Thomas Kitts working and chatting during the paint-out portion of the LPAPA event

When the Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational lost its home at the Laguna Art Museum last year, saddened West Coast artists didn’t know what to say about the event’s future. No one tolled a death knell, but few expressed unbridled optimism.

“St. Mary’s Garden View,” by Scott W. Prior, 2013, oil, 24 x 36 in. Best of Show

But the people running the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association managed to not just keep the event going, but to improve it significantly. The widespread glee among participating artists lit up social media last week as the 15th Annual Laguna Plein Air Painting Invitational enjoyed a rousing success at its new location, the Aliso Creek Inn & Golf Course in Laguna Beach, California.

A panoramic view of the Collectors’ Soirée, held at Aliso Creek Inn. Photo by Richard Lindenberg

Carl Bretzke with his painting “Beach Walk,” which won the PleinAir Magazine Award. Photo Michael Munson

Camille Przewodek, one of the artists who participated in the Invitational and the winner of the Award of Excellence for her painting “Morning Meditation,” summed it up in one of her Facebook posts: “I think the Laguna Beach community realized that there was a possibility of losing this event and rallied behind it with amazing support.”

Camille Przewodek took home the prestigious Award of Excellence for her painting “Morning Meditation.”

Debra Huse won the Award for paintings like this.

Jim Wodark earned the Fine Art Connoisseur Award due to pieces like this.

Indeed, several of the events were sold out, and the Collectors’ Soirée had even some circumspect artists ooohing and aaahing. Reports Scott W. Prior, “We had a great week of weather for painting outside. The show was top-notch and the new venue was super!” He also added that the event was particularly sweet because he won Best of Show: His painting “St. Mary’s Garden View” took the top prize and $5,000.

April Raber won the Collectors’ Choice Award on the strength of pieces such as this.

This piece by Thomas Jefferson Kitts, “Eucalyptus in the Evening,” won both a Randy Higbee Gallery Award and Artists’ Choice.

Another view of the collectors’ event

Carl Bretzke won the PleinAir Magazine Award for his piece “Beach Walk.” Debra Huse won the Award, while Jim Wodark pulled in the Fine Art Connoisseur Award. April Raber was the winner of the Collectors’ Choice Award, and Thomas Kitts earned both the Artists’ Choice Award and one of the Randy Higbee Gallery Awards. The other Randy Higbee Gallery Award winners were Ken DeWaard, Dan Aldana, and Kim VanDerHoek.

Kim VanDerHoek painting at the Invitational

“This was my first year at the Laguna Plein Air Invitational,” reports VanDerHoek, who lives nearby. “I always thought doing a local event would be easier — knowing the area and how to get around, being able to sleep in my own bed, and getting to see my kids at night. But choosing painting locations was difficult because I was torn between painting at familiar spots vs. looking for new views. I did accomplish two goals, which were to create larger paintings en plein air and feel more comfortable working larger. At the Laguna event the organizers require each artist to hang three paintings that were created during the week, and artists are allowed to have up to nine backup paintings that could be brought from home. With that in mind, I chose to use most of my time working on my three largest paintings and doing a few smaller works. Having less pressure to generate quantity allowed me to slow down considerably, and I feel that my largest paintings were my strongest pieces from the week.”


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