News Column

Successful 'paint-out' brings artists downtown

August 2, 2014

By Brent Brown, Greensburg Daily News, Ind.

Aug. 02--GREENSBURG -- With morning weather that was itself close to a stroke of summer genius, this year's Plein-Air Paint-Out artists undoubtedly found plenty of inspiration.

Local artists were joined by their brethren from places such as Anderson, Muncie and Kentucky for the eighth annual paint-out on the Decatur County Courthouse Square, painting amid the splendor of a summer day that perhaps only Mother Nature herself could appropriately put to canvas.

The artists set up easels around the square and captured in oil and water colors many of the downtown's most distinguished structures. It was a unique take on an old phrase -- "painting the town."

The artists were among the usual Friday downtown bustle, and they added a festive atmosphere to the weekly Farmer's Market and daily courthouse square activities.

The commotion surrounding the art-in-progress couldn't break the concentration of this year's crop of painters, however, many of whom are seasoned veterans of showing off their talents in the open air.

Patrick Kluesner, a resident of Anderson, returned to the Tree City for the first time in about five years Friday. He carefully crafted a facsimile of the County Supply Building on North Franklin Street from his spot in the courthouse gazebo.

The 59-year-old said he's previously painted in Plein-Air events in Hoosier cities such as Madison, Brookville, Bluffton, Noblesville and New Harmony. A member of the prestigious Hoosier Salon, Kluesner took the top prize in a New Harmony paint-out. Most noted for turning photographs into lifelike portraits, Kluesner's advice for aspiring artists is simple: "Practice, practice, practice," he said with a chuckle. "That's what I do."

The same might be said for all the other accomplished painters scattered about the expanse of the downtown on Friday.

Husband and wife painting team Wayne and Sarah Campbell gathered near First Presbyterian Church for the paint-out, brushing together their own renditions of the signature Decatur County Courthouse Tower Tree.

Wayne's work is a fixture of the Brown County Art Gallery, and his works run the gamut from serene nature depictions to ordinary household items. The Campbells are originally from Scott County, but have lived in this area for the majority of their adult lives. That's about how long they've been painting, too, and both encouraged prospective artists to continue pursuing their dream.

"Just enjoy it," Sarah said. "You want to have fun."

"Practice," said Wayne. "Just keep painting."

Six-year-old Dot Robbins is a perfect example of that advice.

Dot sat at a small easel near the courthouse Friday afternoon, meticulously working on a portrait of a daisy-filled vase created with Crayola washable paints.

"I paint a lot at school," she said, drawing in pencil the outlines of what soon became yellow daisy petals.

Dot said she loves flowers and painting and hopes to continue working in the arts when she grows up. She's particularly fond of flowers and was assisted throughout the afternoon by her grandmother, Sally Robbins. Dot is the daughter of Bryan and Jenny Robbins.

As afternoon clouds moved over the city, the painters worked quickly to finish, with the end goal being a spot under a tent on the courthouse lawn provided by Main Street Greensburg.

Paint-Out veteran Rhonda Bontrager was among the crew of artists hanging their freshly-finished wares under the awning as the event drew to a close.

Bontrager created three paintings Friday, including the flag-adorned faÇade of a home located off the square, a pink rose and the Courthouse Tower Tree.

The artist said she's been a part of each Decatur County Plein-Air Paint-Out, and has been painting since 2003.

"It comes pretty easy," Bontrager said of her inspiration Friday afternoon. "The more paint you put on a canvas, the easier it is. It's pretty fun."

The lead architect of this year's program, Beth Smiley, was more than happy with the results of this year's paint-out, which drew about the same number of artists as last year. Refreshments were at the ready for the painting crew as well, conveniently placed under the tent and at the ready for whenever a break was necessary.

The finished products of the 18 talented painters' day-long toil will be on display throughout the rest of the month at the Art on the Square Gallery.

Smiley said the paintings will join a photography project that features stills of some of the better-known downtown buildings as part of the Second Friday on the Square showing at the gallery.

Arts and Cultural Council President Dave Stults perused the paintings as the finished products were placed under the tent, remarking that the event gives non-artists a peek at the painting process they might not otherwise see.

"It's a great opportunity for a non-artist to walk around and observe the artists while they're producing something," Stults said.

"You can see the kinds of skills the artists have, and the images that they create that they would like to put on display for others' viewing pleasure," the Council president added.

None of the projects in Friday's Plein-Air event were judged, as the focus remained on creating an inviting atmosphere for painters of all skill levels.

Contact: Brent Brown 812-663-3111 x7056;


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Source: Greensburg Daily News (IN)

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