Sara Doherty presents the M. Stephen Doherty Breakthrough Artist of the Year award to Hector Acuna.
Sara Doherty presents the M. Stephen Doherty Breakthrough Artist of the Year award to Hector Acuna.

From PleinAir® Magazine, October/November 2023, Editor’s Letter:

My job affords me many privileges. I get to travel, meet interesting people, and see lots of great artwork. But one of the most exciting aspects for me is finding new talent — artists on the cusp of something special.

PleinAir Magazine
The cover of our October/November 2023 issue of PleinAir Magazine; art by Kim Lordier; (Click here to buy the digital version now)

Sometimes a well-known painter brings a promising student to my attention or gives me a heads up about an up-and-coming artist they met at a recent plein air event. Other times I’ll see a painting entered into a competition that stops me in my tracks, presenting me with a view of the landscape I’ve not seen before.

I came to know each of the four painters named this year’s Artists to Watch in one of these ways. For the story on page 58 of our October/November issue, I talked to the rising plein air stars about what inspires them and the breakthroughs that have taken their work to the next level. I hope you’ll consider investing early in one of their paintings, or at least keep an eye on them as they continue to gain recognition.

Art is a two-way street. Artists need viewers to complete their vision and provide financial support so they can continue presenting their gift to the world. At the same time, collectors and art enthusiasts rely on artists to bring them beauty, to challenge them, and to deliver unique views of everyday people, places, and experiences.

In “Capturing a Culture,” Pavel Sokov introduces us to places and people we would likely otherwise never encounter. Although his subject matter may appear exotic, his approach is simple: “I endeavor to make things look like life,” he says. “I don’t change things around, color- or value-wise, to create a better experience for the viewer. My job is to show you the thing and what it looked like.”

In his work, Hector Acuna (“Age of Exploration) challenges the way we typically engage with a landscape painting by including elements most other artists would omit, or by adding features that weren’t actually there or existed just out of frame of his view.

For his efforts, we awarded Acuna the M. Stephen Doherty Breakthrough Artist of the Year award at the 2023 Plein Air Convention & Expo. Named in honor of the former editor-in-chief of PleinAir Magazine, who passed away in 2022, the award was designed to recognize a young artist making strides in the world of plein air painting.

Finding, encouraging, and promoting new talent is critical to the future of plein air and to ensuring that we continue to have the same or an even greater number of events, workshops, and artwork as we enjoy today. Attend artists’ shows. Buy their paintings. In return, they will surprise and delight us with the places they take plein air painting next.

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