We’ve had a number of notable winners in the PleinAir Salon, but the First Place winner of the June-July contest is a true first — a collaboration between two painters.
The husband-wife team of Evgeny and Lydia V. Baranov explained that “Morning of the Little Dreamer” was part of an intense streak of painting scenes in Honfleur, France. “Our choice of subjects seems to evolve in cycles, even in infatuations, during lengthy time periods,” says the duo. “For instance, right now it is Hoorn, Netherlands — we just went there this spring, and are leaving again for an over-three-week plein air painting trip there this coming weekend. In the past, for a number of years, it was Venice and Venetian Carnival, overlapped with and later dominated by moving horse carriages in Brugge, Belgium.
“Drying the Sail,” by Evgeny and Lydia V. Baranov, 2013, oil, 30 x 24 in. Private collection
“Between the summer of 2012 and the autumn of 2014, it was the lovely harbor of Honfleur, France, with its charming old fishing boats and yachts, painterly buildings, and ever-changing light. During that time frame, we visited Honfleur five times and brought back with us a total of about 50 medium to large completed plein air paintings, to say nothing of small studies and sketches. A number of larger studio works, ‘Morning of the “Little Dreamer’ among them, came to life based on these plein air experiences.”
“La Petite Chine With Friends, Honfleur,” by Evgeny and Lydia V. Baranov, 2012, oil, 24 x 24 in. Private collection
Yes, that’s right: The two painters work en plein air, but this particular piece was done in the studio. “It would have been impossible to capture in depth the translucent purity and precise design of an Honfleur morning in plein air, so we felt it had to be a large painting, created in the un-hasty comfort of the studio. The greatest challenge, as always in a studio work, is to find the nerve to restrain the Janus-faced perfectionism and to leave some room for spontaneity, even error.”
“Old Yachts, Honfleur,” by Evgeny and Lydia V. Baranov, 2012, oil, 24 x 24 in. Private collection
Many of us can’t imagine working on the same painting with another artist. How do the Baranovs make it work? “As always with collaborative work, the greatest challenge is learning to respect the opinion of the creative partner and to accept constructive criticism,” they say. “We started collaborating almost 25 years ago; collaboration has become our trademark. At that starting point, if we remember correctly, the idea of collaboration was more than anything an experiment, an attempt to avoid competition (and conflict!) within the family — not that it was a solution for that purpose, as it turned out; naturally, new challenges came about. Although some rough edges have certainly become much smoother, the completion point is still always a sensitive area. But we do not even need to verbally discuss the initial concept, to say nothing of arguing about it. In a plein air situation, it is enough just to exchange glances and get our hands on it. Completing a piece is also somewhat easier in plein air, where we start and finish together, simultaneously, and there is no time to afford much discussion or argument —sometimes, not even enough time to breathe!”
The Baranovs report that the time restraints inherent in plein air painting keep the collaboration moving along briskly. “At the studio, it is a different story,” they report. “We have plenty of time to torture each other’s egos! Over the years, we have come to accept the idea of working on two-three studio pieces at the same time, with each of us switching from piece to piece and giving some ‘breathing room’ to the other one for doing what he/she thinks necessary to be done on each piece in progress.”
Collectors appreciate the work of Lydia and Evgeny, and their pieces get snapped up by buyers. The salon winner was something special.
“Honfleur Harbor Dwellers,” by Evgeny and Lydia V. Baranov, 2013, oil, 36 x 24 in. Private collection
“Generally, we were happy with how ‘Morning of the “Little Dreamer’ turned out —we even fought less than usual! We felt that, rather than hurry to give it to a gallery and have it sold and locked up in its new home, we would prefer to give it a chance to be seen, to give ourselves the joy of sharing it with a larger audience. That is why we entered it in the PleinAir Salon.”
In April, $21,000 in prizes will be awarded to the annual winners at the 2016 PleinAir 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 Artist Under 30.
“Fresh Day, Honfleur,” by Evgeny and Lydia V. Baranov, 2014, oil, 24 x 24 in. Private collection