Friday, March 6, 2015

Adirondack Plein Air Fest Growing Fast

PAF2015-ADThis was going to be a post that announced some changes in the Adirondack Plein Air Festival and the fact that registration for the 2015 event opened on March 1. However, by noon on March 2, we had 50 artists registered and had reached our pre-determined limit. The 2015 Adirondack Plein Air Festival will be Aug 17 – 22 in Saranac Lake. Four days of outdoor painting and then a one day Show & Sale of the work produced over those four days.

I am amazed by this phenomenon. We all know the Adirondack Park is a scenic place. Artists in the past, like those of the Hudson River School in the mid 1800’s also recognized that. Six years ago I started the Adirondack Plein Air Festival in Saranac Lake for rather selfish reasons.

I love to paint the Adirondacks and I figured if I created an event, other artists would come participant, spend money on food, gas and lodging and help out our local economy. If I got enough good artists to attend, they would attract buyers, who would also spend money on food, gas and lodging and buy art which provides income for the artists. When all these people see what a special place the Adirondack Park is, maybe they would come again, or even move here. It’s a win-win situation! A genuine example of how the arts can impact the local economy in a positive way. In past years, the registrations trickled in all spring and summer, gradually increasing every year. In 2014 we had a surprising 82 artists register. So 0 to 50 in less than two days is significant.

larsenk_Saranac2015Here is what is going to happen this August. I am very pleased to announce that award winning plein air painter Kirk Larsen, of Hicksville, NY, will be our Juror of Awards. Recognized with over 126 awards since 1994 including Grand Prize and Collector’s choice winner at Easels in Frederick ‘2012’ (3 years), Artists’ Choice at Finger Lakes Plein Air 2014, Museum Purchase Award Mystic Seaport Museum of America and the Sea, multiple Quick Draw wins, four time Oil Painters of America national & regional shows, a Plein Air Easton Artist (4 years) and many more. He won the Saranac Lake ArtWorks award at The Adirondack Plein Air Festival in 2014 and we are glad to have him back. Anyone who came to the 3rd Thursday ArtWalk in Saranac Lake last August probably saw him set up painting the performers at the Waterhole! He will select approximately a dozen prize winners from the work on display the last day of the Festival.

Prior to the Festival, Kirk Larsen will be offering a plein air painting workshop. This is a really great opportunity for any artist who would like to get first hand, direct instruction on how to paint outdoors. Oils, watercolors, acrylics or pastels – artists will bring their own materials of choice. It will be conducted at various outdoor locations in the Village of Saranac Lake with some indoor locations in case of inclement weather.

The Plein Air Festival itself is loads of fun and since I can’t invite any more artists, I’d like to encourage people to mark this down on your calendars and come out and watch. Spectators are an accepted part of plein air painting events – it’s pretty hard to set up an easel and stand there for hours painting, in a public place, without someone noticing you. (Unless you hike in to some remote place like I do sometimes, to enjoy our Adirondack peace and solitude!). Most of the artists really like talking to spectators. One of the best places to come watch will be the first day of the event, Tuesday Aug 18, when all the artists will be at the Paul Smith’s College VIC to paint. The VIC is perfect for painting because there are terrific views right out in front of the building, and then just a short distance down the trails. Wetlands, brooks, floating bridges, old growth white pines, lean-tos, bogs, mountain views, beaver lodges, wildflowers – all are in abundance.

The most entertaining event of the Festival will be the newest addition: the “Quick Draw” competition. Can you picture two artists facing off in the middle of Main St, ready to pull their paint brush and palette out of a bag and see who can whip off a plein air painting the fastest? That’s almost what it is. I had never included a “Quick Draw” in the Saranac Lake event because I’d never experienced one myself. That changed last summer when I was selected to participate in the Telluride and Aspen Plein Air Festivals in Colorado.

I did two Quick Draws. Both limited the area where artists could paint. You could scout things out ahead of time and set up your easel and paints, then wait for the official start time. Some artists did pencil sketches first to plan out their compositions, but no marks could be made on the actual canvas. When the time came to start – I was like a hound dog on the trail of a fox. I looked and painted, painted and looked, acknowledged spectators who asked a question with a quick one word response. Totally intent on trying to record my chosen view, this was no time for chatting. I have never painted more intensely in my life – it was like my life depended upon covering my canvas with paint and making it look like something.

ruiz2014I learned that Quick Draw painting is really, really hard to do. Event staff came around to warn us there was about 10 minutes left of the two-hour time limit. When time was up, I had 10 minutes to get the wet painting into a frame and move it, and my easel, to the central location where all the artists were to display their creations. Reasonably proud of myself, I set up my easel and painting and backed away. Then I immediately wanted to grab it and hide it somewhere. I was blown away by what some of the other artists had accomplished. They clearly had done this many times before. I have a lot to learn, but I’m positive this will prove to be the most fun thing to watch of the whole Plein Air Festival!

The Show & Sale on Saturday Aug 22 is pretty amazing. You can expect around 600 wet paintings to be on display in the Town Hall on Main St! Big, small, landscapes, water views, village scenes, musicians playing at the Waterhole and people at the Farmer’s Market. Last year one of the artists painted the pizza maker in the window at Little Italy! One of the coolest things will be the nocturnes – plein air paintings completed at night!

The Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery on Main St in Saranac Lake will be event headquarters. Spectators can come pick up the same schedules and maps of painting locations that the artists get, so you can drive or walk around and check out what is being painted. To find out more about the Adirondack Plein Air Festival, visit our web site. There’s a list of all the participating artists, who come from all over the east coast and Canada. Think about coming to watch in August and experience the plein air phenomenon for yourself! And maybe bring a “piece” of the Adirondacks home with you.

Illustrations: Above, Adirodack Plein Air Festival poster; middle, Kirk Larsen, 2015 Juror of Awards, and below, Kari Ganoung Ruiz painting (photo by Barry Lobdell).

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Sandra Hildreth, who writes regularly about Adirondack arts and culture, grew up in rural Wisconsin and is a retired high school art teacher. She lives in Saranac Lake where she was spends much of her time hiking, paddling, skiing, and painting. Today, Sandy can often be found outdoors Plein air painting - working directly from nature, and is an exhibiting member of the Adirondack Artists' Guild in Saranac Lake. She is also active in Saranac Lake ArtWorks. Sandy’s work can be seen on her website

3 Responses

  1. Wow! Filled up in a day and a half. Awesome.

  2. Teresa Rozycki says:


  3. Sandra – Wonderful.. Perhaps other areas in the Park could model this successful Saranac Lake event.

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