Painting en plein air - art events
Jean-Pierre Jacquet (at Quick Draw)

Painting en Plein Air > The Elwha River, the smoky air, and a Disney movie animator converged in this year’s Paint the Peninsula competition in Port Angeles, Washington.

In the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s juried plein air art event, 21 artists came from across the continent. They were ready to paint the mountains, rivers, farm fields, beaches, and boat havens, all while vying for $12,000 in cash prizes.

From the organizers:

The artists found a North Olympic Peninsula shrouded in smoke and ash from wildfires across the Pacific Northwest. They got out there anyway. Yong Hong Zhong, a Chinese-born artist who worked in Hollywood for many years, took the haze in stride; so did J. Brad Holt, a painter from Cedar City, Utah. Holt conducted a plein air demonstration atop Hurricane Ridge when the sky was a strange shade of yellow.

Painting en plein air
Yong Hong Zhong in action, painting en plein air

The two were among the big winners. Zhong’s watercolor of the Elwha River, “Free Flow,” won the $2,500 Best in Show award while his whole body of work from the week brought him the Artists’ Choice prize — awarded by his peers — of $1,500.

Holt’s “Lincoln and Railroad” canvas won the $500 first place prize in the City Pier Paint Out. In that competition, the artists gathered on and near City Pier to finish at least one painting between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

In addition, Holt won the $1,000 Best Landscape award for his “Smoke on the Elwha II,” a reflection of greens and grays.

“He leads your eye into the painting every chance he can,” judge Eric Jacobsen said of Holt’s work. “It’s just a beautiful knitting-together of brushstrokes that’s very unique to Brad.”

Of Zhong’s watercolors, Jacobsen added: “Every painting is about movement … [with] a beautiful feeling of light.”

“I’m in shock,” Zhong said of his wins. About his days painting in the haze, he was philosophical. “There was nothing I could do about it . . . it added a lot of atmosphere,” said the artist, who now lives in Lake Oswego, Oregon. He moved north from Los Angeles in 2009, having worked on Disney movies including “Tarzan,” “Mulan,” “The Fox and the Hound 2,” “The Princess and the Frog,” “Home on the Range,” and “The Emperor’s New Groove.”

Zhong’s work here ranged from paintings of the Elwha, Second Beach, and Salt Creek to downtown Port Townsend; they, like dozens of others from Paint the Peninsula artists, can be seen in the online store at

The Port Angeles Fine Arts Center invited the public to vote for four people’s choice awards this year: two in the whole display of fresh art and two in the petite paintings, works 5 by 7 inches or 6 by 8 inches.

Zhong took second place in the main people’s choice balloting, receiving a $200 prize, while Shuang Li, another watercolorist who is from Escondido, California, took the $300 first place award.

Among the petite paintings, Richard Sneary of Kansas City, Missouri, won the $200 second place prize for “Fog at Quileute Marina,” and Melanie Thompson of Richland took first place and $300 for “Ediz Hook Evening.”

Painting en plein air - art events
susiehyer (at Quick Draw)

Other prizes — each $1,000 — include the Best Architecture award for “Port Angeles City Pier” by Kathryn Townsend of Olympia; the Best Motors, Wheels and Sails award for “Last Chance to Romance,” a marina image by Robin Weiss of Poulsbo; Best Waterscape for “Hollywood Beach” by Sneary, and Best Nocturne for “Nocturne” by the Evergreen, Colorado, artist known as susiehyer.

A pair of awards, both $500, were presented by Olympic National Park, in light of the artists’ full day of painting in various park locations August 20. The Superintendent’s Award went to “Madison Symphony,” an image of Madison Falls by Gretha Lindwood of Portland, Oregon, and the Interpretive Rangers’ Award was presented to Zhong for “Tranquility,” another river image.

The Paint Out around City Pier yielded two prizes in addition to Holt’s first place win: $300 for “DQ Fix,” a painting of the Dairy Queen by Wendy Brayton of Petaluma, California. Earlier in the week, Brayton also did a painting of Frugal’s. Third place at the Paint Out, $200, went to Li for her watercolor “Towards Ferry Landing.”

The works from 2018’s Paint the Peninsula will stay on display and be available for purchase at for two months. More information about the Port Angeles Fine Arts Center’s shows and activities is found at

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