One could argue that if you are plein air painting in Bermuda in November, you have already won. But a few artists took it further and won awards at the recent Bermuda Plein Air Festival.
This was the inaugural year for the event, which was sponsored in part by the Bermuda Tourism Authority. Michael Harding, founder of Michael Harding Artists Oil Colours; Franklin Hill Perrell, member of the board of trustees for the Bermuda National Gallery and the Hecksher Museum in Huntington, New York; and Lyn Donovan, owner and director of Coastal Maine Art Workshops, served as judges. They picked from 223 paintings done at the event, which ran November 14-21.

Best in Show winner Christopher Marson accepts his award.

Nancy Smythe

Out of the 58 participating artists, Christopher Marson won Best in Show, which earned Marson $5,000 in cash, a 1/4-page ad in PleinAir magazine, and a featured spot on Best Oil Painting was won by Sheilagh Head, while Best Watercolor went to Poppy Basler. Mary O’Conner won Best Pastel/Acrylic Painting. Charles Knights won the Exhibition Judges’ Choice Award. And the Quick Art winner was William Rogers, of Nova Scotia, Canada — that honor got him a $1,000 gift certificate from Michael Harding Oil Paints.

Best Oil Painting winner Sheilagh Head

Best Pastel/Acrylic Painting winner Mary O’Conner

“The Plein Air Festival captured the essence of Bermuda,” says Bill Hanbury, CEO of the Bermuda Tourism Authority. “It has combined our extraordinary natural land- and seascape beauty with the talents of artists from both on and off the island. The event committee is to be commended for executing a terrific weeklong program that placed our island paradise in the best possible light. Also, we are grateful to our overseas visitors, who not only brought their impressive artistic talents to Bermuda, but also contributed to our tourism economy. These types of events, which speak to authentic and original tourism experiences, are exactly what the BTA is interested in nurturing as we invest in a brighter tourism future for Bermuda.”

Best Watercolor winner Poppy Balser accepts her award.

“Our sponsors for this first event were tremendous,” comments Rhona Emmerson, the organizer of the event, “with the international support from PleinAir magazine, as well as Old Holland Paints, Silver Brush, Guerilla Painter, Michael Harding Artists Oil Colours, and Pan Pastels, it was ensured that our prizes were world-class.”

A typically ravishing Bermuda view

One of the award-winning artists put it simply. “Everywhere I turned it looked like a scene from a travel brochure,” reports artist Poppy Balser.


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