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Orange County artists take easels outside for annual plein air paint-out

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Photo Courtesy of Steve Murray

The changing leaves ebbed and flowed in the wind as the sun shone down on the many painters participating in the 7th Annual Paint It Orange Plein Air Paint-Out, taking place Oct. 4-6, across Orange County. 

The celebration is hosted by the Orange County Arts Commission. Registered artists could paint any subject or scene outdoors in Chapel Hill, Carrboro and Hillsborough, according to the OCAC's website.

Plein air painting is a style of art where artists paint images and landscapes outside for hours. This enables them to pick up on subtle shifts in lighting and other real-time natural occurrences in their natural environment. 

There was a plein air adult competition and an inaugural youth competition, open to middle and high schoolers in the County.  

Longtime plein air painter Diff Whitmore stood outside off of North Churton Street in Hillsborough, capturing a man sitting on a bench in front of a red brick building. She used a wooden easel and a multicolored set of oil pastels to complete her work. 

“Sometimes when you're in your studio by yourself, it's really too quiet and too isolated," Whitmore said. “And this is more involved, in terms of being with other people, people coming to talk to you.”

Though plein air bridges the gap between the art studio and the nature beyond, it does come with its own set of struggles, according to artist Scott Boyle, the juror of the event. He said that artists have to overcome great difficulties when capturing plein air scenes.

“I think plein air artists always appreciate having a judge that is also a plein air painter, because I know how difficult this is,” Boyle said. 

Boyle played a large role in establishing the North Carolina Plein Air Painters, and is an active member of the Plein Air Painters of the Southeast. He said that his influence in this community has led many organizations to reach out in hopes that he will judge plein air competitions like Paint it Orange. 

“[NCPAP] has gotten really large," Boyle said. "I think there's over 1000 people, and people keep joining — even out of the state.”

Boyle’s job as juror required him to observe the artists’ plein air pieces once the outdoor artistry ceased on Friday, Oct. 6.

Boyle said he spends a considerable amount of time judging the paintings. As he observes them, he goes back and asks himself what aspects of the paintings stick out to him and make him stop. 

He said it was difficult to not be able to award all of the artists in the competition.

“That's the hardest thing because, you know, these days, these exhibits have so many accomplished artists doing so many great works,” Boyle said.

Boyle was not the only one excited to see the artists gather for the event. Director of the OCAC Katie Murray also expressed her enthusiasm. 

“You know, we have artists that come from all over the place, and this is the one time of year that we see a lot of them," she said. "It's also fun seeing the artwork at the show — and how the same site can be interpreted by so many people in so many different ways.” 

The OCAC was able to fundraise at the event through painting sales, registration fees and sponsorships, Murray said. 

Paint it Orange concluded with an awards ceremony and wet paint sale on Friday at the Eno Mill Gallery.  

@dthlifestyle | lifestyle@dailytarheel.com

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