Sunday, October 23, 2016

Sedona Plein Air Festival Final Report Plus Observations

At the Main Street Paintout
(Photo by Kelli Klymenko, Sedona Arts Center)

The 12th annual Sedona Plein Air Festival ended yesterday with the Main Street Paintout and a barbecue for artists and the public.  While attending all the events, I had some time to make a few observations regarding awards and sales.

But first, let me fill in what's happened since my last post.

After the L'Auberge de Sedona paintout, we had another paintout at the Seven Canyons resort.  Unlike the one at L'Auberge, which was all about the creek, this one was all about the vista.  The resort was built right up against the National Forest and the red rocks.  The day was hot, but I managed to find a scrap of shade on Rachel's Knoll, a hilltop with stunning views.  Afterward, we all gathered on the practice green near the clubhouse for awards and sales and to watch the sun go down.

The next day, Friday, was Hanging Day.  Artists scrambled to frame and rehang work between the Awards Gallery – work that would be judged for awards – and the Salon Gallery, which contained other work from the week plus backups the artist had brought.  Most of the work in the Salon Gallery, in my opinion, could easily have gone into the Awards Gallery, the quality was that high.  I'm sure it was difficult for artists to choose what to put in which gallery.  That evening, Lori Putnam, the Awards Judge, handed out awards.  A tough task, since I think most artists had done masterful work.

After a busy week, on Saturday morning weary artists tumbled out onto Main Street to set up to paint.  (In past years, the Main Street paintout had been on the first day – a cruel act, since the new artists had yet to get comfortable with Sedona's unique landscape, but there they were, put in front of the public.  Moving it to the last day was an act of kindness.)   At the end of the paintout, the festival opened the gallery and fired up the barbecue.  The line was quite long, but thankfully, artists were allowed to cut in line so they could eat and get quickly to the gallery.

As I mentioned before, this was my ninth time as an invited artist.  This week, especially, I paid attention to sales and awards, and I came up with the following observations:

Awards and sales are different goals.  Paint larger, more finished pieces for the awards; paint smaller, less expensive ones for sales.  Awards are more likely to be given to paintings one would find in a good gallery.  These paintings also are more likely to be bought by local collectors and collectors who have traveled specifically for the event.  The smaller, less expensive paintings will mostly be bought by tourists, who may not have much room in their luggage, or by others with a smaller budget.  By painting to these two goals, I think one stands a better chance of both awards and sales.  Don't paint just cheap, small pieces; make sure to paint a couple of larger, more expensive pieces for awards.

As for awards, having judged shows myself, I can safely say that in one of this caliber, the choice is personal.  The artists were invited because they demonstrate a mastery of the basics – drawing and design, color usage and mark-making – as well as a mastery of evoking mood and feeling.   How can you possibly make an objective decision?   You just can't.   Instead, the choice comes down to the judge's subjective response and other factors.  I think just about every artist painted a "Best of Show."

I've included my paintings from the week in this post.  Now I'm on to other things – my Paint Sedona workshops begin next week!

Out of the Shadows
9x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Sweet Morning
12x18 pastel by Michael Chesley Johnson

This Was Once an Ancient Sea
12x24 oil  by Michael Chesley Johnson

Bridge of Dreams
16x12 oil by Michael Chesley Johnson

Ravens in the Sun - SOLD
6x8 oil  by Michael Chesley Johnson

Monument
12x16 oil  by Michael Chesley Johnson

Season of Trees
12x9 oil  by Michael Chesley Johnson

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