Aimee Erickson wins Best in Show. Photo by Brenda Boylan

Nature — and some miscreants who decided to set an interstate overpass on fire — seemed intent on discouraging the participants in the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational, but plein air painters are not so easily put off.

You don’t take up plein air painting if you aren’t up for surprises and challenges. Best to just stick to the studio if that’s your bag. In Atlanta, the participants in the Olmsted Plein Air Invitational proved their mettle through both good days and some fairly severe weather.

The prestigious trio of Clyde Aspevig, West Fraser, and Dan Amos served as judges for the event, which shined a spotlight on Frederick Law Olmsted’s park system in the Atlanta area. The top prize in the show went to Aimee Erickson, who won Best in Show for her oil painting “Revival.”

“Revival,” by Aimee Erickson, 2017, oil, 12 x 18 in.
“Revival,” by Aimee Erickson, 2017, oil, 12 x 18 in.

“In the first place, I was happy to be invited to participate at Olmsted. Even the fact that they named their plein air event after Frederick Law Olmsted, a designer of urban parks, delights me,” Erickson says. “The judges were of high distinction, and I was honored just to have them see my work. Also, the roster on this show is impressive and I’m proud to call these folks my peers. So it was a huge thrill and totally unexpected when they announced that ‘Revival’ won Best in Show. There had been a party one night at a place in Decatur, and there were lights strung outside and it looked so pretty that it gave me the idea for the painting. My friend Suzie Baker waited with me till we were kicked out at 11. Not often do we close down the bar — at least not while painting!”

“Atlanta Rising,” by Bryan Gugliemi, 2017, oil, 12 x 12 in. Best Composition
“Atlanta Rising,” by Bryan Gugliemi, 2017, oil, 12 x 12 in. Best Composition
“Arrested Development,” by Shelby Keefe, 2017, oil, 24 x 18 in.
“Arrested Development,” by Shelby Keefe, 2017, oil, 24 x 18 in.

The event gave two general awards for bodies of work. Zufar Bikbov won the Atlanta History Center Insiders’ Award, and James Richards won the City of Decatur Community Award. There were three Judges Awards of Merit. Don Amos chose to honor Shelby Keefe’s “Arrested Development” — one of three awards that piece won. Clyde Aspevig picked Aimee Erickson’s Best in Show-winning “Revival,” and West Fraser chose Marc Hanson’s piece “Robin’s Camellias.”

“Robin’s Camellias,” by Marc Hanson, 2017, oil, 20 x 24 in.
“Robin’s Camellias,” by Marc Hanson, 2017, oil, 20 x 24 in.

Keefe’s “Arrested Development” also won Best Vanishing Landscape and the Matisse Award of Excellence. Bryan Guglielmi’s “Atlanta Rising” won the PleinAir Magazine Award for Best Composition, Thomas Jefferson Kitts won Best Painting in the Linear Park, and Hiu Lai Chong won Best Sense of Mystery for “Rainy Night at Ponce.” Cindy Baron won Best Urban Landscape with “Peace Among Giants,” Vlad Yeliseyev won Best Architecture for “Dogwood Blossoms,” and John Porter Lasater IV won The Spirit of Atlanta Award for “Seize the Night.”

And in case you missed it, Erickson reiterates, “The weather was crazy! Tornadoes, massive rainstorms, flooding tributaries.” And the plein air painters persevered.

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