– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –

Jeremy Sams almost didn’t submit his First Place-winning painting to the judge at the Kinston Plein Air competition. Then he asked some experts….

Lead Image: “Tranquility,” by Jeremy Sams, 2016, acrylic, 11 x 14 in. First Place

“I actually wasn’t really sure about that one,” Sams says about the winning piece. “I thought maybe it was too much green to look at. I’m always second-guessing. I even thought about not even turning ‘Tranquility’ in. I asked my friends, and the adults picked the paintings I liked, and the children picked the one that won. I wondered why they were picking that one. Did the kids have a fresh or unbiased perspective? It’s funny that they picked the one that won. The one that I felt really good about didn’t win anything.”

Aside from having to tackle a cornucopia of greens, Sams says the hardest part about painting “Tranquility” was finding the view. “Narrowing down the subject matter was the hardest thing for me,” he says. “They gave us wide parameters on where to paint, which is good. But it opens so much up for various opportunities. The questions were, Where in the world am I going to paint? then, What am I going to paint here? I could have done 50 paintings in that one spot by rotating 360 degrees. I had to figure out a composition, and that meant, in a competition, finding a spot that I didn’t have to alter too much.”

What Sams was looking at when he painted “Tranquility”
What Sams was looking at when he painted “Tranquility”

Sams heard about a place along the Neuse River that sounded promising. But when he went there, the view was underwhelming. “The parameters of the event included this little boat dock, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for,” he says. “I saw some tributaries, some creeks, and I followed one. I came upon this lush, green, peaceful little place, and all around was springtime green. It was just glowing.”

The day was very overcast, which boosted the greens. Some fallen timber and the visible creek bed gave the scene some warm browns to play off the green. Sams noted that the creek created a pleasant S curve, so he got out his sketchbook and did a thumbnail to see how it could all go together. “From there I just duplicated what I did on the sketch on the canvas,” says the artist. “I had an artist friend there, Brenda Behr, and she painted the same atmosphere but a different scene from the same spot. In these competitions, it’s not just you against a whole lot of artists. It’s friendship, and you against yourself. It’s like golf — even though you are competing, you are mostly battling yourself and trying to go beyond your last painting.”

Sams missed the awards reception due to a previous engagement, but he has an idea of what judge John Poon said about his winning painting. “Possibly he felt that I knew how to handle the greens, and when you have an overkill of greens, that’s impressive. I don’t know. Maybe it’s because he understood the struggle, with all the different temperature changes and other things.”

Poon was unavailable for comment.


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