Oil Painters of America: Great Paint Out, A Stroke of Art

Plein air painting and dancing fog

Posted:  Friday, September 8, 2017 - 8:30am
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“I’m not painting in watercolors today!” said a laughing John M.T. Seitzer as he and other artists in the Great Paint Out fled the rain at Ocean Point on Sept. 6.

The annual event, now part of Boothbay Harbor Fest’s A Stroke Of Art, was cut short by Mother Nature. When the weather is fine and sunny, the artists, most of whom are members of the Oil Painters of America (the Great Paint Out is the national organization’s event) and the Plein Air Painters of Maine (PAPME), stay on site well into the afternoon before leaving to frame their paintings for the reception and wet wall that evening at various locations.

The fog danced in and out as artists began arriving at the day’s painting site – all along Ocean Point from the Grimes Cove area to Three Trees – at around 8 a.m. But being the experienced plein air painters they are, the fog’s dance, though challenging, was not cause for alarm. Rain – yes. Fog – no, not at all!

Alison Dibble of Brooklin had been to the area once before attending a workshop with Don Demers. The Ocean Point paint site was her first with the Oil Painters of America and PAPME – and the weather? Bah!

“I paint in the winter on snowshoes,” said Allison as a floored fellow artist’s jaw dropped. “I like to hike into places that most people would walk past.”

“You try to paint what is in front of you and it’s never easy (laughs). And, I like moody. The only challenging thing on days like this is that we don’t have the shadows that add mood. I wanted to capture the moodiness and vagueness of the fog on (Ram Island) lighthouse.”

Allison was working on her second painting since her 8 a.m. arrival when the rain started to fall, lightly at first. “I made some color notes and will finish it at Candy’s house.”

Candy is Candy McKeller from Sherman whose family has a cottage on the Point. She’s painted many times with PAPME.

“I hope she isn’t leaving,” Candy said of Allison – the subject of her painting. “You have to paint kind of fast and the weather was nicer when we first got here. It’s just fun being out with the group. On days like this you can get some good moody work.”

Some of the artists, Sharon Allen of Derry, New Hampshire, in particular, made the fog a subject in her painting. It’s a mysterious mist surrounding the island behind it. Sharon arrived around 8:45 and had her painting almost done before the group photo at 10:30 down at the Cove.

“When we came back there was no island!” Sharon said laughing.“The rocks were covered, the tide had come in. The fog had been coming in, lifting, coming in, lifting a bit … I started out with a sky and water that were almost violet that changed to a yucky greenish color. I kept the violet!”

Sharon, like other plein air painters, always comes prepared for changeable weather – she had a portable cabana in her car.

Sharon said because she grew up in the city, she’s drawn to what she didn’t have growing up – trees, water, mountains … “Painting is my zen. I love to listen before I paint. Close my eyes and listen. You can even hear the fog.”

Corinne McIntyre, whose Ocean Point Studio/Visions of Maine isn’t far from Grimes Cove, said overcast days are the best.

“When it’s a sunny day you have to worry about the sun and the changing shadows it creates as it moves; on foggy days? You paint it or wait for it to lift,” said the well-seasoned artist and a co-founder of PAPME. “I got here early – I wanted my spot – and finished in about four hours. I just love it. It is so much fun.”

Corinne summed up what all plein air painters feel about what they do and where they do it: “I just can’t explain it except to say it’s (painting plein air) heaven on earth,” said McIntyre.

And as the last few artists were desperately packing up their paintings to shelter them from the rain, one painter was overheard saying, “My baby! My baby!”

You just can’t keep a plein air painter from their calling.