ART & POETRY BY PAUL & KATHY BOECHER©
For many years, my husband painted in various plein air competitions in our area. My itinerate outdoorsman thrived on this type of painting and still does, however the competitive part of it has waned over the past couple years. To look at the process, it would appear to be as easy as pie to go set up an easel and paint for the day. Competitive painting requires more than that.
You can plan to be at the event for at least three days of solid painting. You must find your own location to paint. You load up your gear and trudge deeper into the space. You fight with mosquitos, weather events (rain, excessive heat, humidity and poor air quality) and you finally get started.
Competitive art can be brutal in other ways too, if you let it. You’re trying to do your best work. You’ve spent some hefty entrance fees. You may have to provide accommodations for your stay, which means another layout of cash. You’ve purchased fresh paints, canvases and lots and lots of water to keep you hydrated throughout the day. Sometimes, like us writers, you’re faced with a blank page, a gorgeous location, perfect light and no inspiration – only a desire to create beautiful art that might win a monetary prize or lead to a sale of some of your work.
There is a bright side to this type of painting though. You make new friends. You swap ideas. You learn from each other. You share your craft. You are forced to make art in a short period of time and it usually is some of the best you’ve ever done. At the final judging, you may never have heard of the judge, but your hopes are high. Judging of any kind of art is usually in the eye of the beholder and often subjective, but for the most part, they are fair.
The awards are given out. You’ve made some new friends and contacts. Several people have viewed your work and commented positively on it. Collectors and other customers are in the audience. It’s a sort of marketing experience I guess. However, as age grabs a hold of us, the competitive side of our nature slows down too. It gets harder and harder to fight the elements – to move around as quickly as you once did – to haul a heavy load – to come up with the necessary funds.
Today, Paul still paints outdoors. It’s his favorite type of painting. He loves being in nature. He enjoys the sounds of birds chirping and the rustling of trees. He now teaches it to others through the art center he works for. He continues to share his love for plein air painting through example. He doesn’t have the pressure of competing and he can relax while doing it.