Indiana Plein Air Painters -
21st Annual First Brush of Spring major award winners Bill Borden, Larry Rudolech, Kyle Ragsdale, Roy Boswell, 16-year-old Elizabeth Entrican, Jerry Smith, Wyatt LeGrand, and Chris Newlund

by Bill Wissel, President of the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association

The 21st Annual First Brush of Spring (FBOS) was just completed in New Harmony, Indiana. The event is a joint event sponsored by the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association (IPAPA) and the Hoosier Salon Gallery in New Harmony. Over 100 artists descended on the Wabash River town in Southwestern Indiana, competing for over $20,000 in prizes and purchase awards.

Every year there seems to be a theme. This year it was rain.

There are three separate and distinct events that take place during the four-day event: a gallery show, a Quick Draw competition, and a Paint Out competition. All three events were judged by Chris Leeper of Canfield, Ohio.

The gallery show opening at the New Harmony Hoosier Salon Gallery was titled “Field to Finish.” Field studies stamped at the 2018 FBOS are submitted alongside a studio version completed during the year. Judge Christopher Leeper awarded prizes to five artists: Kathleen Farthing, Mary Ann Davis, David Seward, Iris Gentry, and Mark VanderVinne. Usually the awards are given outside the gallery, but because it rained, the event was held inside.

Indiana Plein Air Painters -
This year’s quick draw winners. Front row: David Seward, Sandy Hall, and Kyle Ragsdale. Top row: Chris Leeper, Mark VanderVinne, Alan Larkin, and Joe Lombardo.

One evening during FBOS, 39 artists competed in a 75-minute Quick Draw. A strong storm began ten minutes after the Quick Draw began. The artists were very hardy, working under some very extreme conditions. Six artists had their work recognized, and many more were deserving. The awards went to Mark VanderVinne, Alan Larkin, Joe Lombardo, David Seward, Sandy Hall, and Kyle Ragsdale. Because it rained during this event as well, the awards presentation was held indoors at the Holy Angels Activity Center, along with a welcome reception with desserts baked by the townspeople of New Harmony.

The final event was the Paint Out competition, where a total of 23 works were recognized. Best of Show was awarded to Wyatt LeGrand for “Burnout.” Chris Newlund won 1st Place for “Hay Wagon,” Kyle Ragsdale was awarded 2nd Place for “Brambles,” and 3rd Place went to Larry Rudolech for “Uno.” And because of the rain, the competition was also held indoors, at the Ribeyre Gymnasium after the morning art sale.

Judge Chris Leeper said he loved New Harmony: “It is a great mix of historical architecture and picturesque green spaces. I thought the artists did a great job of capturing the essence of the town as well as the surrounding countryside.”

He added, “The artists should be applauded for coming up with excellent paintings in often trying conditions. I was impressed with the range of styles in the competition pieces as well as the overall quality of the work. Picking awards was not easy. There were many deserving paintings. Thankfully, I had many awards to give, and I felt like the best work was recognized. The top award winners were paintings that were strong in design and technique. They were all memorable paintings. The most difficulty was the order of the top four paintings. I went back and forth many times before selecting the final placement.

“Wyatt’s Best of Show painting was the finest painting technically. It was also a challenging subject that was not your typical plein air subject, and the scale was impressive for a plein air piece.”

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