Plein air painters who have attended the annual First Brush of Spring event in New Harmony, Indiana, speak warmly of it. Last week the talk was positive again, as the 17th edition of the event handed out more than $12,000 in prizes and 130 artists descended on the picturesque town in the southwest corner of the Hoosier State. And the winners…. 

Kathy Blankenheim won Best in Show for her piece “Salem Church.” That award earned her $2,500. First Place went to Thom Robinson for “McFadden Farm.” Second Place was won by Lawrence Rudolech for “I Think I Can,” and Third Place went to Beverly Bruntz for “Color Riot.”

The Oil Award of Merit was won by Mark VanderVinne for “Posted,” while Ron Burgess won the Pastel Award of Merit with “Springing Up.” Bill Borden snagged the Watercolor Award of Merit with his piece “Old Dam Road.”

Merit Awards were also given to Lon Brauer, Mary Ann Davis, Lynn Dunbar, Nyle Gordon, Susan Mauck, Chris Newlund, and Carol Strock-Wasson. Kevin Carlson, Marty Coulter, and Wyatt LeGrand earned Honorable Mention awards.

The Quick Draw winners at First Brush of Spring, in New Harmony, Indiana

The judge for the event was Susan Ploughe; she also judged the Quick Draw competition. Nyle Gordon, Chris Newlund, Carol Strock-Wasson, and Julie Weigand were all winners in that event, with Kathy Blankenheim, Randall Scott Harden, Wyatt LeGrand, and Michelle Wells earning Honorable Mention. 

First Brush of Spring also has an event called “Field to Finish,” in which artists are invited to submit plein air studies from the previous year’s event along with the studio painting they completed in the interim. Sixty-one artists entered this event, with Kathryn Clark, Victoria Gillieron, Chris Griffith-Woods, Beth Clary Schier, and David Seward all winning prizes, and Cindy Crofoot, Corrine Hull, Patricia Ritter, Lawrence Rudolech, Carol Strock-Wasson, and Mark VanderVinne earning Honorable Mention.

The Indiana Plein Air Painters Association and the Hoosier Salon were the sponsors of the event. 

“Each year has its own theme,” reports Bill Wissel, one of the organizers of First Brush of Spring. “There’s been an earthquake, an early-blooming peony farm, jumping carp, flooding, and rain. This year it was redbud trees blooming and mosquitoes.” Wissel also mentioned stunning daffodils and tulips.


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