A plein air paint-out at Moonstone
A paint-out at Moonstone in October 2021; image credit: Kristy Hellum

Humboldt is a place in California where one doesn’t have to go looking for beauty. It finds you. Perhaps that’s why so many artists call Humboldt County home. There are more artists per capita in this county than in any other in the entire state of California. It’s little wonder then that for the last seven years, there has been a growing movement in the art community here, a growing number of artists who routinely trade in the safety and comfort of their studios to paint outside, en plein air. From beginning to world-renowned painters, they meet weekly to challenge themselves —and each other— to capture Humboldt’s beauty.

This movement has been chronicled in newspapers, magazines, and various local catalogues. It has been shouted out on social media, radio, and TV, but it has never been chronicled in a book. Come to find out, neither has any other collection of painters in Humboldt. Certainly, there are stunning archival master’s theses, pamphlets, booklets, and works on individual artists such as Ingrid Nichelsen, Morris Graves, and Glenn Berry.

One can even find several publications showcasing several Humboldt County painters. And there are books featuring collections of other types of art, such as photography and indigenous basket weaving, priceless works that are available through Humboldt State University. But there are actually no known books out there on an entire community of Humboldt’s painters, much less painters who paint outside, ever recording snapshots of city and landscapes that are changing (even sometimes disappearing) at an alarming rate.

For the last two years, a local, micro-indie publisher, Cyndy Phillips (Director of SequoiaSong Publications) has been working to rectify that by recording and anthologizing this movement in a first of its kind book for Humboldt County, a work that is as unique as their artists and that sheds light on their plein air community as a means to expand its reach into the global cannon.

Currently, Phillips is gearing up to release the fruits of her labor: a gorgeously crafted, full-color book which documents these artists—from beginners to world renown professional artists—and shows the arc of abilities, the collaborative spirit, and the beauty of this movement. The book is crafted in a unique to Humboldt style, and features short essays from each artist which respond to the question, “Does art matter in this crossroads of our time?” (Spoiler alert—the answer is a definite, Yes!)

Thirty-six artists; HSU Press; and at least a dozen community members like photographer, Kristy Hellum (from HumboldtForJoy.com), and videographers Dean Hubbard (Outdoor Cast Iron Cooking), Beau Saunders and Nandi Johannes have all contributed to this avant garde publication, “Looking For Beauty: Humboldt’s Plein Air Community Shows Why Art Matters.”

This book will be Humboldt County’s first known published collection of painters and includes thirty-six artists, from world renown to those early in their art careers.

A sample page from the interior of the book
A sample page from the interior of the book

It Takes a Community to Support a Community

If you want to help uplift these artists and play a pivotal role in the recognition and anthologizing of Humboldt’s plein air painters, there are multiple ways to do so through their fundraiser running until January 26, 2022 (6pm) at kickstarter.com/projects/humboldtart/community.

From a $5 donation, simply because you believe in it; to purchasing a printed bookmark, tote bag, or the hardcover book; to upping the ante with a larger donation of $100 or more in order to get your name or business permanently listed in the book (among other rewards), there’s an option for every budget.

Those looking for further information on the project can view the video below and/or contact Cyndy Phillips at [email protected]

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– Online art conferences such as Plein Air Live
– New video workshops for artists
– Incredible art retreats
– Educational and fun art conventions, and much more.

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