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Plein Air artfully portrays scenic Palouse
Published 9/17/2012 6:00:00 AM
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Visual artists from the Palouse region are gathering in Moscow to let the great outdoors inspire their creative projects.

Palouse Plein Air artists began their third annual art competition last Friday. The contest runs through Sept. 21. French for “in the open air,” Plein Air participants draw on outdoor scenery for their pieces.

Aaron Johnson, the judge of Palouse Plein Air, said the artists get to choose where they set up.

“I don't like to tell artists to paint in specific places because I want them to come here and give us, viewers, and other people a fresh look at the Palouse,” he said. “I don't really want to dictate for them what to paint. I want to see what strikes you about the Palouse.”

Johnson said it was his idea to bring this style of competition to the area.

“I am myself a Plein Air painter, and I think the Palouse is absolutely beautiful and unique and amazing, and I wanted others to come outside and paint,” he said. “As the arts commission, we're always trying to get people to participate in the arts and to get new ways of promoting the arts.”

Artists involved can bring their blank canvases and materials to the Moscow City Hall to receive approval. All canvases must be stamped and approved.

“You stamp as many as you would like initially and continue to just paint and paint and paint until you get the three paintings you want to enter,"he said.

Johnson said he looks for good composition, promotion of the outdoors and an emotional quality to the artwork.

“(The painting) has something more than a direct copy of what the image is," he said. "I want something to feel like a place.”

Palouse Plein Air is not only known by members of the region, but also by those around the Northwest.

“We've had a lot of people who have come to it, a lot of artists,” he said. “Like I said, I think last year we had over 60 paintings. It gets a fairly wide draw of artists.”

Dawn Lepper, a mixed media fibers artist and painter, said she has participated in three otherPlein Air competitions before, but this is her first time entering in the Palouse's.

“(I want) an introduction into the community,” she said. “Maybe other people will start to recognize my work.”

Lepper said Plein Air presents her with a challenge.

“Normally I work in my studio, and it's nice to get out,” she said. “It takes me out of my comfort zone, so that's always stimulating. It forces me to work in a different atmosphere and adapt my process a little bit.”

Johnson said his favorite part about Palouse Plein Air is seeing how others gather inspiration from the environment we live in.

“I would like the public to come in and see real, original paintings done by local and regional artists,” he said.

The Moscow City Hall will display paintings starting Sept. 21.

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