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Artists capture Gadsden County on canvas during 4th annual Plein Air event

Havana Main Street’s 4th Annual Plein Air Painting in the Shade Festival was held last week.

This year the festival’s boundaries extended from Havana and its rural outskirts to the residential Historic neighborhood of Quincy, with the help of Quincy Main Street. 

Painters were allowed a greater pallet of choices to select from in designing their artistic worlds in the two neigboring cities.

The event lasted over the course of three days, from Thursday, May 17 – Saturday, May 19, even across inclement weather.

The festival brought in a wealth of local talents, many new to this recurring local festivity.

For the first day of the festival, the general area for painters was established as the Quincy Historic District. Subjects included, but were not limited to, nearby locales such as the Quincy Courthouse Square, the Millhouse Inn, the McFarlin Bed and Breakfast, and other architectural residential buildings.

The Quincy Gardenm Center was selected as the main occupant building for incoming paintings and as an archive for their safety. Previously painted paintings were also held their for display and sale, along with titles and prices under the name of every participating artist.

“I have been painting since I was seven years old,” said Nell Stager, a participating painter. “Painting runs in my family, so it isn’t something I can avoid, I simply have to do it.”

Originally from the U.S East Coast, after graduating High School Stager lived in Switzerland at an English School studying fine arts for a spell before transferring to the University of Georgia to finish her undergrad degree.

“I adore the study of architecture, and that’s why I’ve chosen this Spanish house along with some of my fellow artistic comrades; if one only were to pass it, it would catch your eye.”

According to listings, this was Nell Stager’s first-time painting in the Plein Air Festival.

Yoshiko Murdick, who also decided on the familiar local architecture as a main subject, expressed some ideas about the nature of painting itself.

“It’s easy for someone like me – a painter – to paint, because I am able to intrinsically remove certain details from the scene, whereas someone, like a photographer, has to frame the image of a place – only with a click,” she said.

Also a member of the Gadsden Arts Artists Guild, which will soon be displaying a selection of her artworks, Yoshiko mentioned to have been painting widely and fruitfully for over the course of 70 years.

“I am from Tallahassee and also participated in the Plein Air Festival last year. My whole family – the Sapornetti’s – is participating, so this is decidedly a family affair,” master painter Eric Sapornetti said. His wife, Susan, and his daughters, Julia and Marie, also participated and decided on local houses and street scenes. For Eric, painting brings to life distinct features of living. 

“In the morning, there is sunlight and movement. I intend to make that the focal point of my painting. As the sun moves, so does my painting from its early stages. I only have to turn my canvas, though most of the painters had to move gradually out of the sun’s path, making the Festival itself truly something done exclusively from the shade.”

Painters were given a brief respite for an Artist’s Talk, held by Natalia Andreeva. Andreeva, internationally renowned, was previously the featured artist for the first two years of the Festival.

The Artist’s Talk was given around midday, in the cafeteria of the First Presbyterian Church of Quincy, and began with a dissertation on how to paint.

“Please yourself; be handy with your work. Plein air painting is all about change, and accommodation, so one must grasp the main story as fast as possible. Just imagine this: big batches of colour, the darkness of sky and land, and the relations of the colour scene overall – the harmony. Perhaps birds and silhouettes, a flock of birds from colour… I am sporadic,” Andreeva said.

Halfway through her presentation, she began to repaint a previous scene from Estonia, near the Baltic Sea as she spoke.

“As one ages, too, one must also know what one will be comfortable with. To assist this, I have made various inventions, some so there is no need to change pallet: in other words, innovation. It is like this: you give the brain a suggestion before it finalizes a thought.”

After ending her painting, she answered questions.

“Be at peace with yourself. Don’t be too hard on yourself. You need to be flexible, and that is how it goes. Try gauche, which must have the consistency of sour cream. We simply need to simplify complex scenery to the simple. To create atmosphere or story, lines come last.

Andreeva’s history with the Plein Air Festival, according to some, is the result of a long-time friendship with Ann Kozeliski, one of the directors of Havana Main Street, who is also an artist.

Afterwards, painting commenced and lasted until 5 p.m. Afterwards, an Artists’ Reception at the Quincy Garden Center was hosted. This was due in part to the support and generous donations of drinks and prepared meals by Big Papa’s Chophouse, the White Rabbit Market, Bantam Bay, Sweet Aboyami, and Bwembya Market.

On the second and third days of the Festival, all Artists gathered and “Wet” Paintings were transferred to Havana Springs.

After early registrations, the many dispersed to the local area, as close as Lake Tallavanna and far as the populated Historical Havana, in order to draw up paintings for the competition.

On Saturday, another Lunch was held, this time supported by the First Presbyterian Church of Havana. Sherry Whitney was the guest speaker, who additionally was this year’s featured artist. After the close of painting at 5 p.m., another artists’ reception was held with wine, beer, small mixed bites, and charcuterie kabobs. On Sunday, a Quick Draw Painting competition was held, beginning at 10 a.m., lasting until noon. Over the course of the two hours, artists, in a streamlined fashion, drew up whatever delighted their interest before submitting their drawn artworks for submission. Deadline for all submissions was at 2 p.m.

Upon the submission deadline, Natalia Andreeva, Judge for the Plein Air Festival, examined both the Quick Draws and the Wet Artworks, thereafter deciding winners for each of the two categories. Sponsors were invited in for the purchase of artworks. The Gala Reception was held immediately after, with music presented by the Jacob Mobley Trio.

Speaking on the future for the Plein Air Festival, Anne Kozeliski gave thoughts on the festival overall.

“We hope to be able to provide unique and original artworks yearly to the community, Kozeliski said. “We wish to both share this opportunity with Quincy, as well as give the event more exposure. There was a beautiful relationship between the two main streets, we melded perfectly through mutual respect.”

Kozeliski said she is optimistic about the event growing. the event professionally. 

“We wish to expand it further and bring in tons more sponsors, so we will be writing down all of our ideas on paper. Everyone had fun,” she said.

Winners in the two categories were as follows:

Quick Draw: Barbara Psimas (First Place Winner ), Second Place Winner (D. Arther McBride), Third Place Winner (Karen Loewen)

Overall Plein Air Painting: Eric Sapronetti – “Woodbury’s Barn” (First Place Winner);

(Second Place Winner).  Yoshiko Murdick – “Off the Rails” (Third Place Winner).

Rubén Darío Uribe – Gadsden County News Service