Easel painters, from the advanced professional to the ardent amateur, dot the sidewalks, landmarks, riverbanks and green spaces of global cities from Paris to New York, Prague, Barcelona and Beijing. Why not Los Angeles? Thus four years ago, the L.A. Plein Air Festival was born. While there’s a rich tradition of plein air landscape painting in the coastal and desert regions of the American West, when it comes to the more picture-ready neighborhoods of downtown L.A., it’s all about the architecture.
Guided and loaded up with gear by local resident-owned Raw Materials Art Supplies, which produces the event each year (this is its fourth edition), the first 10 days of April saw some 300 plein air painters and sketchers setting up around the sidewalks, cafes, arcades and exurbs of DTLA’s Historic Core — including a specially organized City Hall excursion that inspired majestic and eccentric depictions not only of the building but of the views from its top-floor viewing platform.
Of those, about 130 were pleased enough with their results to hang them in last night’s Art Walk exhibition, installed at Farmers & Merchants on Main Street, and it’s easy to see why. There was a lot of talent in that room, and speaking as one of the prize judges, it was not easy to pick favorites. Works in one of three categories (oil, water-based media, mixed media) demonstrated an impressive range of styles and aesthetics, with technical mastery, promising work from beginners, unique perspectives, bold colors, expressive lines, humor, wit and some expert eyes for detail, plucking gems from both classic and unlikely locations.
John Kilduff took the the overall Grand Prize for his oil painting of a crowded day on Broadway, and Joey Mason and Frank Valdez tied for the Audience Choice Award.
The three categories each had a winner and three honorable mentions. Mike Ishikawa received honorable mention in the category of other/mixed media (pen, ink, pencil, etc.; basically anything neither oil nor water-based); honorable mentions went to Jackie Johnston, Ed Li and Enrique Guevara. TK Chau earned the prize in water media (includes watercolor and acrylic); honorable mention went to Alan Manning, Garrett Lee and Miran Moon. In the oil category, the winner was Monica Edwards; honorable mentions went to Robin Dodge, Alex Schaefer and James Wu. Julie Grist took home the Gelateria Uli Award.
Check the LAPAF Facebook Page for the full list of winners, images and updates about future events.