By Amanda Renkiewicz
Traverse City became brighter than ever during the second annual Paint Grand Traverse: A Plein Air Affair in August. “En plein air” is a French expression that means “in the open air.” It’s used by artists to describe the art of outdoor painting and capturing landscapes and views in natural light. These plein air painting techniques apply to both plein air oil painting and plein air watercolor. Paint Grand Traverse’s mission is to create opportunities for the artistic interpretation of the beautiful Grand Traverse region, and to provide fun and educational events to artists, spectators, and patrons alike. Through another successful event, the non-profit was able to bring in dozens of premier artists from all over the world to showcase their talents.
The event was presented by the Crooked Tree Arts Center, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization founded in 1971. “Through forty years of service and sound stewardship, the Crooked Tree Arts Center has developed an excellent visual and performing arts program, managed by a professional staff with guidance from the board of directors,” their website explains. Their membership has grown to over 2,000 individuals, and services are provided to over 50,000 individuals each year.
The list of attendees was extensive and offered many featured artists who competed for master’s division awards. Three participants graciously shared their experiences to Gather Grand Traverse and gave valuable insight into the event.
Kevin Barton, a Petoskey based artist, maintains his own gallery at Barton’s Art Loft downtown, and also displays his artwork at other venues throughout the area. He was pleased to be honored amongst his peers this year with a Best of Show Award in the Small Wonders Competition, where the pieces could be no larger than 8” on a side. “I’m semi-local but one of the things I stress to my art collectors is even though the event is nearby, the Michigan artists and others from around the country are all participating in many national shows and competitions. A Plein Air Affair is a national caliber event and you will see that quality of work,” he says.
“It’s possibly my hardest working week of the year and truly earns its nickname, The Art Olympics, but that is also part of what makes it fun for me.”
Kevin enjoys interacting with the people who come to see the art, as well as socializing with the artists themselves. “We share a sense of instant camaraderie, tips on gear, the act of painting itself, and recommended spots to paint.”
Artist Lori Feldpausch lives in Traverse City and teaches workshops at Crooked Tree on Plein Air painting, as well as still lifes with flowers.
“My favorite part of the Paint Grand Traverse week is being with my artist tribe from all over. We outdoor painters are a different breed and tend to be nature lovers!” she explains.
Her journey in painting has been inspired by the outdoors and the lakes, as both renew her spirit and provide a sense of calm. Her murals have graced the walls of fantastic hotels, including the famous Plaza in New York City. Lori still spends time right next door to where she grew up and began her art, and she’s already looking forward to participating in next year’s event.
Kurt Brian Anderson, of Harbor Springs, has multiple awards to his name and has taken part in many showcases for his work. As part of the Plein Air Affair, he says, “I think the most satisfying thing for me is to be around my fellow painters from around the country. Painting is a solitary avocation, and it’s good to spend time with other artists going through the same struggles.”
According to Kurt’s website, he was in the midst of a full-time career as a surgical PA, raising a family, and running an organic farm, when he set sail on a self-guided journey to rekindle his creative spirit through painting. He has never looked back. His enthusiasm for the Plein Air Affair was evident. “It’s such a well-organized and community supported event that it’s truly a joy to participate in. It’s great to see the other painters’ work and be inspired by it. I find my work being influenced by them by the end of the week!”
Locals all agree that the Grand Traverse region is known the world over for its gorgeous scenery, and seeing the outdoors through the eyes of artists is breathtaking. “It’s incredible to see the sheer volume of work created that week, and a testament to the creativity and productivity of the artists.
“The work produced during the week covers the entire area, and all landscape subjects with different media, so there is something for all to enjoy,” Kevin Barton adds.
The Plein Air Affair demonstrates the truth in Thomas Mertons’ insightful quote, that “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”
The third annual Paint Grand Traverse will be August 8-15, 2020. Mark your calendars!