By David Rogers. July 17, 2018. BLOWING ROCK, NC — Admission was free to Friday and Saturday’s Blowing Rock Plein Air Festival at Blowing Rock Art & History Museum (BRAHM), but it was all about the money — and terrific art, artistic skill and, of course, fun.
COVER IMAGE: For the Wet Paint Show & Sale, the artists’ pieces were displayed in the BRAHM Community Room on easels, with artist name, title, and price identified. Photographic image by David Rogers for Blowing Rock News
Although the 2018 event was Blowing Rock’s “first ever” of its kind, it did not lack for the kind of enthusiasm to make it a smashing success. Local real estate broker Sue Glenn served on the organizing committee and when asked by Blowing Rock News after the big crowd left on Saturday whether there would be a “second annual,” she replied with a resounding, “YES!”
With the promise of $2,500 in prize money, the Plein Air Festival drew 51 registered artists to compete, from four states. Each artist had a maximum of 30 hours to paint “en plein air.”
The Artists Network website explains, “Plein air painting is about leaving the four walls of your studio behind and experiencing painting and drawing in the landscape. The practice goes back for centuries but was truly made into an art form by the French Impressionists.”
For the Blowing Rock event, the artists were allowed to paint at a variety of locations within a geographically defined area around the Town of Blowing Rock. All entries must have been crafted “en plein air” without the aid of photography. The maximum size was 16″ x 20″. All submitted artwork was available for sale at the end of the two-day event in a Wet Paint Show & Sale hosted by BRAHM.
Of the 63 paintings shown Saturday evening, a variety of mediums were featured, including oil, acrylic, watercolor, charcoal, and gouache.
Twenty-nine (29) of the 63 paintings sold for gross sales of $15,800, according to BRAHM officials.
Jeremy Sams won the $1,000 People’s Choice award for his acrylic painting titled, “Evening Light at Bass Lake.” Kevin Beck won the second place stipend of $250 for second place in the People’s Choice category.
Capturing first place and $1,000 in the Artist’ Choice award category was Dwight Rose for his watercolor, “Chetola Lakeside.” Sams added the $250 second-place prize from the category to his take-home pay.
BRAHM organizers estimated that almost 300 people attended the Wet Paint Show and Sale on Saturday, with 180 votes placed in the two awards categories.
In addition to raising awareness of the many art-worthy and picturesque landscape venues in the Blowing Rock area, the BRAHM-hosted Plein Air Festival also served as a modest fundraiser, with the museum keeping a 30% “commission” from the paintings produced and sold during the event. Each individual artist, however, determined their selling price, which Glenn suggested was often less than if they were made available through a different sales channel.
One participant described the Plein Air Festival as “…a unique opportunity to [a] have some fun, [b] support BRAHM, [c] support the artist community, and [d] purchase a terrific piece of art at, arguably, a discount.”