Artists try to capture scenes perfectly

By Jeff Smith

Showing the piece — Tim Peterson, organizer of the Black Hills Plein Air Paint-Out, shows the winning artwork from the Quick Draw contest on Sept. 29. The crowd that was outside of the Hill City Senior Center had a chance to bid on the different paintings that were done by the artists the same day.

This year was the first year for the Black Hills Plein Air Paint-Out, a time to paint outside and soak in all of the scenic views in the area as well as a range of weather.

Hill City was the basecamp for the event and 19 artists came to the area for five days to paint and see what type of inspiring scenes they could capture.

There was a reception, a gallery walk, a quick-draw competition and the public had the opportunity to purchase artwork created that day at the wet sale. All of the artwork was on display at the Hill City Senior Center.

Kathleen Kolb of Rapid City said she has been painting in the Black Hills for years.

She said more people have been learning about Plein Air painting and getting interested in it.

“You’re trying to catch the light,” Kolb said.

Plein Air painting is different from just being in a studio because artists paint what they see. The artists see a lot of incredible things but there are challenges such as bugs, wind, sun and other elements of the weather.

Fighting the conditions is a general theme amongst all Plein Air painters.

Steve Randall of Sioux Falls was painting the Alpine Inn on Thursday evening underneath the Jewel of the West eaves. It was raining at that time so there were a few artists in the same area.

“I’m enjoying it so far,” Randall said.

“You take the weather as it comes.”

Tim Peterson, the organizer of the event, gave a speech about Plein Air Painting on Sept. 27 at Warrior’s Work & Ben West Gallery.

Peterson said that the popularity of Plein Air painting has been growing astronomically in recent years. It has mostly popularized due to Baby Boomers.

“Baby Boomers are retiring and doing things they wanted to do when they got out of college,” Peterson said.

When he first started doing Plein Air painting, Peterson said that he focused on pretty pictures of nature. Now he tries to do more gritty scenes.

“Scenes of decay, telephone poles and things like that,” Peterson said.

He often finds that those scenes aren’t there all the time.

Peterson thinks it’s important to record scenes for himself and posterity.

Plein Air Paint-Outs are an interesting thing to Peterson, too, because it gets artists to socialize and speak about what they are working on. Most artists work in solitude, so to get out and for people to see what they are doing is pretty unique.

Peterson said that Plein Air is becoming more popular because it gets people together often.

The Plein Air painting event was open to anyone. Due to this fact the painters could learn from each other and talk shop. Juried Plein Air events are a little more serious. They are usually more competitive. The Hill City event was meant to be a fun time for the artists.

On Thursday night Randy Berger, owner of Warrior’s Work & Ben West Gallery, reminded the artists to try to talk to people when they are out and about. He knew it could be hard since they probably don’t want to be distracted but he said it was vital for them to grow.

“We’re trying to build this show,” Berger said.

He wanted people to check out what the artists are doing. Plein Air painting makes artists work fast because the lighting changes so rapidly.

“The light will change as the sun progresses. When that happens the shadows will change,” Peterson said.

The nocturne painting event on Thursday night allowed the artists to slow down a little bit as they didn’t have to worry about losing shadows.

“Once you find a place to paint those are going to be there until sunrise,” Peterson said.

There is a sense of calm doing these paintings.

“It’s static. There’s not a whole lot moving,” Peterson said.

Peterson said that the nocturne paintings have a noir quality to them. They are dark and mysterious. Some can be menacing.

Dark backgrounds in paintings usually push colors forward.

According to Peterson, nocturne paintings usually sell pretty well.

Ambient light is a must for painting nocturnes. He uses barbecue grill lights and book lights.

He said it makes people aware of what they are working on and gets people to be dialed in on what is in their environment.

The artists were free to paint anywhere in the Black Hills. Any subject that they found in the Black Hills could be painted. They started painting on Sept. 25 and finished on Sept. 28.

The event happened thanks to a partnership with the Hill City Arts Council and Artists of the Black Hills. Peterson said they were able to receive a grant from the South Dakota Arts Council to help get the funds to hold the event.

Next year the event will happen at the same place and same time. Peterson said that next year the event will go a lot smoother although it wasn’t bad this year.