Closing Out the White River Plein Air Competition

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Best of Show winner, Susan Hurst

Time is but the stream I go a-fishing in.  I drink at it; but while I drink I see the sandy bottom and detect how shallow it is.  It’s thin current slides away, but eternity remains.

Henry David Thoreau, Walden

This week in Cotter, Arkansas has been so enchanting for anyone wishing to pursue artistic bliss.  As for myself, I’ve enjoyed the perfect balance of plein air watercolor sketching and fly fishing in the White and Norfork Rivers.  The artists and fishermen surrounding me throughout the week have had their ways of affecting the quality of the day (Thoreau’s words) and I appreciate the special memories each has planted in my heart. I frequently return to Thoreau’s sentiments, posted above. All the sensations I enjoy throughout the passing of my days stand in bold relief against that backdrop of eternity.  The engagement of actvities is always in motion as I continue to pursue that moving target, especially the target of making art that satisfies.  And all the while I pursue the artistic dream, I realize that my works of art always pale against that backdrop of Art.  Art is eternity.  Matthew Arnold wrote it best: “Art still has truth. Take refuge there.”  As long as art remains my refuge, then I suppose I could testify that I am “living the dream.”

Today I had the formidable task of judging the works in oil, watercolor and pastel created throughout this past week.  I have posted above the Best of Show winner Susan Hurst with her exquisite oil landscape.  The cool, atmospheric colors of her distant hills along with those fabulous warm colors in the foreground took my breath away.  I should be taking plein air lessons from her.  I found her to be a precious soul when we got to chat after the judging.  It always bothers me that I don’t get to spend quality time bonding with these artists throughout the week, but playing the role of judge, I feel that they need to be free of my presence, and certainly should not feel that I am hovering about their easels as they create.  So, I remain as incognito as possible, finally stepping into their circle to talk frankly once the judging is done.  I’m glad I finally got to talk at length with Susan, with Marty Coulter (who won last night’s Quick Draw competition along with today’s first place in works on canvas), and Lorraine McFarland (featured below).  I also got to meet over a dozen other artists during this afternoon’s gathering.

Below, I have posted the winner of the works on paper category, Lorraine McFarland, with her pastel landscape.  In talking with her afterward, I learned a great deal about underpainting pastel works with watercolor, and the different looks created by soft, buttery pastels scumbled over the hard ones.  I am delighted to learn that Lorraine, along with one and possible two of the other artists, will be attending the week-long Eureka Springs plein air event coming up in just a few weeks.  I will be there as well.  What a reunion!  For years I have loved the camaraderie of fellow festival artists as we see each other annually at art festivals that mean so much to us.  But this will be the first time in a few years that I have gotten to bond with other plein air artists at such events.

Lorraine McFarland

First Place winner, works on paper, Lorraine McFarland

Before leaving Cotter, I just had to post this adorable photo I took of a ground hog munching bread right outside my cafe window a few days ago.  He ate so much, that he eventually had to sit while eating, and then recline as he continued to eat!  I laughed so hard, taking as many pictures as I could.  This one is my favorite.

ground hog standing

I don’t know what else to add, but to say Thank You to the White River Artists, especially the officers of the organization, for making my stay so delightful, and for providing such a rich forum for these plein air painters to pursue their passions.  The week has been so enriching to my soul, and I love every one of you.

And thanks to all of you who take time to read these words.

I paint in order to find myself.

I journal when I feel alone.

I blog to remind myself that I am not alone.

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