Cape Ann is a place where families wander through artisan shops and galleries as they enjoy a fresh lobster roll or ice cream, while gazing out at the Atlantic rolling in and out of the shore, boats teetering with the breeze. Cooler temperatures and the changing leaves yield new happenings in this coastal community such as the Cape Ann Plein Air festival from October 6-14, drawing audiences from all over the country to observe over 40 juried American artists painting the picturesque surroundings. Like Winslow Homer who traveled here to capture reflections of light and the magnitude of nature in the 19th century, oil, acrylic, and watercolorists gather today to capture a similar essence.
Celebrating its fourth year, painters can submit up to 5 works to be judged by devoted plein air artist, Kenn Backhaus and Cape Ann Plein Air will award around $22,000 worth of prizes to winners, including a newly-added fourth prize. Board president Mike Storella explains that the event has “become well-known especially on a national level” through the years. They’ve “added Cape Ann week where restaurants and stores offer specials” like BOGO on the Essex Historical Society and Shipbuilding Museum tours and 10% off custom framing orders at Nor’east Frameworks in Manchester-by-the-Sea, Susan Coviello, program manager explains.
There is great variety in the artists’ techniques and creative processes, but Bass Rocks in Gloucester has proven to be a top seascape painting location with the overcast weather and crashing surf this week. Maryland artist and truck driver Tim Kelley changes up the typical view of a plein air landscape by painting many pieces nocturnally such as an 18×24” painting of a boat dock and truck in the distance, where the street lamps cast shadows that tell the story. He voices that “where you stand matters,” having a keen focus on perspective and the way light and dark interact.
Illinois painter Lon Brauer takes his abstract expressionist roots to create plein air paintings this year, as well, balancing aggressive paint strokes with his natural figures and landscapes. His style adds further uniqueness to this year’s lineup of artists as seen through his painting of a seagull with scratch-like paint strokes yet soft edges and meld of white, tan, gray and blue.
Cape Ann Plein Air will host a gala exhibition and awards ceremony Saturday, October 12 from 6-9pm at the North Shore Arts Association in Gloucester, which is unfortunately sold out at the time of this posting. Nevertheless, from 10am-12pm at Cape Ann Art Haven at 180 Main St #B, Gloucester, children under 6 accompanied by a parent can paint a plein air piece of their own. There is a suggested donation of $5 and you can register at arthaven.com. On Sunday, October 13 from 12pm-2pm, judge Kenn Backhaus will present about what makes an award-winning artwork at the North Shore Arts Association at 11 Pirates Ln, Gloucester. Rounding out the festival, on Monday, October 14 from 9am-11am, 120 artists will gather to paint at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum at 66 Main Street, Essex. Following this at 1pm-5pm, an exhibition, reception, and sale of art will take place. This public and free event is a great opportunity to see artists in their element.
(Cape Ann Plein Air festivities will run through Monday, October 14. The North Shore Arts Association is located at 11 Pirates Ln, Gloucester, Massachusetts and open Mondays to Saturdays from 10am-5pm and Sundays from 12pm-5pm. Cape Ann Art Haven is located at 180 Main Street #B, Gloucester, Massachusetts and open 10am-5pm Mondays to Fridays. The Essex Shipbuilding Museum is located at 66 Main Street, Essex, Massachusetts and open Wednesdays to Sundays from 10am-5pm, but will be open for the Cape Ann Plein Air Event on Columbus Day. To read artist profiles and learn more about this year’s event, visit capeannpleinair.com).