Seemingly out of nowhere, John McCartin won the PleinAir Salon contest two times in a row, as well as a category prize. And he reports that this year has brought him other art contest wins. Where did he come from? 

“Back Road Lobethal,” by John McCartin, oil on board, 7 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.

McCartin is from Australia—Hahndorf, South Australia, to be exact—and he’s been painting for more than 40 years. Much of that time he worked “with the public service” and painted from photos at night. Now he makes a living painting.

“Peacefully Grazing,” by John McCartin, charcoal and white pastel, 13 x 11 in.

“Morning Light, Biggs Flat,” by John McCartin, watercolor, 10 1/4 x 7 1/2 in.

His success is working against him in terms of painting outdoors, however. McCartin reports that he’s getting so many commissions, he doesn’t have much time to paint en plein air. He does understand the value of it. “Over the years I have managed to get outdoors from time to time and have gained enough experience to overcome the inadequacies of photography,” says McCartin. “Now that I’m painting full time I try to break away from studio work when I can and do more plein air work. Plein air work is very valuable as is painting from life generally including still life and portraiture. It trains the artist to focus on essential elements.”

“The Old Stone Cabin,” by John McCartin, oil, 9 3/4 x 7 3/4 in.

“On a sunny day—and there are plenty of them in Australia–you may only have an hour of painting time before everything changes noticeably,” continues the artist. “There is no time to get carried away with superfluous detail that can ruin a potentially good composition. It also trains the eye to understand how light behaves and to observe subtle changes in colour temperature, as in the turning of form in hills, tree trunks, and the like/ as well as reflected light in shadow areas.”

“Callington Backstreet,” by John McCartin, oil on board, 7 3/4 x 9 3/4 in.

“That Country Feeling,” by John McCartin, oil, 9 1/2 x 13 in.

McCartin says Australia has its challenges, like the wind at the beach; one day it ripped his painting off the board and “decided to hurl it into the sea. I didn’t think my painting was that bad,” he laughs. The nation-continent does have dangers and distractions, which get McCartin’s attention. “We do have to watch out for snakes (we have some of the deadliest), falling branches from gum trees, and huge trucks bearing down on you at great speed (not good to step back). When I am painting on site I’m so focused on my subject that I‘m not aware of anything else so I try to avoid the possibility of these things happening. And I love painting cows but I keep my distance as they tend to crowd around you and start nibbling at the legs of your easel.”

“The Shadowy Path,” by John McCartin, charcoal, 13 x 17 3/4 in.

Next April the $21,000 in prizes will be awarded to the annual winners at the 2015 Plein Air Convention & Expo. The PleinAir Salon consists of six bi-monthly contests, with the First, Second, and Third Place winners of each contest, and the category winners, automatically entered into the annual competition. First prize in the annual competition is $15,000 cash and the publication of the winning image on the cover of PleinAir magazine, along with a feature story. Second Place earns an artist $3,000 and an article in the digital edition of PleinAir magazine. Third Place yields $1,500 in cash. Three additional finalists win $500. Aside from First, Second and Third Place overall, categories include Best Oil, Best Pastel, Best Watercolor, Best Acrylic, Best Plein Air, Best Building, Best Figure in the Landscape, Best Floral, Best Landscape, Best Outdoor Still Life, Best Nocturne, Best Water, and Best Emerging Artist.

“Afternoon Bushscape,” by John McCartin, charcoal, 18 x 16 1/4 in.

“This Is Australia,” by John McCartin, oil, 29 1/2 x 39 1/2 in. First Place in the June-July contest of the PleinAir Salon 

The winner of each bi-monthly contest is featured in this enewsletter and profiled on Joe McGurl will jury the current contest, which has a deadline of Nov. 30. Enter now at the Salon’s website.


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