An annual competition that asks artists from around the country to capture scenes of Annapolis in open air, or en plein air as the French say, began Sunday after months of delay due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The slogan for Paint Annapolis, moved from June to September 20-24 this year, is “art looks better from six feet away,” both a reminder to visitors to not crowd the artists and an observation on the need to view paintings from a distance to fully appreciate them. Sunday morning artists were painting Weems Creek, Maryland Avenue residences and, of course, the State House dome.
The dome is in the background of David Diaz’s Sunday afternoon painting, but his main focus is on the trees and flowers in the foreground. He backs up a few feet from the canvas every so often while painting, a necessity to see how the brush strokes are coming together, he said.
When he first began plein air painting he would return to the same spot day after day in an attempt to get the closest likeness possible.
“Now it’s more about capturing the idea of the space, the feel of the space,” he said. “Strokes have gotten looser, bolder.”
Diaz is President of the Board of Directors for the Maryland Federation of Arts, which hosts Paint Annapolis. Executive Director Joann Vaughan said this year there are more than 80 artists participating, including 19 juried artists who will be judged in a separate category.
“The challenge is that light moves,” she said. “Light changes, so you have to paint what you see with the light you have.”
She said artists have been hit hard financially by the pandemic, and buying art from the Paint Annapolis artists is a good way to offer support. They will have two physical gallery spaces where the work will be available, The Circle Gallery and a temporary gallery at 186 Main St. Most of the work will be available through the federation’s website, Vaughan said, and artists can upload new work each day as they paint.
The federation’s goal is to connect the greater community with art, and events like the plein air contest encourage others to go home and be more creative themselves, Vaughan said. It is also important for people to see what artists do, so they can envision a career in art, she said.
Jacqui Gosselin spent the first day of Paint Annapolis scouting on an electric bike for good spots to set up her canvas and easel. Gosselin lives on Kent Island and teaches fine art at Saints Peter & Paul High School in Easton, and last year she took her students on a trip to participate in Paint Annapolis. She will do the same this year, she said, and is also painting alone a couple of days. She has placed in past competitions and hopes to do the same this week.
She plans on painting the sunset on Spa Creek, and said she is excited to capture some of the unique lighting caused by fires out west, including a slightly obscured sun.
“You don’t get that bright shape of the sun,” she said.
Ray Ewing of Lewes, Delaware, was also scouting Sunday, and took a photo at the intersection of Maryland Avenue and State Circle, where the dark black sign of Cezanne Jewelers contrasts with the bright sunlight on mainly white storefronts across the street. He likes having rigid shapes like buildings or vehicles in his paintings, he said.
For him, the event is about camaraderie between artists, he said.