You may have seen them around town with their easels and oils, painting both the city life of Dexter as well as the outlying arcadian beauty of the fields, woods, and streams.
Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival has returned for its 5th year. Artists from all over southeast Michigan converge on our city to capture it on canvas. The festival which started on Monday, ends on Saturday when participants’ exhibit their works for public viewing.
“Plein air” is the artistic term that describes painting outdoors as opposed to in a studio. The movement began in the mid-1800’s with impressionistic artists such as Monet and Renoir. The challenge is to capture an “impression” or interpretation of a scene under changing natural conditions.
But for a lot of the artists participating in Paint Dexter, it’s not always about doing your best painting to win a prize. It’s just as much about the camaraderie of fellow painters.
I caught up with local artist Carly Crisler painting capturing the Dexter Mill on her canvas. It is her 3rd year participating in Paint Dexter. Two years ago, she took first place. When asked why she keeps coming back, Carly replied, “It’s a lovely event,” and added that she “likes to meet with other artists and talk about their works.”
Over at the clock downtown, Sandra Ackerman from West Bloomfield was using her oils to paint the Dexter Bakery and Red Brick Restaurant. She is also drawn to the social aspect of the event. “I’ve been painting almost all of my life,” she explains. “I enjoy the camaraderie of other artists and learning from them.”
I went over to Old St. Joe’s Church figuring somebody for sure would be working on a painting of the beautiful old structure. What I found instead was an artist just a block north of the church with easel and paints working on a picture of a house. I was surprised anyone would pass by Old St. Joe’s to paint something as common as a house, granted it was a really nice house.
The artist, Todd Zuithof, explained his choice of subjects like this, “I drive around and look at things in terms of how it can be distilled down into a statement of its most notable elements.” He explained it well and I understood a little of what he meant.
The house somehow came alive in his painting and I found myself enjoying looking at it more than the real thing right in front of me. Todd enjoys Paint Dexter because it gives him a reason to be outside, chatting with curious passers-by. “Sure beats a day working in the office,” he laughs.
Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival is a great event and if you have time it’s worth a stop at their tent downtown later in the week when artists submit their works. You can find out more about Paint Dexter Plein Air Festival at http://paintdexter.org/ and follow them on Facebook as the week-long festival unfolds.
All of the artwork created throughout the week and submitted for the competitions will be on display in the Gallery Tent in Monument Park from 2 to 9 p.m. on the Friday of the Festival; and will be on sale from 2 p.m. Friday until the sale closes at 2 p.m. on Sunday. The awards ceremony is scheduled for 5 p.m. and will be followed by a wine reception where visitors can meet and talk with the artists starting at 6:30.
The following day the exhibit and sale will continue from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. with various events happening in and around Monument Park within that timeframe.
The selling of the paintings works a bit differently than it has in the past four years, so if you’re interested in taking home a piece of this event quite literally, visit the Dexter Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee’s information page on this year’s sale rules.