Cambridge hosts Plein Air pre-comp ‘Paintout’

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper Painter Olena Babak works on a painting of the Cambridge Lighthouse during the Plein Air Paintout on Friday.

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
Painter Olena Babak works on a painting of the Cambridge Lighthouse during the Plein Air Paintout on Friday.

CAMBRIDGE — The plein air “Pre-competition Paintout” was held in this city once again on July 8. Thirty of the 58 painters selected for competition in Plein Air Easton came to Cambridge to paint “en plein air,” French for “in the open air.”

Painters arrived in town early in the morning, and scouted out locations to paint. Favorite locations are the lighthouse, of course; the harbor, the Richardson Museum grounds on Maryland Avenue, all of the boatyards and even some of the neighborhoods. High Street alone made room for three painters, all charmed by the eclectic collection of homes on the brick avenue.

“I love it, this is great. It’s a little cooler today than it was yesterday, and I’ve got a good spot in the shade to paint,” said Chris Dixon of Lakesville, Conn. “From what I understand I’m painting the backward house — they tell me it was moved here and put down backwards, supposed to be facing the other way. It looks beautiful though, it caught my attention as soon as I pulled around the corner. I think it’s beautiful here in Cambridge, from what I’ve seen.”

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper Chris Dixon found the ‘backwards’ house on High Street and created a beautiful image of it.

Dorchester Banner/Paul Clipper
Chris Dixon found the ‘backwards’ house on High Street and created a beautiful image of it.

Just across the street was painter Sergio Lopez from Santa Rosa, Calif. “This is nice, I’ve never heard of this town,” he said. “I’m from nowhere near here. It’s really a cute little town. I’m looking forward to learning a little bit more after I’m done painting here.”

Olena Babak from Hartland, Maine, was gleeful as she painted the Cambridge Lighthouse. “It’s been a wonderful experience,” she said in her Ukrainian accent about joining the paint-out. “I learned about this lighthouse and I had to come over here and paint it, because I love the historic things and I love the idea of people building something that was built with so much care. And it’s a very interesting structure itself, so I had to come here and paint!”
This reporter quipped that perhaps the reason the lighthouse was built was to please photographers and painters, and Olena laughed. “Someone made it pretty, and if you didn’t make it pretty we wouldn’t come to paint it! If you don’t want to attract artists, well, do something different there! Really, this is a beautiful area, you guys are really fortunate to live here.”

“There’s lots of nice shade, lots of nice breeze blowing in, and obviously it’s a beautiful area,” said Danny Robbins from Richmond, Va., as he painted the front of 100 High St. “All of us got pretty cooked yesterday (in the sun), so it’s nice to be shaded a little bit. It’s a matter of time. This is a quick paint-out, so we have to rally and get our paintings together really quickly. Sometimes it’s nice, though, to have a short little span of time, to have to make your decisions really quickly without a whole lot of error. Sometimes it actually improves the painting to have to work that quickly.”

The artists had til noon to finish their work and head on up to the Wet Paint Sale on High Street in front of the Dorchester Center for the Arts. All the paintings were available for sale, and at least one sold right on the spot.
The winner of the Artists’ Choice Award was Patrick Saunders, St. Louis, Mo. who did a beautiful, detailed rendering of the lighthouse replica at Long Wharf. The decision was a difficult one; this year there were a number of stunning paintings turned in by the plein air artists.

The Artists’ Choice Award was provided by donations from William T. Hunt Insurance, Downtown Frame of Mine, Folger Nolan Fleming Douglas, and Newcomb and Collins.

Other sponsors were Katie Mae’s Country Shoppe who provided a light breakfast, and Cambridge Eateries who provided lunch.

The event planning was done by Wednesday Morning Artists represented by Nancy Snyder; by the Dorchester Center for the Arts represented by Janette Jones; Cambridge Main Street was represented by Tom Hutchinson, and the City of Cambridge, represented by Brandon Hesson.

“I think the day went pretty well,” said Nancy Snyder of Wednesday Morning Artists, as the painters gathered to display their works from the Dorchester Center for the Arts on High Street. “We have a lot of absolutely gorgeous paintings. We had a man come in early at the wet paint show and said ‘I want that one!’ There were a lot of water venues this year, everybody seemed to be interested in boats, the water and the lighthouse. We have a number of repeat artists this year, and I was speaking with one of them and he loves Cambridge, so he’s always happy to come back here.”

The Cambridge painters are among the 58 artists who were selected to compete in this week’s Plein Air Easton competition that is produced by the Avalon Foundation. Now in its 12th year, Plein Air Easton is the largest juried plein air competition in the United States. This was the third year for the Cambridge Plein Air Paintout.

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