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The Zen of “Plein Air” Painting: The Artists’ Workshop of Southern Oregon

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Rick Evans painting Ashland Creek in Lithia Park.

It began in 1979 when a group of friends decided to get together weekly and paint outdoors. Today, 38 years later, this collection of artists known as the Artists’ Workshop of Southern Oregon still answers the call to paint “en plein air.

“It’s French, meaning you paint out in the open air on location utilizing the natural light,” explains Rick Evans, president of the group. “There’s been kind of a resurgence going on nationwide in the last few years. The French impressionists were the ones who made it popular in the late 1800’s, early 1900’s, like Monet and Renoir. That’s how it caught on as an art style.”

Although not an instructional group, artists of all levels and mediums are welcome and members participate in weekly ‘paint-outs’ throughout the valley packing watercolors, easels and oil paints to vineyards, gardens and lakes in order to capture the perfect scene. “Artists come and work on their own. Typically we’ll meet at a certain location, paint until about noon then have lunch and share what we did that morning.”

Evans says plein air painting can seem daunting when faced with such a vast amount of landscape and breaking objects into elements helps. “There’s so much to see, you really have to focus on a certain kind of scene and eliminate all those other opportunities. I don’t look at it as if I’m painting a tree or building or water. I break it down and if I get the colors, the darks and lights and shapes, all those relationships correct, then I end up with a tree or building or water. It’s a little less overwhelming to approach it that way.”

In June of 2018 the group will host their fifth annual Southern Oregon Plein Air event inviting artists from across the nation to a 3-day workshop, dinner and demos followed by two days of painting then finishing with submission of their artwork for judging. Past renowned artist jurors have included Richard McKinley and Willo Balfrey. Aimee Erickson from Portland is expected for 2018’s event.

 

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