– Bob Bahr reporting, Editor PleinAir Today –
Colorado painters seem to have more fun. Even during marathons.
Lead Image: Painting at the Environmental Learning Center in Fort Collins, CO. Photo by Ken Knox
Wisconsin plein air painters are a dedicated, hardy lot, and Ohio has some organized and professional painters. California plein air painters enjoy yearlong good weather and a historic tradition, and New Yorkers point to the Hudson River School. Florida stays busy when snow is falling elsewhere, and Minnesotans quietly excel, but Colorado plein air painters seem to have more fun, more often, in a more vertical environment, than anyone.
The most recent example of this is the Plein Air Artists Colorado (PAAC) and its yearly marathon painting day. On June 4, more than 20 PAAC members and paying guests gathered to paint at four spots from sunrise to dinnertime, with a fifth location available to those wishing to squeeze in another painting around lunch.
“This is the fourth year we’ve done it,” says PAAC’s Deborah McAllister. “The first one was in Denver/Evergreen, then it was in Boulder, then Colorado Springs, and this year it was in Fort Collins.” The marathon began in the dark for the painters, with the artists assembling at the Fossil Creek Reservoir Natural Area before daybreak for a sunrise painting. “Plein air painters are hooked on it, so when something like this comes up, they do it,” explains McAllister. “They don’t mind getting up early — and even those who don’t like doing it get up early for this.” She adds with a laugh, “Well, some say no way.”
McAllister says that first location may have been the favorite of the marathoners. “It’s a beautiful place with a nice view of the horizon,” she says. “The water offered a really nice reflection. It’s a wildlife reserve too, so there were a lot of birds. It’s also close to a major highway, so it was easier to find in the dark.” Several painters liked it so much that they stayed to paint a second painting at the location. “There are so many painting options there,” says McAllister. “Once you’re done with the fleeting sunset and you’re not looking for the sun anymore, you can turn around and paint another view.”
The group next went to the Environmental Learning Center, which featured old farm buildings, purple wildflowers, an abundance of trees, and views of the Cache le Poudre River. Next, the group went to downtown Fort Collins, and finally, they painted at Lory State Park, a location with a lot of open views, a high vista point with red rocks, and a reservoir. More than a handful made a stop at a bonus location — The Farm at Lee Martinez Park—for a farm setup with animals. “If they were ahead of schedule and felt like they had plenty of time, they could do another one in the middle of the day,” McAllister says. “We used to have a schedule for the artists, but some are faster or slower, so now they just go to the next place, in order, when they are done. So some did two in the first location before going to the next place, for example.”
At the end of the day, PAAC had pizza for the participants at a local retirement community’s big room. Trophies and cash prizes were awarded — randomly through a drawing. Judson’s Art Outfitters and Jerry’s Artarama donated art supplies, and Margueritte Meier made the trophies. “The main purpose is for a fun challenge,” says McAllister. “Everything was fun, it was just a benefit for our members.”