by Lorraine Payette, written September 17, 2013
(ROCKPORT, ON) – A drop in temperatures wasn’t going to stop Rockport from becoming a garden of delight for painters from Canada and the US as they opened their scenic village to artists for the Plein Air event held from September 13-15.
One of many similar worldwide events both formal and informal, Rockport participated for its third year in what has become an annual event for the village. Timed around the autumnal equinox, plein air opens the world up to vibrant and joyous expression by all who care to participate.
“Plein air means that we leave our studios and go out in the open air to paint,” said Robert P. Hedden of Wellesley Island at Rockport’s first plein air in 2011. “It’s an international affair. Once a year, all over the world, simultaneously, artists go outside to paint.”
And their inspiration can be anything, from natural land formations and waterscapes, to plants and animals, people, even streets and buildings – in short, anything that inspires them and moves their hearts to paint.
With an endless variety of subjects in as many locations, artists go out alone or in groups, painting where people can watch them and learn from the process as much as from the finished works. At the end, all of the pieces are put on display in a central location and many are available for sale.
“It’s typical of plein air artists to work in oil,” said Lori McCall, plein air painter from Liverpool, New York. “It’s due to the short amount of time we have available to paint.”
A member of the Plein Air Painters Thousand Islands Region (PAPTIR), she had attended art school to study graphic art. She joined the group a few years ago.
“Rockport is a wonderful area for painting,” she said. “You have lots of choices and variety. There’s shade if you need it, sun if you want it.”
And while oils may be typical, they are far from mandatory. Artists work in whatever medium makes them comfortable – pencil and charcoal sketches, acrylics, pastels, watercolours – the media are as varied as the imaginations of those employing them.
Planning for these events starts in early spring. Once a location is found, the people have to be made aware, permissions granted, and everyone agreeable to the terms before starting. They don’t just descend on a place without warning.
“Rockport just opened up their doors and have been phenomenal,” said Phil “the Forecaster” Chadwick. “It’s all about sharing fellowship, getting together and enjoying painting out in reality. People come from all over – both Canada and the US. It’s a great chance to do things you wouldn’t ordinarily do.”
Chadwick would love to see the Township of Leeds and the Thousand Islands (TLTI) become an artists’ community. The area is completely unique as a part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Region. It has everything: waterfront, trails, facilities for tourists and painters. In his opinion, it’s the best kept secret that’s right out there in plain sight. There are hotels and accommodations both in the village and within an easy distance by car, camp grounds, restaurants – everything an international event requires.
With an endless variety of subjects in as many locations, artists went out alone or in groups, painting where people could watch them and learn from the process as much as from the finished works. This year, Rockport Boat Lines carried passengers over to paint at Boldt Castle, a new and exciting location for them to try their skills. At the end, all of the pieces were eligible to be put on display and many were available for sale.
There is no real competition, as each artist is unique and each piece has its own personal value. However, visitors to the final exhibit are encouraged to cast votes on their favourite pieces, and prizes donated by local businesses are awarded to those selected as the People’s Choice.
“We had 22 artists come out and 4 who aren’t sure about whether or not they’re participating this year,” said Councillor Wendy Merkley of TLTI. “We had a great committee. Events are so much easier when you have a great committee, and I had a fabulous committee to work with. I want to thank all of our sponsors and participants for letting us do this event – everyone has been wonderful, and they’ve been so helpful.
“We don’t judge – we want this to be non-competitive. We want this to be fun, so that’s why we do people’s choice awards.”
This year, the votes came in and the winners were:
1st – Paul Taylor for his painting of the tug boat
2nd – Jan Byinton for painting of a path on Pine Island
3rd – Lyn for painting of Margot Millers Summerhouse Studio
4th – Lyn for painting of a river scene
In the end, the true winners are those who get to see and appreciate these unique and beautiful gifts to the world – catching a brief moment in the sun on a brisk September day, held for all eternity to be viewed through the eyes of artists from all walks of life.
For more on Rockport and plein air, please go to http://www.rockportthousandislands.com/ .