‘CPR Red’ by Rod Gould was on display at the wet art show and sale following the Plein Air event. Barbara Roden

Plein Air artists find inspiration in and around Ashcroft

Thirty artists from all over the province were here at the weekend to attend the sixth annual event.

The sixth annual Plein Air Paint-out saw 30 artists, most from outside the area, converging on Ashcroft to spend two days painting the landscape and buildings in and out of town.

Subjects included places such as Barnes Lake, Venables Valley, and the Sundance Guest Ranch, as well the hills, rivers, and valleys of the area, and some of the distinctive buildings around town. The alleys and laneways of downtown Ashcroft were also popular subjects.

Ken Faulks, a Victoria-based artist, has been to all the paint-outs since the first one in 2012. The event was the brainchild of Ashcroft artist Pauline Ogilvie, and Faulks says that she spoke with him about the idea while he was staying with her in 2011. He encouraged her to go ahead and hold a Plein Air weekend, where artists are able to paint out in the natural landscape rather than in a studio.

“I come because of the event and the people,” says Faulks. “It’s a fun time, and I like this area. It’s a great place. And I have a connection to the area; my great-grandfather drove cattle to Ashcroft from Empire Valley in the 1880s.”

A first-timer who also has a connection to the area is Adin Scott of Kamloops, whose great-great-grandfather, Isaac Lehman, established a blacksmith shop in Ashcroft in the 1880s and helped found the Ashcroft Gun Club. Lehman, who was a crack shot and avid hunter, went on to win prizes at competitions in Winnipeg and Toronto, and is buried in the Ashcroft cemetery.

Scott says she heard about the event through her mother, Claire Johnson, who is active in the Kamloops painting scene, and who takes part in plein air events when she winters in Arizona. Johnson was also attending the Ashcroft event for the first time.

“I enjoyed it,” says Scott of the weekend. “It was a little bit hot [on the final day, May 28, Ashcroft was the Canadian hot spot at 33.2 C.], but the landscape was lovely and green this year, and it was a great weekend to get away from home.” She says she’d like to come back, but would like to develop more as an artist before she does so.

Johnson says she loved the event. “And I’m just amazed at all the styles and subject matter.” Several dozen of the paintings created throughout the weekend were on display at the wet art show and sale on Sunday afternoon, and many people took advantage of the opportunity to view the works.

Another first-timer was Debbie Lively from Kamloops, who was already familiar with the Ashcroft Art Club, which organizes the weekend in conjunction with the Winding Rivers Arts and Performance Society.

“I’ve taught a couple of workshops for the Ashcroft Art Club,” she says. “I’ve known about the plein air event for a while, but couldn’t make it until this year.

“I’m so impressed with everyone who organized it. The food was wonderful, and I was impressed with what they did with so little money. I’ll be back.”

Organizer Jessica Clement says that more than 100 hours of volunteer time went into organizing the weekend, which featured an opening night wine and cheese reception, buffet lunches on Saturday and Sunday, and snacks and water for the artists.

“It was absolutely a success,” she says. “It went really well and really smoothly.”

This year artists were asked to give permission for some of their paintings to be featured on postcards, which will be available for sale around town later this year. Faulks spent some time on Sunday afternoon photographing the paintings chosen, which clearly depict Ashcroft and the surrounding region.

Johnson thinks this is a great idea. She is involved in postcrossing, an online project where members send and receive postcards from all over the world. The project’s tag line is “send a postcard and receive a postcard back from a random person somewhere in the world!”

Its members, also known as postcrossers, send postcards to other members and receive postcards back from other random postcrossers. Where the postcards come from is always a surprise.

“The postcards of Kamloops are terrible, and some of them are quite old,” says Johnson. “I’ll be buying a lot of the Ashcroft postcards.”

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