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Set Your Mind at Easel: Artists Paint OC 2021

By Logan Dubel

The galleries at the Art League of Ocean City are known for their impressive and striking paintings, and while viewing them, people often imagine the perspective of the artist along with the motivation behind their work. This August, there will be no need to imagine, because all the magic will be happening right before the eyes of Ocean City visitors. “Artists Paint OC,” a yearly plein air event set for Aug. 11-15, gives the public the  opportunity to see the painting process from start to finish while gazing at the most picturesque sites on the island.

Artist David Simpson

For those who are not art savvy, “en plein air” is a French phrase that translates to “in the open air,” describing outdoor painting in inspiring settings. The art form grew in the 19th century with the availability of oil paint tubes, and, in the United States, first arrived in California before spreading east. Plein air is now an admired and well-known approach, encouraging painting wherever artists can find a creative spark.

First launched in 2006, “Artists Paint OC” is celebrating its 16th year of bringing artistic expression directly to the streets of the resort. The event rallies around one common idea – the true natural beauty of the town and area.

From Wednesday through Saturday, 48 plein air painters will choose locations around the area, including Assateague Island. Whether artists take to the streets of Coastal Highway, the bustling Boardwalk, or the beach, there is a spot for everyone to paint and for the public to watch and see the creative process unfold. Stay tuned to the Art League’s Facebook page for announcements about specific plein air painting locations.

Painting in front of an audience is a challenge, but a welcome one for experienced painters like Jill Glassman of Berlin, Md.

Artist Ray Ewing

“It’s a little unnerving, especially in the beginning. Painting outside is a different animal altogether, and contending with people looking over your shoulder isn’t easy,” said Glassman. “It gets easier and a lot more comfortable. I enjoy hearing people’s nice comments about my art once it is finished.”

For spectators without artistic abilities, the most surprising part about plein air events is that much, if not all the work, is entirely spontaneous.

“My ideas usually come to me right then and there. I try to create an interpretation of my surroundings with emotion rather than just a snapshot,” she added.

Veteran participant David Simpson of Parsonsburg, Md. also paints with intention, often selecting meaningful locations. With years of experience having a brush by his side on the Rehoboth Boardwalk, plein air is second nature.

“For plein air, I always like to go to places where I spent meaningful time in my life and that have intrinsic value. I grew up in Ocean City, so whether it’s places like Stinky Beach or the Inlet, I like my paintings to be special to me,” Simpson explained. “I love when people pass by when I’m painting and have a conversation, and then come back to buy my work at the sale. Then you know what you’re doing is real and successful.”

The plein air event culminates with the Wet Paint Sale festivities at the Ocean City Center for the Arts on 94th St. on Saturday, Aug. 14 from 5-8 p.m. Free and open to the public, the sale offers art lovers the opportunity to purchase an original piece of art fresh off the canvas and meet the artist who painted it. The Art League will provide light refreshments and a cash bar for the party.

Alison Leigh Menke will judge the work and select the winning artists, who will be awarded cash prizes. The paintings she selects will hang in The Galleria at the Arts Center until September 25 and be available for purchase.

The Artists Paint OC competition offers $5,500 in overall cash prizes to the artists, with sponsorships coming from the Peter Glenville Foundation and the Worcester County Arts Council as well as individuals and businesses.

Artist Barbara Kern Bush

There’s more to come on Sunday morning at the annual Quick Paint on the Boardwalk with $500 in prizes sponsored by the Ocean City Development Corp. Artists paint along the area near South Division Street from 9-11 a.m. and race against the clock to design and complete a painting that features some of the iconic sites nearby. The painters then transport their masterpieces to the Arts Center on 94th St. for judging and awards. These new plein air paintings will be for sale to the public from 1-3 p.m., along with the paintings hanging in The Galleria from Saturday night.

If interested in registering or learning more about “Artists Paint OC,” visit www.artleagueofoceancity.org or call the Ocean City Center for the Arts at 410-524-9433. More information is also available on the Art League’s Facebook events page.

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