The Spring plein air rush continued with several events held this last Saturday. I chose to go to the Quick Draw in Pine Mountain GA—location of the Callaway Gardens. For three years Callaway has sponsored a plein air event and this year they invited over thirty artists to paint and sell work at their first class facilities. As part of the events there was a Paint Out scheduled for Saturday. Having only been involved in plein air painting for about a year, I did not even apply for one of the juried positions. Artist from as far as away as California where attending, so this is a big deal and a major competition. I was curious and when I found out that the Quick Draw was open to all artist so I decided to go down and give it a try.
I left early Sunday with the top down and the trunk full of equipment. After a nice two hour drive in perfect weather I arrived in a quaint town built on the location of an old railway line that no longer exists. The original town of Chipley became a big cotton market with the arrival of the railroad in 1879 and was renamed Pine Mountain in 1958. The railroad went the way of the dinosaurs and what remaines is a three crossroad town that is typically mid Georgia in character with a small retail district and a cluster of older southern hip roofed and Victorian homes. The famous Callaways and their gardens remade this town and it now boasts quite a few small stores and restaurants catering to that crowd that overflows from the resort. Check in was not until 10:30 so I had over an hour to walk around and scout a good position to paint from. I wavered from an interesting long sighted view down the old track location, to a one of a small alley that branches off the town’s boulevard. In the end I chose the alley because if offered some shadows off the adjacent building and local architecture.
With a two hour limit I knew this would be a challenge —I usually take about three plus on a 9×12″. I did a few preliminary drawings and even mixed some color before the fire engine horn sounded the start at noon. This is what makes plein air very interesting , it’s like a sporting event, and like golf there are many people who try but few who really excel. Their is a top tier that travel the country and the world. I was a bit nervous, but worked through it, even fending off questions from tourist there to enjoy the event. In the two hours you not only have to finish a painting but have it framed and ready to judge, so about 1:45 I signed it and stuck it in a frame that I had brought just for the occasion. At 2PM the horn sounded and everyone was required to display their work along the small square in front of the stores.
This is where it got bit dicey. According to the information I read in the application on the Callaway web site, juried artist were allowed to paint, display and sell their work —but were not eligible to win a prize in the paint off. Cash awards were to be first $300, second $200, third $150 with three honorable mentions of $100 each. Things did not exactly happen that way. Several of the juried artist won prizes, one with a painting that was not even painted in the designated area during the event!. This caused a bit of a row and was corrected but at least one of the winners was still a juried artists. In addition, only one of the honorable mention prizes were awarded. I did not win anything—not a surprise to me, as this was my first attempt at this type event. None-the-less, I was pleased with the painting and certainly thought it was competitive. There were some very talented artist who came in just for just the Quick Draw and I was delighted to be able to paint with them.
I met the winner, F. Daly Smith from Macon who’s rather large painting— a view of the highway coming into town was certainly top notch. I also made certain to introduce myself to a few of the national and local artists who participated. Ken DeWaard and Greg LaRock (both of their paintings pictured)— two guys who I think are extremely talented and big names in the plein air world. Plus local artists, Millie Gosch from Atlanta and Marsha Hembree Savage who I’ve conversed with on Facebook .
By the way…I sold my painting to a wonderful lady from Decatur who was attending the event. I was flattered and delighted, even after not winning a prize. It made the day even more enjoyable —I guess I can call myself a professional plein air painter now. Next year— If I can, I’m hoping to apply for a juried position.