News Column

Artists gather in Durand to take part in Fresh Paint 2014

May 19, 2014

By Joe Knight, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.

May 19--DURAND -- Derek Davis used to paint in a studio, but he felt like he was missing something.

"You'd come outside at the end of the day and you'd think you missed something. The sun had gone by. I felt like life was passing me by on the outside," said the St. Paul artist.

Now he paints outdoors, even in winter.

In St. Paul that sometimes means in below-zero weather. Oil paints will still work at 20 below, but they are stiffer, he said.

"You wear all the usual cold weather gear. It's like going ice fishing," he said.

If you are wearing mittens while painting you're not doing a lot of detailed work, but that's not the point of "plein air" or outdoors painting, which tends more towards impressionism, said Davis, who is judging Fresh Paint 2014, a six-day "plein air" art event that started Sunday in Durand.

"The point of plein air painting is not to get every brick in a building or every leaf on a tree, it's to capture something a little deeper," he said. That could be a mood or intensity the artist feels, he said.

Sunday afternoon was the "Quick Paint," where artists had two hours to make a painting, from 2 to 4 p.m. The subject matter was up to them, but all painters had to be outside on the lawn of the Old Courthouse Museum, across the street in a vacant lot or in a small park overlooking the Chippewa River.

Also going on was the Chalk Walk Teen Art Competition where the artists had from 1 to 4 p.m. to finish a chalk painting on the sidewalks of the Courthouse Museum grounds, or a children's chalk art area.

Julia Black, 7, of Arkansas was working on three sections of sidewalk with her parents, Jessica and Scott.

Meanwhile, Durand artist Jean Accola was working on an oil painting of Julia.

This is the second year Durand is hosting a "plein air" event, which are becoming more common throughout the country, Accola said.

In the first year, artists from Minnesota and elsewhere were impressed with the scenery around Durand. "The other artists said, 'Well we knew about the Mississippi River, but we didn't know about this,' " Accola said.

The rules are that all paintings must be completed within an eight-mile radius of Durand.

On one of the days some artists will be at the Carl Morsbach farm near Ella, which is just inside the eight-mile radius, she said.

From Monday through Friday the artists will be paining outdoors, rain or shine, she said.

Accola said one of her best paintings was completed under the hatchback of her car during a "plein air" competition.

This was the first year for the chalk event, and Nataya Hurlburt, 13, of Durand was working on a wood duck. That was a natural choice for her, because she likes birds and lives adjacent to the Tiffany Bottoms Wildlife Area, which is home to a lot of ducks, she said.

Nic Ensign, 17, and Makena Easker, 15, working from a black and white photo, drew Audrey Hepburn.

Easker said it would break her heart "a little bit" if predicted rain washed away their portrait, but Ensign was prepared to part with the drawing. "I think the process is more important than the end product," he said.

On Friday, the last day of painting, the artists will submit up to four paintings. Awards include the Best of Show, Best Nocturne, Best Chippewa River Painting.

The Pepin Co.Historical Society has pledged $350 to purchase the best historical painting, and the Morsbach family has pledged $350 to purchase their favorite painting featuring a scene from their farm. One-third of the amount of these "purchase awards" goes to Imagination Nation, Inc., the Durand-based nonprofit hosting Fresh Paint.

The Lower Chippewa River Alliance has pledged $100 to the artists who makes the best painting featuring the Chippewa River.

Activities during the week include an artist's social on Wednesday, a discussion and demonstration of after-dark painting by Davis. At 6 p.m. Friday there will be an exhibition, awards ceremony, and the "purchase pledge" paintings will be selected.

Saturday, from 10 am to 5 p.m. there will be an exhibition and sale at the Old Courthouse Museum, Washington Square.

Knight can be reached at 715-830-5835, 800-236-7077 or


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Source: Leader-Telegram (Eau Claire, WI)