Framework: More than 80 paintings to hang in art association’s plein-air contest
By Will Bowen
It was overcast and windy and the surf was up at WindanSea Beach on the morning of Sunday, May 6. The waves feathered overhead and only a few brave surfers were out, bobbing around like corks in the churning whitewater. Plein-air painters Rita Pacheco and Andrea Gaye were also out there, huddled over their canvases, brushes in hand, trying to stay glued in place, as they braced against the wind and huge surf just outside the splash zone on the rocks above the water.
They were cold and their hands were quivering from a combination of the weather and the excitement of trying to finish a painting of the crashing surf in just three hours for the plein-air competition, “Under the Sky,” coming to the La Jolla Art Association (LJAA) Gallery, May 17-June 3. The First Prize will pay $300.
Painter Sallie Sachse looked out enviously at Pacheco and Gaye from the sidewalk above the rocks. She, too, had her portable paints and easel and wanted to paint, but she couldn’t get down the steps to negotiate the rocks due to an injured knee. A dog she was walking that morning had sprinted off and pulled her hard to the ground — knee first.
Plein-air project curator Rae Anne Marks was on hand to comfort her, while barking encouragement to her painters at work below.
“I am freezing, but happy,” said Pacheco on her return to the sidewalk. “My hands are shaking, but I think I’m in an altered state, what they call ‘The Zone,’ at one with everything. Just look around! It’s fabulous … to paint and to enjoy nature here.”
Gaye piped in, “I was watching out for big waves because once before I was painting here and a large wave splashed over me and filled my paint box with water. I didn’t want that to happen again.”
Pacheco added, “It was overcast when I got here. A few years ago I would have just sat in my car and waited for the sun to come out, but now I am challenged by the overcast conditions. I was looking for an impression of the seascape to paint. I tried to create something that showed the qualities of good composition and restraint.”
Gaye said her goal was to capture the changing light before the sun came through. “I am used to painting in difficult conditions, “ she said. “I have painted in the snow in Julian and in the Mayan marketplaces in Guatemala. Some people think us Brits are a bit stodgy, but it’s not so. Actually, we are quite adventurous!
“I could sell the painting that I did today for about $750 — that’s $250 an hour. I know that sounds like a good wage, but as my teacher, Sebastian Capella, says, ‘Yes, it only took me three hours to make a $750 painting, but don’t forget it also took me a lifetime of study!’ ”
The sidelined Sachse said she’s envious of Pacheco and Gayle’s productions. “But I’m not worried because I have a painting of WindanSea at home that I’m going to enter in the show. I call it ‘Red Tango.’ It’s a somewhat non-traditional plein-air painting. I captured how the rocks at WindanSea turned red just for a moment as the sun set one day.
“The ‘Tango’ in the title refers to my parakeet. He’s not a touchy-feely type of guy — he likes chewing on grass and the sound of red fire trucks — but he inspires me to remember the importance of interaction in life.”
Exhibit curator Rae Ann Marks said she’s excited about the competition. “Right now, I have 28 plein-air artists in the show and more than 80 paintings, and I think I will get even more submissions,” she said. “I’m worried that I won’t have enough gallery space for all of them! Luckily, plein-air works are usually small, so I should be able to hang them all.”
Marks said there is resurgence in the popularity of plein-air paintings and the exhibit is expected to draw a crowd. “I took on this project because I want to revitalize and reinvent LJAA,” she said. “I want to shake things up and elevate the status of the association so that it can again be the great organization it was meant to be.”
IF YOU GO
What: ‘Under The Sky’ plein-air exhibit
Where: La Jolla Art Association Gallery, 8100 Paseo del Ocaso
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily to June 3
Awards Reception: 5-7 p.m. Saturday, May 19
Contact: (619) 252-9564
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