Lenny

Plein Air Easton, Part III

Scroll down for part I and II or click here and here.

Day Three, Saturday, July 26

Started the day with another spectacular gourmet breakfast at our “Buckingham Palace of Inns,” and then headed out to the streets to observe the “Quick Draw” event.

Note to self: Next year bring art supplies and sign up for the “Quick Draw.” It looked to be a load of fun!

To recap: The Quick Draw is quite a novel event to bring the art of plein air painting directly to the art lover. In Easton more than 130 artists, competition painters, professionals, amateurs, etc. had pre-registered and participated. These artists were then given two hours to complete their works within a three block area of the town.

During this short time, all registered Quick Draw participants set up their supplies and paint, draw, or sculpt “en plein air” in downtown Easton, while hundreds of people stroll around and look in and ask questions.

There were artists everywhere in this small Maryland jewel of a town! And they were not just painting the streets and beautiful houses and spaces around them! Painter Scott Powers, a young Chicago artist, was mesmerizing the crowd by delivering a portrait of a gentleman reading a paper in the shade of an Easton cafe. The crowd was hypnotized as Powers delivered a remarkable piece that not only captured the subject’s likeness, but also that key ingredient of great portraiture: the subject’s unique sense of individuality and self. How he managed to do that in two hours was a spectacular feat.

We walked around for the two hours (I got a mean sunburn) and admired both the multitude of artists of all kinds of artistic skill, and also the multitudes of people admiring them.

When the “finish” horn sounded at high noon, artists began filing down to Harrison Street, where they began to set up their easels to display (and sell) their just finished work. The paintings were then judged by Plein Air-Easton! Competition Judge Gay Faulkenberry and awards were presented at 1:30pm. By 2:00pm the exhibit and all of its paintings were gone from the streets of Easton.

Once again I witnessed a near feeding frenzy as paintings were bought almost as soon as they were up on their easels. I would say that within the first five minutes about 50% of all the works had been sold, with works ranging in price from $250 to $2,000. By 2pm nearly all pieces were gone and heading to the home of a new collector.
Quick Draw at Plein Air Easton

Larry Moore from Florida won the top prize at the competition and it was a well-deserved award - he was also my pick for the best piece in the show. I also quite liked Joe Meyer’s light-filled house (it also won an award), and Ken DeWaard’s piece.

My wife and I then went biking around Easton (biking with my wife, who used to be a world-class triathlete before she retired from competition a few years ago, is like playing chess with Bobby Fisher) and then back to the Inn to get ready for my talk at the museum at 7PM.

My talk had been advertised as a “new signature event that will embody Plein Air-Easton’s slogan ‘Art for Everyone.’ Campello, a respected artist and art critic with a flair for engaging his audiences with humor, will give a short history of art and discuss the knack of art collecting. This event will not be boring. Cocktails will be served and attendees can mingle and view the competition galleries. Seating is limited but Campello’s wit and wisdom can be heard throughout the Academy” and sort of like Richard Pryor once said, I thought to myself as I walked to the museum: “I better be funny.”

The room was packed, with maybe 150-200 people, and I had expected to talk for about an hour as I gave them a little background on art history and then discussed collecting art and other associated issues.

The audience was really good and I didn’t notice anyone falling asleep or leaving, and so when I glanced at my watch, and noticed that I had been talking for nearly two hours I was dumbfounded by both my ability to just talk and talk about art and by the audience’s resistance!

So I ended it (I could have talked another hour, but I took pity on them), and surprisingly quite a few people came over and started asking questions and I spent another 20 minutes or so answering them… so I think that it went OK.

My apologies for those who were late for other things because of my Castro-like performance.

Next: the last day at Easton, with Winners Paint-Out and Brunch at Rich Neck Manor.

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Lenny

Plein Air Easton Part II

Scroll down for part I or click here.

Day Two, Friday, July 25

After an amazing breakfast at our even more amazing Inn, we walked around town and dropped in at the Pam Foss Gallery, where we admired some of her paper casts before walking over next door to check out the installation effort, started last year by artists Carol Minarick and Mary Ann Schindler — with the help of gallerist Vivian Knapp — to provide a contemporary “shadow” exhibition to the plein air festival.

This year they’re presenting an installation about the disappearances at sea of two men who have become mythical art figures.

Mounted at Viviann Napp’s small gallery cottage at the corner of South Street and Talbot Lane in Easton, the installation is a seascape from another perspective. Combining contemporary paintings and actual nautical elements, including a naval architect-designed 1939 lapstrake dinghy from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, the work recalls the voyages of cult Dutch conceptual artist Bas Jan Ader and English inventor and would-be circumnavigator Donald Crowhurst.

See a 1970s video by Bas Jan Ader here.

It is an elegant and intelligent installation which is the first in what I hope are many new steps to expand the town’s intelligent approach to endorse the fine arts in general; Easton has a good thing going with the arts, kick-started by the hard working folks who put together the Plein Air Art Festival, and I hope that the city council continues to work hard to make this art event the seed for more and more fine arts in Easton.

We also visited and chatted with the owner artists of the Sharp-Mayer Gallery, where we admired the works of owner Joe Meyer. Across the street we walked to the South Street Art Gallery where we ran into the familiar works of the talented NancyTankersley and sort of our first exposure to figurative art in her current series on chefs and restaurant workers. We also quite liked the work of old favorites Sara Linda Poly and Bethanne Kinsella Cople, two extraordinary landscape painters.
4th of July Sky by Bethanne Kinsella Cople
4th of July Sky by Bethanne Kinsella Cople

At 7 PM that night we attended the Collectors Preview Party at the Academy Art Museum, where each of the plein air artists had two pieces for sale, and where the 2008 juror, artist Lynn Gertenbach Gay Faulkenberry (who graciously stepped in at the last minute because Gertenbach could not attend) would later select the 2008 award winners.

Considering how I have been reporting the blues that seems to have hot the art market in 2008, let me tell you that this evening was almost like a feeding frenzy of art buying. Artists were able to replace work on the wall as it was sold, and I would estimate that around $100,000 worth of artwork was sold on this opening night, where collectors paid $150 in order to be there and have first choice at the available works.

This was quite a refreshing change of pace from what I have been seeing in various art fairs so far this year, and while it is clear that the plein air painting niche is very specific on its genre, it is nonetheless a good shock to see artwork fly off the walls.

It was also surprising for me to agree with about 75% of the award selections given out by the judge, although I did have a couple of major disagreements with a couple of her top choices. Nonetheless it is also unusual for me to agree to this extent with any juror, so in that particular vein we seemed to walk a parallel line.

My choice for the top prize?

Had I been the juror I would have given the top award to Bethanne Kinsella Cople’s beautiful landscape painting; her handling of light, application of paint, and experienced brushwork was the best that I saw that night. I also liked the works that I saw that night by Edward Cooper, Stuart White and Frankie Johnson.

Part III will have the “Quick Draw” - More than 130 artists, competition painters, professionals, amateurs and the simply adventurous compete to paint, draw, sculpt and have fun in the sun. These artists have only two hours to complete their works within a three block area, then they are exhibited on easels, prizes are awarded and they’re up for sale!

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Lenny

Plein Air Easton - Part I

Day One, July 24, 2008
Sometimes writers are challenged on how best to begin to describe an event, in this case Plein Air Easton, which at first seems just focused on the re-emerging art of painting outside of the studio, but when examined in depth has grown to become not only very good at that, but also - on a wider scale - very good for art, for artists, for collectors, and for a picturesque little town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

I had never been to Easton, Maryland before our arrival on a Thursday, July 24, as I had been invited to be a guest speaker as part of the 2008 Plein Air Easton festival. We decided to arrive a couple of days early, to soak in the whole experience of a little town taken over by a bunch of artists painting out in its streets and countryside.

Our hosts had put us in at the Inn at 202 Dover, and I must admit that even for an experienced traveler such as I am, I was floored by the beauty, authenticity and elegance of this gorgeous 19th century historical house, recently refurbished and brought to spectacular modern glory by owners Shelby and Ron Mitchell.

The place is breath-taking and the love of the Mitchell’s for their inn is apparent in the care and expense that they took to restore it.

Restoration began in 2005, not only under the watchful eyes of the owners, but also of Historic Easton, the State of Maryland, the Easton’s Historic Commission, and the Department of Interior. Today the beautiful colonial revval building and gardens boasts four elegant suites and one luxury en suite bedroom, each themed and decorated accordingly. The Mitchells like the Victorian approach to decor, and invoking the Victorian era, the suites have an international flavor in keeping with the Victorian concept of what was exotic to them. Arrivals can expect to choose among France, Asia, England and Africa (Safari) suites or, the Victorian bedroom.

We were given the Asian suite, which was larger than most New York apartments — in fact I think it was larger than the Brooklyn apartment in which I was raised. In addition to a beautiful huge bamboo canopy bed and Asian furniture, I loved the antique puppets and the original Ukiyo-e woodblocks on the walls.
inn at 202 dover
And the steam shower, and the cool air jet tub with the golden dragon spitting high pressure water, the fireplace, and the high definition flat screen TV with satellite TV - located… ahem… in the sitting room within our room.

And free high speed internet access.

But enough about this gorgeous place; suffice it to say that if you visit Easton, and want it to be a super special visit, this is the only place in town that will be a memorable stay! It gets a hundred stars and a thousand thumbs up from my wife and I.

At 5:30PM on our first day we hung around for happy hour at the inn… and it didn’t disappoint, as Jorge Alvarez, the Inn’s Cuban-born chef popped in with some tasty food, which included what can be best described as my first exposure of the delicious results what happens when Southern cooking (let’s say fritters) meets Cuban food (let’s say WOW!).

Afterwards we walked over to a local Easton restaurant called … ah… Restaurant Local, where we had some good happy hour vittles (Shrimp Fajitas and Calamari) on their sidewalk tables, listening to a local dude play the guitar, and you won’t believe this: a $5 pitcher of beer in a fancy restaurant! It was great, although we did have to teach our young Russian waiter what “seltzer water” was.

We walked around town and saw several artists painting out on the streets, although it seems most of the 2008 artists were out in the gorgeous countryside. We also scoped out a couple of the town’s art galleries - more on that later, but overall the first afternoon and night was just an opportunity to walk around Easton, see a few galleries and a few artists here and there.

Tomorrow the judging begins!

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