The 8th annual Adirondack Plein Air Festival begins on Aug 15 and not only is it a bunch of artists painting outdoors, but it has “nocturnes” and “quick draws” too! Almost 70 artists from all over the US, Quebec and Ontario, will converge on the village of Saranac Lake in order to paint the beauty of the Adirondack region, much like the Hudson River School painters of the mid 1800’s.
In the 8 years of the Festival, those artists have probably equaled, if not surpassed, the number of paintings created during the 50 years the Hudson River School was popular.
Artists come to paint for three and a half days, and then put on a big Show & Sale on Saturday, Aug 20, in the Town Hall on Main St, Saranac Lake. Admission is free and the hours are 12 – 5. This exhibit is an extraordinary opportunity for anyone to be able to take home their own little “piece of the Adirondacks”! But before the Show & Sale goes on, the artists have to be very productive! For most of us (I am the organizer of the event and a plein air painter), it’s all about the journey – the experience of the place. We all love to paint and these plein air events are simply excuses for us to drop everything else and spend days outside painting. That enjoyment shows up in our paintings.
New in 2016 is a “Nocturne Contest”, hosted by the NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery. As defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary app, a nocturne is “a work of art dealing with evening or night”. For plein air artists it means using a headlamp or flashlight and painting in the dark. The light is needed to be able to see your canvas and your paints. It could be a village or waterfront scene illuminated by street lights, a camp fire view, or even a painting done in the twilight after the sun goes down, or by moonlight. It’s quite a challenge, but also loads of fun. So watch out for headlight attired artists on the side of the road and come to the NorthWind Fine Arts Gallery, 11 Woodruff St., Saranac Lake, beginning Thursday evening Aug 18, to see these strange night time creations.
The first full day of the Plein Air Festival, Aug 16, has all the artists out at the Paul Smith’s College VIC. This is a perfect location because not only can it adequately host dozens of artists, but the hiking trails are all groomed and easy to walk, and within a half mile of the parking lot one can find pond views with mountains in the distance, babbling brooks with little waterfalls, marshes, bogs, mixed hardwood forest, northern boreal forest, wildflowers, old growth white pines, lean-tos, and floating bridges! Maybe even some wildlife! A moose was reported there in July. Spectators are encouraged to come out and watch the artists at work and to enjoy hiking the trails themselves. In the VIC building there will be a display of paintings by area artists and Jodie Maurer, now of Missouri, who won the 2015 prize for the best painting of the VIC, Her work is on display there now through the end of the month, along with plein air paintings by me, Nancy Brossard, Susan Whiteman, Diane Leifheit and Jacqueline Altman.
Wednesday Aug 17 is called “Paint the Adirondacks” day, because artists are free to explore and choose their own painting locations. They will likely range from the Paul Smith’s area, down to Tupper Lake, and as far as the views of the High Peaks along the Adirondack Loj Road and the Au Sable River area outside of Lake Placid. A new prize this year has been donated by the Lake Placid Center for the Arts for the best Lake Placid Village painting. While many artists come to our area for the natural landscape, others enjoy capturing the vibrancy and activity of busy streets and shops. So it’s very likely that there will be artists out and about Main Street, Lake Placid, capturing views of the downtown area and Mirror Lake.
Thursday Aug 18 is “Paint the Town” day in Saranac Lake. This part of the Festival is actually done as a fund-raiser. Artists are asked to donate a small painting, done in the village, which includes the RiverWalk, Lake Flower, Lake Colby, and Moody Pond, as well as downtown shops, the train depot, and other historic buildings. These donated paintings are set up as a silent auction in the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery, 52 Main Street and will be ready for bidding at 5 pm. Proceeds from the auction are split between the artists and a fund that goes to assist the art programs and scholarships in the Saranac Lake Central School district. It’s our way of giving back to the community for their support of the arts. The winner of the Saranac lake Area Chamber of Commerce “Cover Art Award” is usually selected from these paintings. And it’s another great opportunity to own your own little piece of Saranac Lake. The auction will be moved to the Town Hall Friday evening and will conclude at 4 pm on Saturday. Aug 18 is also a 3rd Thursday ArtWalk day, so from 5 – 7:30 there will be more demonstrations, exhibits, and live music throughout the village to enjoy.
On Friday, Aug 19, the artists will spend the morning out painting the Saranac River, primarily at the Saranac Lake Fish & Game Club, which has striking views of the river, Baker, McKenzie, Moose, and Whiteface Mountains. Then they move into “exhibit mode” – the wet paintings get framed and delivered to the Town Hall for jurying. The 2016 Juror of Awards is accomplished Massachusetts painter John MacDonald. It will be his job to select the 12 prize winners, including the first place award that is $1000 cash, a feature in PleinAirCollector.com, and merchandise prizes. A very Special Preview Party is planned for Aug 19, from 6 – 9 in the Town Hall. Tickets are $20/person and will include food and beverages. The Preview Party is the first chance for potential buyers to see and select from all the new paintings that have been produced, and to also meet and talk with the artists. Prizes will be announced at 8 pm.
Saturday morning, Aug 20, begins with the “Quick Draw” Competition. As if plein air painting isn’t hard enough with the light constantly changing, weather changing, bugs biting, wind blowing, and more – in this competition the artists only have two hours to paint. They can set up anywhere they wish in the downtown Saranac Lake area, but no paint can be applied until 10 am. Then they have just 2 hours to complete a painting. When the bells chime twelve in the clock tower on top of the Town Hall, they have to stop working. Easels and paintings need to be brought to the sidewalk outside the Town Hall where the prize winner will be announced at 12:15.
The Show & Sale in the Town Hall also opens to the public at noon on Saturday Aug 20 and there is no admission fee. All are welcome to come in and see how the artists have enjoyed and interpreted the Adirondack environment, both natural and human. It’s always fun to see what has grabbed their attention. Besides the typical landscape views of lakes and mountains, we’ve had people waiting at the train depot, a portrait of the pizza maker at Little Italy, and people shopping at the Farmer’s Market. The Hudson River School painters introduced the Adirondacks and Catskills to the rest of the world. The Plein Air Festival painters help both visitors and those who live here see what they find inspiring about this very special place.
Learn more about the event at SaranacLakeArtWorks.com/pleinair, or at Event Headquarters: the Adirondack Artists Guild Gallery, 52 Main St. But the best experiences will be had by coming to watch the artists at work and seeing the results of their endeavors in the Show & Sale.
Photos from above: Painting of an artist, by Patricia Bellerose, of Ontario; Artists painting at the Paul Smith’s VIC; Winner of the Saranac Lake Area Chamber of Commerce “Cover Art Award, by Marilyn Fairman, Johnstown, NY.