Inaugural Plein Air competition took place Saturday August 27 in Green River

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Wyo4 news photo from left to right, Best in Show Rick Jones. Runner-up, Peggy Applequist, and honorable mentions Jacob Swonger, and Andrew Kneeland

Carly Eversole, [email protected]

Green River, Wyoming – Eleven participants signed up for the first-ever Plein Air competition held Saturday, August 27 in Green River. Artists had one day beginning as early as they wished on August 27, to set up in a location of their choosing along the Greenbelt or at the Green River Chamber of Commerce to begin painting a landscape of the Green River Community.

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Prior to artists beginning their work, surfaces had to be stamped so each participant went into the competition with a fresh surface. Upon completion of the piece, artists turned their works in no later than 2:30 p.m. where they were judged with a Best of Show, Runner-Up, and three Honorable Mentions were chosen. Awards were given at the reception at 4 p.m. at Western Wyoming Community College-Green River Campus that evening where a silent auction took place for artists to sell their pieces from that day. Entry fees paid to enter the competition were used for prize money to the winners with a portion returning to the competition to fund future events. Viewing of the painters creating at their locations as well as the reception was open to the public.

Plein Air, a french term, is a style of painting in the open air dating back to the 19th century French Impressionism era. The judge of this year’s event was Florence Alfano McEwin, Professor Emeritus of Western Wyoming Community College, who explained Plein Air pieces require “composition making the piece structurally sound, as well as color. The painting has to be a color story.” Alfano McEwin, who has awarded works of her own including a Plein air painting done on a camping trip in the Wind River Mountains, based her decision on colors changing hues, particularly in water and sky, as well as every part of the painting having the same amount of detail and time spent on it.

Wyo4news photo of judge Florence Alfano McEwin vising with members of the public attending the reception

Most participants were local, however, some artists did join the event from places like Teton County, Vernal, Utah, and Sweetwater Station. The event was open to all artists and skill levels ages 18 and above. The list of artists was as follows: Lynda German, Peggy Applequist, Andrew Kneeland, Rick “RC” Jones, Debrah Soule, Tyrell Jasperson, Bryce Castillion, Ashley Castillion, Amanda Romero, Jacob Swonger, and Elliot Goss. Best in Show was awarded to Rick “RC” Jones, runner-up went to Peggy Applequist and honorable mentions went to Andrew Kneeland, Jacob Swonger, and Elliot Goss.

Jones, a resident of the area since 1969, has been painting since the age of 5, using oils in his work. He explained, “oils are very forgiving”. Jones mostly does paintings of cowboys and Indians with landscapes in those pieces as well. When asked what advice he has for artists starting out, he advised buying a lot of canvas. “Canvas is pretty cheap,” he explained, “buy a lot, paint a lot and find what works for you.”

Honorable mention Jacob Swonger grew up in western Washington but now lives in Vernal, Utah and had the largest surface of the day but said “That large pieces don’t make him nervous as his career has led him to paint a lot of murals including the one in the Horizon Hotel in Vernal.” His first exposure to art was watching his grandfather, also an artist, before seeing Bob Ross on tv and wanting to be a painter himself. Growing up in Washington there were a lot of surrounding mountains to find inspiration from. Swonger says “I love to paint for the purpose of creating places that are peaceful that people want to be. My favorite thing is to paint from imagination…I love learning and teaching the principles of art that allow you to create something out of your own head.”

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Oils and watercolors were not the only materials used during the competition. One artist, Lynda German, used dyed wool from her own flock containing 13 different breeds of sheep, to create a landscape piece. Using a barbed needle she was able to place strands of wool through her felt surface bringing a 3-dimensional element to her piece. German explains that “she likes landscapes and creates birds and other animals that don’t have the 3-dimensional effect as well.” The work of rolling the wool right off of the sheep, cleaning it, dying it, and preparing it is all a process she enjoys, particularly using lanolin to keep the wool pliable as it keeps her hands soft in the meantime. Although not unfamiliar with competitive art, German has not participated in a competition for quite some time. She made the trip from Sweetwater Station, about 40 miles east of Lander, to debut her work. Bringing a part of Sweetwater County’s history in livestock, particularly sheep, into modern art is something she takes great pride in.

Debrah Soule with the Community Fine Arts Center in Rock Springs told Wyo4news “This was a combined effort with the Green River Arts Council and is hopeful for a continuation of the event potentially in the Rock Springs area next year.”

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