Painting in Open Air

by May 23, 2022Events, South Brunswick

Artists from all over the country paint the beauty of Southport during Up Your Arts’ Southport Plein Air Festival.

On May 13 and 14, 75 artists from seven states captured Southport’s unique beauty and charm in a plein air event hosted by Up Your Arts. Between brush strokes they took time to enthusiastically praise the town, their host and the folks who live here.

Typical of the remarks was Bryan Scott’s comment: “There is a lot of community spirit here. A lot of volunteers. I’m impressed; everybody is so courteous and generous to let us park on their lawn. I’m gonna come back and bring my wife.”

Val Parnell from Virginia Beach was captivated by the beauty and the peacefulness as she painted the marsh and the ICW from the Salt Marsh Boardwalk gazebo. “It’s charming, so picturesque. I love it. And I love the downtown houses. If I moved here I would live right downtown.”

Artist Painting ICW NC

One of the artists who chose to paint the waterway in front of the Southport Community Building said, “I love the view, and the church bells chiming in the background is perfect.”

The artists were told they could paint whatever appealed to them with no limit on medium, quantity or size. However, their decision on where to paint was highly influenced by the forecast for rain on Friday afternoon. Several chose Waterfront Park so they could huddle under the gazebo. Others opted for views of the ICW in front of the Southport Community Building for a hasty retreat.

The ones who couldn’t resist the perennial favorite – the Yacht Basin, boats and Potter’s Seafood, found spots close by to park their cars in case they needed a quick escape.

All this forward thinking was not in vain as the rain came in torrents, as predicted. Most beat a hasty retreat, and many called it quits for the day. But not Jackie Isbill from Cherry Grove, South Carolina. She came back to the boardwalk and painted between drops until the drops turned into a steady stream, at which point she pulled out her umbrella and put her painting in a plastic bag, but not before the rain smeared the top part. I met up with her on the boardwalk on Saturday and she said she had come back to restore her painting. But, upon looking at it again, she said, “Maybe I will just leave it like it is; I think it looks like a Monet. What do you think?”

While scenes of the water, boats and marsh were the most popular subjects, many chose to feature Southport’s historic homes and ancient trees, the beautiful foliage, pelicans and Old Baldy.

Plein Air Kids NC

On Saturday, Keziah Park was loaded with entertainment for all. There were performances by Brazilian singer and jazz guitarist Raphael Name and original music by the Tedward Brothers and Spanish guitarist Perry Smith with percussionists.

There were activities for kids, a plein air painting table and the chance to create their very own Jackson Pollock painting.

Of course, there was also the ever-popular food truck and ice cream stand. And the chance to buy a souvenir t-shirt with a representation of Lyudmila Tomova’s painting, which was last year’s People’s Choice award winner.

The park was closed to the public from 3 to 4 pm so the artists could display their work. Promptly at 4 pm, the yellow tape was removed from the entrance, and the large crowd that had assembled was allowed to go in, roam the park, greet the artists and purchase their favorite. It was estimated that more than 150 art aficionados and passersby enjoyed seeing their town as portrayed through the eyes of artists from Texas to New Jersey.

Artist Plein Air Mayors Choice

Each year the Mayor of Southport is asked to select one entry for a special award. This year Mayor Hatem chose Rokhaya Warring’s impressionist oil painting of fishermen cleaning their fish in front of Potter’s Seafood. And the People’s Choice award went to Jon Cox of Oak Island.

This event is probably best summed up by Carol Stevens, who drove eight and a half hours with her husband from Crossville, Tennessee, to participate. She said, “Southport is outstanding. They know how to treat artists.” When asked what she meant, Carol said, “Dinner the first night, music, all this going on here (Keziah Park). You don’t get that anywhere else. And Bonnie (Bray, Up Your Arts Plein Air committee chair), is a gem. Southport is wonderful. I want to come back with my daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.”

Bonnie and her team are already thinking about next year’s event, and that is a good thing because so many of the artists said they would be coming back.

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