Little wonder Benicia is a popular place for plein air painting. Painting “en plein air,” or painting outdoors, is meant to capture nature’s beauty—the play of light on a hill, water, a bend in the road, or an even an old truck. The Carquinez Strait, the rolling hills across the water, plus stately trees and interesting buildings combine to make Benicia an appealing setting for artists drawn to this form of painting. Plein air painting is not new to Benicia, but a new event at the end of August will serve as a celebration of it, drawing nearly 40 painters for a one-day event. The Benicia Plein Air Paint Out 2016 takes place 8am-3pm Saturday, Aug. 27 with a public reception 4-7pm at the Plein Air Gallery, 307 First St., for people to view and perhaps purchase paintings created that day. Mayor Elizabeth Patterson will award cash prizes to winning entries.
The gallery, which opened two years ago on lower First Street, is sponsoring the event. Benicia artist and organizer Susan Street said it’s a perfect blend for Benicia. “It’s good to have many different offerings to add to the existing arts scene here in Benicia. This is something different, something we’ve never done before. Hopefully it will add to downtown business’ pocketbooks, too. We think it’s going to be a great adventure for the people who come out to paint, and for us as a city and the host gallery. What’s great about having a plein air event is that there are so many sites in Benicia to paint,” she said.
Indeed, during the Plein Air Paint Out, painters will be spotted along the waterfront, on First Street and other spots around the city with canvas and palettes, busily capturing a scene. Meanwhile, others will be walking around downtown shopping, eating and enjoying Benicia. Later in the day, John Finger, past president of the California Watercolor Association, will choose prize-winning paintings.
A total of $800 cash prizes will be offered. Benicians who enjoy their town will be able to take part, too. “All of the paintings will be of local Benicia scenes, so anyone who lives in Benicia who wants a painting of their town is encouraged to come down to the reception, and anyone else, too. One of the big attractions of the event is for people to come to the reception and see all the paintings,” said Benicia painter and gallery member Samantha McNally, another event organizer.
To be judged and eligible for awards, paintings must be created during the Paint Out, and be framed, wired and ready to hang. The gallery will provide racks to display the framed paintings in the courtyard during the reception. Artists may create multiple paintings during the day but can submit only one for judging. The Plein Air Paint Out was a natural progression for the gallery that formed out of Benicia’s Plein Air Group. About 12 artists are members of the gallery, but will not participate in the Paint Out. For the event, painters are coming from Walnut Creek, Berkeley, San Francisco, Sacramento, Manteca, Oakland, Vallejo and other parts of the Bay Area. First Street and other businesses in Benicia are asked to join in the excitement of the day. They can participate by offering discounts to artists wearing name tags, Street said. If an artist paints a business’s building, the owner of the business may want to buy the painting, too. “There’s probably going to be a lot of iconic Benicia scenes,” Street said. Of the event, she noted, “It’s synergistic.” For more details, go to beniciapleinair.com.