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Visual

Public Painters

Area artists take to the streets

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Every August for the past eight years, dozens of artists have taken to the streets of downtown Bellingham to spend one of the last Saturdays of the summer painting in public as part of the Plein Air Paint Out (PAPO). They’ll do so again this Sat., Aug. 23.

Spearheaded by Studio UFO’s Trish Harding, the reason for the popular event is twofold; in addition to drawing attention to the plethora of artists who live and work in Whatcom County and beyond, the event also gives the participants valuable practice for painting outdoors (which is essentially what “plein air” means).

“Whether painting as exercise or as a finished product, plein air is the act that an artist has available to him/her at any time and free of charge,” Harding says. “For that reason, it is practical practice.  It is also extremely challenging; no confined image of picture plane, an infinite amount of visual information to select or edit, and an endless chase of light and movement—not to mention the weather extremes and elements of just being outdoors.”

Harding speaks from experience. While she’d prefer to paint in decent weather, the artist and instructor has learned to roll with whatever Mother Nature brings—whether it’s wind, rain or fall’s bitter chill. She says it’s changed her studio work, and thinks it does the same for others.

“As an artist, I think it my responsibility to practice what I preach,” she says. “If I tell someone that all painters should include plein air painting in their regimen, then they should expect that I, too, plein air paint regularly.”

This Saturday, look for Harding at her regular spot on Bay and Holly streets—in front of Studio UFO and across the street from Bayou on Bay. She’ll be joining the 26-30 artists who will set up their easels and find their visions along the Holly Street corridor, where they’ll be visible and accessible to the community—many of whom, Harding hopes, will engage the artists about their work.

And, since the event is also used as a teaching tool, those who are involved in the act of painting during PAPO will encompass a variety of skill levels—from professionals who come from both near and far to first-time plein air painters. Harding says that’s an important consideration when it comes to the success of the event, and the resulting show at Mindport Exhibits in September.

“A component of Studio UFO’s mission is to always be inclusive rather than exclusive,” Harding says. “Studio UFO, being a place where it is safe to learn and keep on learning, can only achieve its mission if all skill levels are welcome.

“I want to show the community how many artists are here and to engage the community in a casual and non-competitive wonderful day for all involved,” she adds. “The reception and sale after the Paint Out should feel the same, with the locals coming out to see a great gallery space at Mindport, meet the artists and maybe even purchase local, original, organic art of their downtown.”

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