NORTH BENNINGTON -- "En plein air" artists, in town as part of the Plein Air Vermont 2012 event, are on local streets and all over the local countryside this week -- seeking out iconic sites and unsual visuals, dodging raindrops, and creating artwork the old fashioned way.
Painting "en plein air" simply means painting outdoors, capturing the immediacy of the subject at hand under changing light and weather conditions -- not so simple this week.
"We pay attention to that (the weather), take appropriate action as far as position ... indoors or in a protected area ... for example, I am under this tree," Frank Costantino, watercolorist and architectural illustrator, said as he painted the Blue Benn Dinner Tuesday from across the street. "However, this strategy did not work a couple years ago, when I was painting at an event in New Jeresy, I got totally doused. The painting got ruined.
"The following year, down in Maryland, the same occured. But I was painting the coming storm, with the lightning and thunder and all kinds of stuff. I painted furiously to get the piece completed."
About 40 artists from near and far -- some traveling from Florida and Missouri -- arrived Tuesday in North Bennington for Plein Air Vermont, now in its third year. After four days of painting non-stop the resulting artwork will be on display this weekend in the Media Barn at North Bernnington's Taraden Bed & Breakfast. Until then, the artists and their easels will be seend in the towns, villages, forests and fields in and around Bennington, North Bennington, Shaftsbury, Arlington and Manchester. The public is encouraged to seek them out and observe them at work as the week unfolds.
There is also a degree of camaraderie among the artists, especially between the locals and the new out-of-towners.
"Locale is really important, and if it happens to be iconic ... those are the things that attract the artist eyes," Costantino said. "Having been here a few years ... we do try to identify those places: the Park McCullough House is one, Hiland Hall is another one; the bank (in North Bennington) ... There are a lot of iconic places in Bennington and Shaftsbury and Manchester. The artists do confer with one another, they do some reconnoitering, they find the place that attract them."
Several special events are scheduled through the week.
Schedule of events
Today, Thursday, Sept. 6, at 7:30 p.m., in the Deane Carriage Barn at Bennington College, Costantino, co-founder of Plein Air Vermont and also co-founder of the American Society of Architectural Illustrators, will give a presentation on "Transitioning From Illustrator to Plein Air Artist -- Exceptional Artworks From Across the U.S."
On Friday, Sept. 7, at the Bennington Center for the Arts, Stephen Doherty, Juror of Awards this year, will present "Plein Air Painters. Crazy About Nature, or Just Plein Crazy?" Editor of PleinAir Magazine and former Editor-in-Chief of American Artist Magazine, Doherty is eminently qualified to regale unique and humorous aspects of those who venture out to capture nature's beauty under all kinds of circumstances.
Both presentations are free of charge and followed by refreshments.
Saturday afternoon features the "Quick Draw" competition at 1:30 p.m., when more than 50 artists will gather in the North Bennington Village Green to start and finish a framed landscape painting in exactly two hours and be juried by noted landscape painter John MacDonald. From 3:15 to 5:30 p.m., Sage Street will be closed to traffic for the "Quick Draw" event. Live music by the Buzz Saw Boys and a book and bake sale at the McCullough Free Library add to the festivities.
With the works completed and on display, an Opening Reception will take place on Saturday, Sept. 8, from 7 to 10 p.m., and the Grand Exhibit and Awards Presentation will take place on Sunday, from noon to 5 p.m. Both are free and open to the public, with live music, hors d'oeuvres, and cash bar at the Taraden Bed & Breakfast.
-- K.D. Norris
For information about each of the artists, jurors and all of the events and locations for Plein Air Vermont 2012 call 802 733-6570 or visit pleinair-vermont.com.