Artists have an awareness and desire to capture art in places that may be lost in the future with growth and change,” Knapp said. “The economy also brought more artists to this style as many choose to do smaller paintings and people can afford them.”
Hilger has entered about 15 shows and displays her work at the Eddon BoatShop. She has a soft spot for lighthouses and recently completed three on the East Coast.
For more information, visit www.peninsulaartleague.com.