The Door County Plein Air Event has a stellar reputation among plein air artists, and this year it did not disappoint! Cathy Hoke and the staff at the Peninsula School of Art did an incredible job guiding collectors through the week-long painting event, while still giving the 39 participating artists the support and time we needed to create the work for the show.
This is how the Peninsula School of Art presented the event:
“The Door County Plein Air Festival presented by Peninsula School of Art celebrates the tradition of outdoor painting with some of the finest painters from Door County and across the country. 39 artists will put brush to canvas, capturing the summer light over the waters and fields of Door County, Wisconsin. Painting from life and the landscape has long been a Door County tradition, and one that has endured evolving styles. The festival’s painters bring a fresh eye to the changing lights and colors, and a variety of styles that draw from the rich traditions of plein air painting.
Listen and learn from daily artist demonstrations. Tour local partner galleries as artists paint on site. Relax with great music and food at our sunset concert* and paint out. View presentations by the festival judge, award winning artists, and knowledgeable collectors. View fresh paintings at our Collector’s Preview Gala Auction.* Children can try painting plein air during our Kid’s Paint, Saturday, July 27. Be at the heart of festival excitement during the Quick Paint competition. Vote for your favorite artists at our Open Door Reception. Take home an original piece of fine art.”
The event began at the artists’ orientation meeting at the school. I got a glimpse of the grounds of this incredible art facility. The gardens were incredible, and the studios were to die for. I have included some photos here of the school. The studio where we met was large with high ceilings, tilted mirrors over the table for demonstrations, and a rack of plein air easels that every art school wishes for.
This is what they have at their facility:
Three painting and drawing studios
Metals and jewelry studio
Children’s and youth arts studios
Meeting and lecture room
Art resource library
We were met by the staff with a lanyard to keep around our necks. This contained everything we needed for the week, including our schedule, lunch tickets, and even the voting ballots for “Artist’s Choice” to be used on Friday night. This became my anchor in the sea of activities, and it was a brilliant way to keep us all on track. It also had our names and our state of origin on display. Naturally, this led to many conversations about Colorado. There are many upper-Mid-Westerners who come to Steamboat for recreation or to live.
As a new artist to the event, the staff also arranged a meet-and-greet so that the avid collectors and followers could meet us. This was held at the Fine Line Gallery which had incredible grounds and a big tree with plenty of shade for our presentations.
Throughout the week, we signed up for two planned painting events. In my case, one was at the Woodwalk Gallery and the other location was the Settlement Shops which was also a Farmers Market that day. The Woodwalk Gallery was started in 2015, when the Andrew & Jillaine Seefeldt discovered an old barn and orchard. They used their incredible woodworking skills to recreate the classic Door County property into a beautiful gallery. I had some wonderful visitors, including my hosts, Laurel and Ken Karlo (pictured here). Ken and Laurel watched while I painted this piece I titled “Open Door Policy” 9″x12″. The painting remains on the gallery wall at the Peninsula School of Art until Aug 12, available for purchase.
The second day, we painted at the Settlement Shops. This historic park filled with old buildings was filled with the festive atmosphere of the Farmer’s Market. Many artists there that day were inspired to purchase produce from the market and create open-air still life paintings. I have included the photo of the painting of onions that I did that day. “Summer Harvest” 9″x12″ will also be on display at the school until Aug 12, and it is available for purchase. That day, my dear hosts, Ken and Laurel, offered to take the onions home, and later they sent me the most beautiful photos of the french onion soup they made from that day’s art work. So fun!
The Sunset Paint Out in the town of Fish Creek started out with a huge storm that gathered in the northwest and drew across the harbor like a freight train. The waters rose and lightening struck very close. We all waited out the storm, managing to start our paintings within 20 minutes of the normal start time. Needless the say, there were some gorgeous paintings of wet pavement and reflected tail lights. This was a great time for the artists to come together and reconnect. It also gave us a chance to visit with our favorite Palette Pass holders. I completed “Take the Stairs” 10″x8″ during that event, and it is the back entrance to the Fish Creek Market. The restaurant at the top of the stairs is known for its burgers.
The one thing I really enjoyed about these scheduled public paint outs was meeting the supporters, people who purchased the Palette Pass. As the week went on, I saw familiar faces and shared stories with these wonderful people. They all were so welcoming and positive. They truly embodied the Midwest friendliness. By the end of the week, I felt like I had a posse of friends.
Outside of the scheduled painting times, I had a wonderful experience roaming Door County. The coast line is gorgeous, and the huge old barns in the interior were delightful. After a week of painting there, I was convinced that one could spend a lifetime painting in Door County and never run out of subject matter. Between the rich agriculture and the sea-faring heritage, there is so much to paint.
One morning, I was painting a beautiful old barn, and the farmer who owned it came over to “see what I found so interesting.” He was a very interesting person who was born on the very farm I was painting. In fact, his grandfather had come to Door County in 1860 and started that farm and orchard. When you’re East of the Mississippi, this date might not seem as amazing as it does to a Coloradoan. He told stories about growing up there, and how an artist had come to stay with them when he was a child to paint the orchard. The artist also played the fiddle, and they had a fine time in the evenings. It is a testament to the enduring beauty and interest that Door County has held for artists. Today, his son lives at the farm, and he is unwell. Without many details, he told me that the unkempt rows and wildflowers were because of this lack of activity. Of course, it was this exact wildness that caught my eye. Beauty is certainly subjective, but I did feel empathy for the man who sees his family legacy slip away with each generation. That is why I titled this painting “Grandpa’s Pride” and it is 14″x18″, also available for purchase.
Two more paintings I did on my own time is “Inland Gulls” and “True Colors.” The small landscape (8″x10″ and available) of the water in the fields shows just how much precipitation they have gotten. Many fields are flooded, and the piers and docks are covered by the Great Lakes. The old yellow truck was showing its glory in Bailey Harbor, framed by many flags. This piece was purchased on Saturday night of the show.
At the end of the week, many artists reconvened to frame and turn in the work we had done. We used the “Barn” at the school, and I really enjoyed the camaraderie we had in there. We traded frames, shared materials, and gave pointers for how to better navigate these events.
The opening night Gala was a thrill, even though I did not win anything. It was great to see everyone’s hard work. The food was excellent, too.
Saturday morning came, and we met at Sister Bay for the Quick Paint. This was announced by the school as “Watch Featured Artists complete a painting from start to finish during the fast-paced Quick Paint. Live auction of the Featured Artists paintings begins at noon under the tent at Waterfront Park. No pre-registration required to bid on paintings. Rain or shine under the event tent at the Waterfront Park, Sister Bay.” There was a report of rain, but it turned out to be quite hot. I found a spot by a beautiful garden, and I enjoyed painting the lilies, despite the heat.
Of course, the last night was great. The boys arrived from Michigan and were able to see the show and my work. The artists were finally able to talk and play and enjoy each other and our work. Before the Saturday night event, we were even able to enjoy the Go Karts as a family.
Overall, the experience was wonderful, though tiring. I look forward to connecting with the many artists I saw, and perhaps returning to Door County. If I participate in another Plein Air event, I will certainly share my experience with you. Thanks for reading!