John Porter Lasater will admit that Siloam Springs, Arkansas, is not a strong town for art sales. But he will never admit defeat. So he is thinking of ways to ignite a passion for fine art in his community, even if it means forgoing sleep to do it.
“24 Hours: 3 a.m.,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Photo Aus10, Inc.
This explains why Lasater came up with the idea of painting 24 plein air paintings in 24 hours in his hometown recently. The concept — a bit of an endurance sport — captured the imagination of people in and around Siloam Springs. In fact, it caught the fancy of a lot of folks well beyond Arkansas. Through the Internet, other painters joined him in the painting marathon, which ran from sunset on November 2 through sunset on November 3. Artists from Italy to the Netherlands to L.A. paid homage to Lasater’s task by taking one hour to paint a plein air piece and post it on Facebook. Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Lasater caffeinated and carted his setup around town in a commendable bit of extreme plein air painting.
“24 Hours: 9 a.m.,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Photo Aus10, Inc.
“24 Hours: 11 a.m.,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Photo Aus10, Inc.
“24 Hours: 2 p.m.,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Photo Aus10, Inc.
Lasater at work. Photo Aus10, Inc.
It’s worth mentioning that the equinox was back in September, so half the paintings were nocturnes. This might seem daunting, but Lasater embraced it. ‘I find nocturnes easier than daytime pieces,’ says the artist. ‘I attribute that to still life training. At night you have all soft edges. I tend to paint soft anyway in the beginning and get hard later.’ Lasater said the most difficult part about nocturnes was determining the exact kind of black visible in the sky, and finding those interesting variations. He started all of his paintings on blank white canvases, and he had no preconceived compositions, although he did have a few painting spots in mind.
“Monarch of the Front Range,” by Larry DeGraff, 2013, oil on hardboard, 8 x 8 in. Painted at 1 p.m.
“Carport,” by Jason Sacran, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Painted at 10 p.m.
“Hillside, 8 a.m.,” by Jane Hunt, 2013, oil, 5 x 7 in.
Lasater sold his pieces as he painted them, but they all were kept long enough to hang together as a group at his local gallery, Four Corners Frame and Design, in Siloam Springs. He sold them for $100, undercutting his typical price, and this gave him reason to pause. But the event was a celebration of the town and an invitation to its citizens to collect fine art. It succeeded wholly. All the pieces sold. “For some, it’s the only original art they own,” says Lasater.
“24 Hours: 11 p.m.,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Photo Aus10, Inc.
The timing of Lasater’s event was good — the fall color was in full effect. Photo Aus10, Inc.
“24 Hours: 5 p.m.,” by John P. Lasater IV, 2013, oil, 8 x 8 in. Photo Aus10, Inc.
What was the hardest part? Lasater says the hardest part was also one of the best parts. For the entire period, he had people standing near him, watching. “I love people and actually paint better when people are watching me,” he says. “I’m a teacher at heart, so I tell myself, ‘I gotta loosen up and get the values right and make these bravado brushstrokes.'” But the conversation combined with fatigue started to catch up with him in the middle of the night. “At about 3 a.m. I began thinking, ‘I cannot believe I am doing this.’ I started to lose the desire to do it.'” But Lasater persevered, and the piece he painted from 3 a.m. to 4 a.m. is a strong one, in fact.
Greg Summers not only painted an hour painting during the marathon day, he posted a time-lapse video of himself working on “Twisted Willow,” a 9 x 12-inch oil painting.
The artist wasn’t completely satisfied with all 24 paintings, but he found some peace with that. “There are some that I wish I didn’t have to show, but I really don’t mind,” says Lasater. “It was about more than that. There are plenty of artists who are way better than me. But it was the idea. At one point I had 30 people watching me paint. Restaurants brought me food, and at one time I had three cups of steaming coffee that people had brought me. The community really got behind it. Anyway, I can paint quickly. I do well at quick draws. So this really was geared to the way I am.”
Nop Briex painted along with Lasater in spirit in the morning in Netherlands
“Evening Trees, Tustin, CA,” by Esther Jacks, 2013, oil, 6 x 8 in. Painted at 6 p.m.
“Alessandria, Italy, 4 p.m.” by Francisco Centofanti.
Lasater said he would consider doing it again — but not for a while. The concept excited him, as it did his town and his artist friends. He suggested that he might join someone in another city to support them as they executed the same idea.
Lasater with his 24 paintings at Four Corners Frame and Design, in Siloam Springs, Arkansas. Photo Aus10, Inc.
When it was over, he didn’t sleep. There was his opening to attend, where all his pieces were hung on the walls of Four Corners Frame and Design. And even when he had sufficiently re-connected with his wife and kids and gotten into bed, sleep didn’t immediately come. His mind was spinning. “At the end, I wanted to process it all,” he says. “I needed to be introspective and see what it meant to me. It was all go-go-go, and then it was the reception. I laid in bed for longer than I thought I would before going to sleep. All the time I kept thinking about new ideas.”