Painters Join Westminster Flowers and Jazz Festival

Artists challenged by plein air painting
June 2, 2013 Updated: June 2, 2013

WESTMINSTER, Md. —Plein Air painting may be making a comeback.

As residents strolled through the Westminster Flower and Jazz Festival, artists set up their canvases and paints, pastels and colored pencils for Paint Out Westminster, a plein air art competition from the Carroll Arts Council.

Plein air is a French expression that means “in open air,” meaning artists will often paint their ever-changing surroundings, Susan Williamson, the visual arts coordinator for the Carroll Arts Council, said. While plein air painting began around the mid-19th century, it’s really made a comeback in the last few years among arts councils, Williamson said.

This is the second year the Carroll Arts Council has organized a plein air contest, she said. The competition has grown by 10, reaching 25 participants this year, Williamson said.

The competition is really more of a group event that will culminate in an exhibition and sale of the paintings created May 11. The Carroll Arts Council began its exhibition and sale of all of the art created at the May 11 event on May 16. The exhibition will last until June 11.

“This is a plein air that anyone who would like to paint plein air can get their feet wet,” Williamson said.

For Lisa Fiedler Jaworski of Finksburg, the event was way out of her element, she said. Fiedler Jaworski just began painting again a few weeks ago, after years working as a graphic designer.

Instead of painting the scene in front of her, with the library in the background and swing dancers swaying, she took photos of a vinca flower that is outside of the library.

Her painting was a collage, with words like “strength” and “beauty” added in the background of the canvas, underneath a blue vinca.

Part of what was mutually challenging and exciting was the crowd, she said. The people can see the artwork being created, which is a little nerve-racking, she said.

“It’s different, but I like doing it,” she said.

Fiedler Jaworski said she likes doing collages, because the words describe how flowers can be transformative, she said. Flowers have the power to bring healing and joy to so many people, she said.

“I think it’s amazing how God created flowers,” she said.

A few feet away from her, art teacher Sharon Gribbin-Lindemon worked to sketch the scene with colored pencils in front of her. What can be tricky is that the scene is always changing, so she sketched outlines of people, that she said she might take creative license with.

The New Windsor woman said she participated in the event last year and enjoyed it. While her students at Damascus Elementary will occasionally work outside, she said the big venue is different.

Williamson said it’s capturing the brief moment that makes plein air very challenging.

“Essentially when you paint plein air, you are putting puzzle pieces together,” she said.