Plein air winner seeks to just ‘capture the moment’
By Rhett Wilkinson
SPRING CITY—Ellie Wilson figured a “broken-down barn is a good thing to paint because it’s not going to be perfect,” she said.
Wilson attributes “the big mindset” of overcoming the “pressure” of delivering a “perfect” painting to her victory in the Spring City Arts Plein Air Competition, held Saturday, Aug. 29 through Friday, Sept. 4.
Kimbal Geisler and Brad Aldridge took second and third for paintings of a landscape with trees and mountains and a scene of tall trees and beehives, respectively.
Wilson explained the greatest challenge in general with plein air painting involves “a lot of pressure to capture the perfect moment and the perfect painting.”
Wilson, though, set her sights that she was “just going to be there and capture the moment.”
Geisler described getting second place as “kind of a dream come true.” Some of the best artists in Utah participated in the competition, he said.
“High-caliber artists usually gravitate toward invitational events,” Geisler added. The competition is not an invitational, not having a limit on the number of people who can participate. Yet, the competition has still got “great artists,” Geisler said.
Those artists included honorable mention recipients in Don Miskin, Brian Thayne, Eileen Brown, Kerrie Baldwin, Tom Howard, Linda Budd, Ken Spencer, Scott Bevan, Susan Gallacher and Alec Monson.
About 300 paintings were painted for the competition, said Chris Anderson, a Spring City Arts board member.
Geisler and Wilson spoke about the impact of COVID-19 on the competition. Geisler said that the pandemic made the competition experience “a little bit more solitary” while also saying that the competition wasn’t “too different and that goes along with the nature of plein air.”
“You’re usually out there on your own or far enough from people that it doesn’t matter, but yeah, I feel like it didn’t lose any of its magic,” Geisler said. “It was still a wonderful experience.”
Wilson believes the artists love that the competition allows them to connect and meet with each other.
“It’s kind of a solitary profession, being an artist,” Wilson said.
Wilson added that “it’s a great profession to be able to be plein air painting in a time like this.” She said that when you are outside plein air painting, you go “oh wait, there’s a pandemic going on.”
“In nature by yourself, you have to remember the mask when you are going back into normal life,” Wilson said.
Wilson decided to do her winning painting “last minute” and turned it in a few minutes before the deadline.
“I was taking it 30 minutes by 30 minutes,” Wilson said. She thinks it helped with the painting a lot because it kept it “really fresh and instinctive because when we paint, we tend to overthink things.”
Wilson drove from Provo and painted two paintings in Sanpete County, with another just outside the county.
“I love painting down there,” she said.
Wilson expressed her gratitude to Spring City for organizing an “awesome show” every year where artists can gather as a community and paint beautiful landscapes.
Geisler overcame the challenge of getting to Sanpete County later in the week and coming up with enough good spots for painting.
“I usually have a lot of time to plan my week out and get really good spots,” Geisler said before saying that he had only Wednesday, Sept. 2 and Thursday, Sept. 3 this year.
The event is “wonderful” for younger artists like Geisler to “rub shoulders with such wonderful painters,” Geisler said.
He also spoke highly of Spring City in particular.
“Four years ago, I knew nothing about Spring City,” he said. “Spring City is a standout … it stands out with … all the other places I’ve been to.”