I’m Really a Plein Jane

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A Back Bay scene by Heather Parker.

I love plein air art. I collect it. I seek out museums and galleries near and far that exhibit it. I covet collected works of other like-minded enthusiasts. I have even bargained with my Higher Power to bestow upon me a mere pinky-finger of talent that would enable me to paint in the plein air style.

Some women collect purses, shoes, jewelry. Not me. My inner shopper craves plein air artwork; my bank account fears it.

Whenever I am feeling the pang of plein air, I head over to the local Southern California Plein Air Painters Association’s very own art gallery – The Gallery: SOCALPAPA – which is in a quaint little space on the northeast corner of the Newport Harbor Nautical Museum that was formerly occupied by a dingy T-shirt shop. It is nice to walk by The Gallery’s storefront and see beautiful artwork instead of a dusty “I’m with Stupid” T-shirt in the window.

I like to patronize The Gallery because, in addition to supporting an art form I love, I view their entre to Balboa Village as a small victory for those of us hoping for this type of occupant to help attract similar and complementary tenants to the area.

But I digress….

The origin of plein air art is derived from the French term “en plein air” which means to paint out in the open air. This style is also sometimes referred to as California Impressionism, an art style that flourished in our beautiful state from 1890 to 1930, and remains popular today.

California is well known for fostering some of the plein air community’s greatest artists, many of whom are represented in Joan Irvine Smith’s famous private collection on permanent exhibit at the Irvine Museum.

Currently, The Gallery has 58 paintings on display in its exhibit entitled “California Impressionism: Then and Now.” The paintings feature works depicting the extraordinary California landscape, once painted by the early California Impressionists, but as they appear today.

The Southern California Plein Air Painters Association was founded in 2000 by a group of painters who met at a landscape painting class at Irvine Valley College. By 2001, the group had grown to more than 50 painters and it was apparent a more formal organization should be formed. Today, the membership has grown to more than 300, made up of an eclectic group of students, leisure-time painters and professional artists alike.

On my bucket list: becoming an active member even though I am and most likely will remain a novice-in-perpetuity.  That’s OK. I can still collect works by those who actually do possess talent.

“California Impressionism: Then and Now” will remain on display at The Gallery: SOCALPAPA until June 12.

Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach. She can be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Facebook at Lynn Selich-Columnist.


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