Taking art out of the studio in the South Okanagan

Back in 2009, the Penticton Art Gallery organized their first en Plein Air event, recruiting a group of artists to take their easels and brushes out of the studio and set up outdoors, where people could come by and watch them create their artworks.

Connor Charlesworth

Connor Charlesworth

Back in 2009, the Penticton Art Gallery organized their first en Plein Air event, recruiting a group of artists to take their easels and brushes out of the studio and set up outdoors, where people could come by and watch them create their artworks.

For the third en Plein Air, which took place May 14, 24 artists took to the outdoors, spreading out among seven wineries on the Naramata Bench to create new artworks.

En Plein Air, which translates simply to “in the open air,” is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors.

“Taking your studio outdoors isn’t too big a deal, unless you don’t like wind and bugs,” said Glenn Clark, who not only organizes the event but participates.

Luckily, Clark said, the weather didn’t give them too hard a time.

“It was supposed to rain all weekend but it was nice,” he said. “Everybody had a good time.”

The return to painting outdoors, directly from life in this group atmosphere is a growing movement, according to Clark.

“En Plein Air has gotten big in the last 10 years, really big,” said Clark, adding that there are web sites devoted to the plein air as well as international events. There are a couple of bigger events on the coast, Clark continued, ones that are juried, with strict time limits and canvases provided to prevent artists from preparing ahead of time.

“Ours is a little looser, but all the artists are starting from scratch and creating within a time period,” said Clark.  “Most of us do plein air work on regular basis.”

Though some of the artists from last year’s event had to drop out, Clark said they still ended up with the same number of participants.

“We had a few new artists join, so it evened out,” he said.

The 24 artists participating work in a range of media. Acrylics and oil painters were equally represented, Clark said, along with a few watercolour artists and three people drawing.

“Robert Jenkins paints with Contes (soft crayon pastels) and he holds a box of Contes like I hold my oil palette,” said Clarke. “It does spark some interest, people like to see the artist at work, so it’s kind of fun.”

According to Clarke, they had a good turnout of people viewing the artists at work. And given the vineyard settings, en Plein Air offered two unusual experiences.

Not only were visitors able to see the artists at work, they also got a chance to walk amongst the vines in working vineyards and see the land where the grapes come from to make the region’s many wines.

Each artist will be submitting a work from those created on Saturday to the show, which opens this Friday at the Penticton Art Gallery.

“I have a bunch here, ready for me to pop a frame on them,” said Clark, adding that the show will hang at the gallery until the annual summer fundraiser, the Starry Starry Night gala and auction.

“All these works will hit the auction block in a month and a bit,” he said. Funds raised from the auction go to support the gallery.

The socializing for the artists didn’t end on Saturday, however.

“On Sunday, we all went out for a paint-together up on the KVR trail,” said Clark. “That was really nice, just all hanging and painting the same scene.”