CEDARBURG - If you were out and about in Cedarburg from June 6 to 17, you likely saw a number of painters trying to capture a moment in time on the canvas.
The Plein Air art event is recognized as the largest gathering of artists in Wisconsin, according to the Cedarburg Artists Guild website. Rain or shine, artists from all over the country spend the event painting outside, attempting to capture a moment in life, a historical structure, favorite coffee shop, the lakefront or countryside.
Susan Havey, a painter from the Barrington area in the northwest Chicago suburbs, said she thought things went really well this year. This is her third year participating and she loves the camaraderie with fellow artists.
“I love Cedarburg, it is such a charming town, everywhere you look there’s a picture to be painted,” she said.
The event has limited space and registration is required. Painters must stay within certain boundaries in regard to location. There is a schedule of dates, times, and places that are involved with the event. Panels need a stamp before painting and they must be entered before the deadline and be ready to hang in a frame.
Scott Harding has participated for four years. He said it’s wonderful how everyone in the area seems to encourage the arts and gets excited about the event.
Following the event, the paintings are put up for sale for a wide variety of prices with judges determining any awards or prizes.
“There is a good amount of competition and everyone seems very good-spirited,” he said.
Mequon artist Patricia Bertha Mattingly has been participating for the last three years. She’d been dabbling in outdoor painting and took a few classes. She called the Plein Air event both motivating and challenging.
“It kind of jumpstarts me to get my stuff together and work outside,” she said. “It’s a professional, good-natured, and somewhat frantic event.”
Mattingly said artists come from all over, are from all age groups, and have various styles and techniques. Once the event is over and the paintings — up to 600 — are put up for sale in the Cedarburg Cultural Center, they’re often gone fast with some in public view possibly only for an hour.
She said the scenes of Cedarburg are the biggest sellers with many in the area collecting them. Paintings sell in the low hundreds up into the thousands of dollars.
“Living with original art takes you to that moment with the texture of luscious brushwork, vivid color, and the soft nuances of light,” said local artist Lori Beringer. “It is an investment often gaining in value. But more importantly, original art enriches your daily life.”
Beringer is an instructor at The Academy of Fine Art in Denmark, Wisconsin, and teaches ongoing open studio classes at The Plymouth Arts Center in Plymouth.
Beringer said there is a community of artists that paint outdoors all year around and she has participated in the event every year except the first.
“This event has been one of the best organized with substantial prize money and solid sales,” she said.
For many participants, it’s their job.
“With out-of-pocket expenses, we hope to not only create beautiful art but make a living,” Beringer said.
This year featured a number of generous and kind people, Beringer said, adding the people were her highlight.
“So many had never seen a painter on the street or painting their view,” she said.
There are challenges, such as dealing with sun, wind, bugs, heat, and moving targets to name a few.
“Working from life is the most difficult to catch,” Beringer said. “But, it is the most rewarding and the best way to grow as an artist.”
Local artist Erin Blum has a different kind of artistic challenge in the outdoors —watercolor.
“For me, as a watercolorist, painting outside is a big challenge, especially in rain or very dry, hot temperatures as we had this year,” she said. “The paint dries instantly on the palette and the paper.”
She perseveres, though, as this is her fourth year doing the event.
“I love being part of the energy created by the time constraints of the event and meeting other artists throughout the event and collectors at the opening exhibit,” she said.
Another artist recently returned to her Wisconsin roots.
Pam Flanders moved back to Wisconsin this past year and has settled into Sturgeon Bay. She is setting up her own studio space in an addition to a remodel of her home.
Even while away, she had the deep desire to participate in the Plein Air event. Flanders said when her husband took a job in Portland, Oregon, she stayed behind until the event was over and then drove out with two kids and three cats to join him. While living in Oregon, she flew back to Wisconsin to participate “due to the fun of the very first event.”
Flanders said the event has grown each year in regards to painting locations, prize money, and collectors.
“It amazes me how many volunteers and committee members are needed to make this show a success and Cedarburg is always ready for that challenge,” she said.