by Bob Bahr, Editor PleinAir Today

Santa Cruz County lost its plein air event a few years ago, but the local community wanted it back. The city of Capitola and Jenny Shelton did something about it last year, and in its second year, Capitola Plein Air seems to have hit its stride. How’d they do it?

For one thing, Shelton and the organizers focused on an aspect of the California event that’s important to plein air painters: sales. Capitola Plein Air won’t have official tallies for a week or so, but several artists reported multiple sales, and the praise from painters has been effusive.

Wendy Brayton painting at Capitola Plein Air in Santa Cruz County, California
Wendy Brayton painting at Capitola Plein Air in Santa Cruz County, California

“That was the area I was most concerned with improving,” says Shelton, “and we did it! We gave better marketing support to our artists, and lots of folks mentioned they saw our posters around town. I hired PedX, a bicycle delivery company, to hang posters this year.

“Sunset Under Pier,” by Cyrus Hunter. First Place
“Sunset Under Pier,” by Cyrus Hunter. First Place

“Overall, the event was a resounding success, both with the artists and the public. We had expected to make incremental improvements, but really it was exponential. We built nice display boards for the art, moved it indoors to a large space with natural light. The musicians were just right. Food truck out front fed our artists (we hosted) and the public. We were blessed again with perfect weather, so the painting days were wonderful. I think the artists really appreciated the personal attention we gave them. I made trips around Capitola — the wharf, esplanade, Depot Hill, and village— to take pictures and talk with them.”

Lynn Jaye
Lynn Jaye
Erika Perloff
Erika Perloff

The winners? Cyrus Hunter won First Place with his watercolor “Sunset Under Pier.” Second Place went to Scott Hamill for “Toward Capitola II,” and Hamill also won Artists’ Choice for “Morning Reflection.” Sally Bookman won People’s Choice with her watercolor “Morning in Downtown Capitola.”

Cyrus Hunter at work
Cyrus Hunter at work

M.E. “Mike” Bailey, Carol Belliveau, Sally Bookman, Catherine Boyer, Kerrie Brandau, Wendy Brayton, Myra Eastman, Marie Massey, Judy Miller, Erika Perloff, Charles Prentiss, Lupe Santos, Nancy Takaichi, Barbara Tapp, and Marti Walker earned Honorable Mention.

First Place winner Cyrus Hunter (left) with event organizer Jenny Shelton and judge Kevi Courter
First Place winner Cyrus Hunter (left) with event organizer Jenny Shelton and judge Kevi Courter

Hunter’s top-winning piece was a bit of inspiration and a push to get done — as a great plein air painting often is. “I usually scout locations before a plein air event, recording time and location,” says Hunter. “This way, I can immediately jump into painting when the event begins. I didn’t take the opportunity to do that this time, so I had to spend time walking around the town and looking. Part of my journey took me in the sand along the pier. I scoped out a composition of an extended view of the pier when I walked across the pier’s blue pillar shadows. Mesmerized for a moment by the amazing scene in front of me, I then broke free and ran to get my kit. The tide was coming in. I set up in the wet sand, having to keep an eye on the incoming water with the sun quickly vanishing. Needless to say, it was a panicky type of painting session.

Barbara Tapp had company.
Barbara Tapp had company.

Hunter goes on, “Jenny Shelton and other volunteers did a fantastic job with the event. As participating artists, we felt well communicated with and taken care of. We received invitations to an artist social the evening before the event and were informed of the opportunity to continue displaying our work at a local gallery for a month after the event. All well thought and well planned. Thank you, Jen, and everyone who contributed.”

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