A Look Inside the Pacific Northwest Plein Air Exhibition of 2021
Some artists paint in a studio with their subject sitting in front of them. Others paint from photographs that were taken. Then there are those who participate in “plein air” competitions, which is a French saying for someone being out in nature and painting the scene that is before them.
One of the artists within our marketplace, Kristina Sellers, took part in the Pacific Northwest Plein Air Exhibition 2021 last month, where artists painted in the Colombia River Gorge in Hood River, OR then had their work displayed in the Maryhill Museum in Washington, and has graciously shared with us her experience. Typically we will do one long story about an artist for our blog posts but, for this one since Kristina has actually been featured in our blog already, we thought interview form would be more intriguing so you can get a true feel for what the event was like along with the artist’s account as she has been so gracious to share her experience with us.
And so we begin…
How did you decide the scene to paint for the exhibition?
All of the paintings for this event were done on site. [We] had three and a half days to do enough paintings in order to turn in four paintings to be judged. We also had the option to turn in two alternate paintings so, if a painting sells, another could take its place. I actually did 13 paintings and chose my favorites to submit.
[As for choosing a scene to paint], it's good to have a plan ahead of time during an event like this. You can waste a lot of valuable time driving around trying to find the perfect scene. It's also very easy to be influenced by what your fellow artists want to do together. I leave a little room for following the crowd and socializing, but also try to have a variety of painting spots in mind.
Where did you get the inspiration from?
The landscape is very diverse and beautiful in the Columbia River Gorge where the event takes place. The whole area is inspiring. I especially enjoy painting sunsets over the river there. I'm also very inspired by my fellow artists. It's always exciting to see the paintings hung together in the [Maryhill] Museum at the end of the week. There was one painting I had the concept for ahead of time. "Where in Sam Hill?" was inspired by the founder of the Maryhill Museum. The famous saying was actually coined by Hill's friends to tease him about his big dream. He built his big impressive home in the middle of nowhere hoping he could inspire friends and investors to build there as well. When they came out to see what he had hyped about, they thought he was a bit crazy. But hey, the house still stands and is now a museum! This story resonated with me as I've felt the same reaction from people when I say I'm an artist. I'm very honored to find out the museum purchased this painting for their permanent collection, as well as another "Twilight River".
What made you choose the style you did?
I've developed and am still developing my own voice as an artist over the years. My paintings focus on color, feeling, texture and expressive brushwork and is in the impressionist style.
What were your favorite parts of the painting? Did you struggle with any areas?
The event had many little mishaps and zapped my energy. Because of the heat that week, I tried to paint early in the day and take a break in the [hottest part] of the day. The second painting I did was blown over by the wind and my paint thinner dumped directly on it. Oh well! On to the next. I was just thankful my equipment wasn't blown over the cliff.
What do you think of when you look back at the paintings?
Many of my plein air paintings bring back fond memories of the friends I painted with that day or even the struggles I had while painting them. My painting "Radiant River" reminds me of how I was trying to capture the fleeting lighting effect of the sun sparkling on the water. I literally stopped my car and ran to set up my equipment to catch it on canvas. Toward the end of the painting, I felt a few raindrops and rushed to pack it up. But I think I captured the feeling of that moment.
You have done so many of these plein aire exhibits now, what can you tell us about your very first one that someone who has never partaken in one before may want to know?
My first plein air competition was a huge learning curve for me. I learned that no matter how organized you start out, your art supplies are going to end up strewn about your car, mixed with various snacks, sunscreen bottles and all the layers of clothing you put on and take off throughout the day. Also, being prepared to frame six wet oil paintings when you are in a hotel or Airbnb can be tricky. I have to bring plenty of frames and framing supplies at the ready.
Kristina has known since she was young that she wanted to be an artist, even with the struggles that arise from holding that professional title. She uses the adversity to make her creativity thrive and her work becomes all the better for it. When we asked what her greatest struggles have been along the road to becoming a professional artist, she replied, “Struggling with myself internally seems to be my biggest issue. I'm my own worst critic. Sometimes that's constructive and sometimes paralyzing.”
As we mentioned in our last blog post about Kristina, she has participated in many of these plein aire exhibits. She enjoys the style of painting so much that she has even done several of her own plein aire paintings along the Amalfi Coast in Italy. Her talent goes far and we can’t wait to see which new ventures are to come for this talented artist.
**Editor’s note: This article was composed as a joint effort between the Made By Her staff and Kristina herself.