If I were an artist, I’d jump to participate in the Gene Stratton-Porter “Plein Aire” Paint Out opportunity. The event is a rain or shine, one-day (Saturday September 14, 2019 7am to 7pm) juried event that will feature 20 artists from Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan, and the prizes are fine: Cash honorariums for a Purchase Award: [$1000], First [$750], Second [$500] and Third [$300] place.—and three $75 Honorable Mentions. If only I were an artist!
The goal of the artists will be to capture the beauty of famed Indiana author and naturalist Gene Stratton-Porter's Wildflower Woods on Sylvan Lake. The historic site boasts 148 acres of varied terrain including rolling, wooded hiking trails; a restored wetland with gazebo; gardens featuring a 100 foot-long recently restored arbor; and turn of the century farmhouse and barn.
When I was in college, a number of my roommates were musicians, artists, or dancers. I longed to be an artist since I was young, but in my day, my school had no art department. Some intrepid teachers, however, with the aid of a local community group -- I think they were garden club members, I don’t know—decided to have an “art show.” Students were informed, and many turned in creative efforts. Some were primitive drawings; others were watercolors of flowers or landscapes. I was naïve. I “painted” a rabbit. I can’t remember if I used crayons, watercolors, or colored pencils. It won a prize. I think it was third prize in the category—whatever that category was. Maybe it was “animal pictures,” or maybe it was a “beginners’ level.” I only know when I saw the displayed exhibit, I was embarrassed. Hanging among lovely works, many beautifully framed, was my brown rabbit.
I have always enjoyed art. I visit art museums and attend artists’ receptions when possible. For many years I chaired a three-county juried art show for an organization to which I belonged. Walking along with judges prior to those shows, I learned a lot. I learned about oil paintings, watercolors, acrylics, mixed mediums, perspective, color, and design. I was not familiar with “plein aire” painting. I later learned “plein aire” is a French term used by artists to describe the art of outdoor painting, capturing landscapes and views in natural light. It may have helped as well that I studied French for four years—albeit I cannot speak French-- as my school did not have a language lab---, but I can read French. In France, I was a failure. Often I lapsed into speaking Portuguese. When I was in Portugal, I lapsed into speaking French. Somehow the language wires got mixed up in my brain. A young concierge at one hotel scolded me gently, saying, “Madame, you have lost your native language.”
Gene Stratton Porter was a woman ahead of her time-- a naturalist, an independent, an artist, photographer, and a successful writer. She struck off on her own to California to pursue her creative projects, leaving her pharmacist husband back in Indiana to tend to business.
The Gene Statton Porter “Plein Aire Paint Out” guidelines and call for entries can be accessed easily. Go to the computer and enter Gene Stratton Porter Plein Aire in the search engine. There will be tons of information. Oh, for artists considering the Paint Out, they should know that volunteers will be available for unloading/loading.
If I were an artist, what fun this opportunity and venue would be! And, most likely, a brown rabbit will be hiding somewhere along a trail.
Rachel S. Roberts