Early next month, the Forgotten Coast Culture Coalition will present the eighth annual Great Plein Air Paint-Out featuring 23 professional artists from around the globe.
Haidee-Jo Summers of Lincolnshire, England and James Richards, from Atlanta, are two of 23 artists invited to participate in this year’s Plein Air paint-out.
For Richards, this is the fifth time at the Plein Air Paint-out; it will be a first for Summers.
Richards initially heard about the Forgotten Coast paint-out while at an art show in Wisconsin. After he expressed interest to a friend, it wasn’t long before he found himself on the guest list.
Summers was on the hunt for Plein Air festivals and noted a lack of such events in the UK. While in southern Ireland she met Lori Putnam, a regular of the Forgotten Coast festival, and an artist whose work she was familiar with.
“I told Lori that I would love to come to the USA to paint at a Plein Air event,” said Summers. “She told me all about this one.”
“The area is one of the best places to have the festival,” said Richards. “There’s no shortage of inspiration.”
Richards, who described his style as “spontaneous”, praised the marshes and shrimp boats in Eastpoint for being a major source of inspiration during his first visits.
In recent years, Richards has found greater reaction in the way sunlight touches his subjects.
Summers enjoys working outside and the challenges of open air painting. She noted that changing weather and light force an artist has to work quickly and decisively.
“When I paint I am trying to capture the light of a certain place and time,” she said, “I wish to reveal something to the viewer that they may not have noticed before.”
For the last 18 years Summers has painted, exhibited and taught in England and has contributed features to The Artist Magazine, a popular art publication.
She was selected to exhibit her art many times with the Royal Institute of Oil Painters and was been awarded three prizes in the Institute’s annual exhibition at the Mall Galleries in London.
In 2012 she was the recipient of the Artist of the Year award by the Society of All Artist, a group which has over 45,000 members and was invited to paint at the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on the river Thames by the BBC.
She’s painted plein air landscapes and portraits in Ireland, Morocco and Italy.
Richard’s uncle served as a gateway into the world of painting and taught the young artist the basics of drawing and the rules of perspective.
In school, Richards was assigned to help out with the artsy side of class projects and received encouragement from his teachers. This inspired Richards to teach others whenever possible and remains one of his favorite parts of the local event. He encourages up-and-coming artists to talk with him about art and it’s not uncommon for him to find new students at the many festivals he attends.
“These festivals have taken off astronomically and have brought more recognition to art,” he said.
This year, the Plein Air Wetroom, which acts as a gallery and central hub for the duration of the 10-day event, is situated on Reid Avenue and was loaned to the Forgotten Coast Cultural Coalition by George and Hilda Duren.
The two-story building has been remodeled to provide ample space for the participating artists and their work.
Since Port St. Joe doesn’t have an arts and cultural center, the coalition must find a local building in which to host the event. The 2011 Plein-Air Wetroom was donated by Jeff Anderson.
“The event impacts the community,” said Natalie Shoaf, vice president of the FCCC the past seven years.
Shoaf, who coordinated this year’s paint-out, said that a grant had been obtained for an arts and cultural center in PSJ, and hoped to have a place where art, music, theater and dance could soon come together in the community.
Though there is much work to be done for an event of this size, Shoaf finds that it’s all worth it once the artists arrive. Shoaf coordinates homes for each artist to live in for the duration of the paint-out and recruited a team of 85 volunteers to ensure a smooth and successful event.
“We take care of our artists,” she said. “They say that we have the best Plein Air in the country.”
Shoaf noted that she enjoys the event because it “benefits the entire area” by bringing locals, tourists and art lovers into the community which can be served by local businesses.
A fan of the area, Richards praised Gulf County for its “slower pace and casual approach” to things.
“The area suits my personality,” he said. “It’s one of few the places left that still has an older charm to it.”
This year’s Plein Air Paint-Out will take place May 2-12 all along the Forgotten Coast. For workshop and event info, visit www.pleinairfl.com