Artists capture Washington during En Plein Aire

2nd annual event presented by Art Domestique brings out 16 artists from across Iowa

GTNS photo by Grace King

Deb Baughman, of Pulaski paints a statue of Washington in the square in Washington during En Plein Aire’s quick paint on Sunday, June 9.
GTNS photo by Grace King Deb Baughman, of Pulaski paints a statue of Washington in the square in Washington during En Plein Aire’s quick paint on Sunday, June 9.

Tiffane Cassidy hesitated with her brush poised above her canvas as she observed the tree she was painting in the square in Washington during Art Domestique’s En Plein Aire’s quick paint on Sunday, June 9.

The three-day art competition was the first painting event Cassidy, of Des Moines, had participated in. And while she was a little intimidated by the professional artists, she found them very helpful as she set up her easel at various spaces in Washington over the weekend.

“I’m not one of these people who have been drawing since I was five-years-old,” Cassidy said. “But it’s very enriching. It makes me feel whole.”

En Plein Aire kicked off on Friday, June 7, with a nocturnal paint. Artists checked in at 4 p.m. and turned in a painting by 7 p.m. On Saturday, June 8, artists were encouraged to paint anywhere in Washington and congregated for a picnic on South Iowa Avenue for dinner. By Sunday, several paintings done by En Plein Aire artists were already sold by Art Domestique.

This was the second year of En Plein Aire in Washington, and the event has grown from nine artists in 2018 to 16 this year.

“This is what they can do under pressure,” said Richard Gilmore, president of Art Domestique, adding that he would love for residents to see the level of art possible of Art Domestique artists and commission artwork.

While En Plein Aire brings in some revenue for Art Domestique, Gilmore said the major idea of the event is to provide art to the people of Washington and the surrounding communities.

Events like En Plein Aire inspire creativity for Gin Lammert, of Pulaski. Lammert finds that En Plein Aire with its quick paints forces her not to dwell. She is forced to choose a color composition quickly and run with it.

Professionally, Lammert paints commissions of portraits and landscapes. Over the weekend, Lammert painted a sunset, the fountain, light fixtures and flowers.

“This forces me to be a little more lighthearted,” Lammert said. “You learn to simplify.”

Painting is like breathing for Lammert. She’s painted since she was a child, but it took her 14 years before she was able to call herself an artist.

“It’s just something I’ve always done,” Lammert said. “I finally said this is a profession, and I’m so lucky I can do this.”

Deb Baughman, of Pulaski, painted the statue of George Washington in the square in Washington.

“I thought it would represent the town well,” Baughman said.

Baughman enjoys the process of painting because it’s creating something out of nothing. While quick paints like Sunday’s En Plein Aire paint are frustrating at times, Baughman said it’s just as much about being alongside other artists as it is about practicing her craft.

Baughman has painted in rain and snow, but the weather in Washington over the weekend was perfect. “Except for the bugs. The bugs have been awful,” she said.

Lianne Westcot, of Solon, said that Washington has a lot of interesting subject matter from beautiful architecture to classic cars to flowers. Westcot got started in En Plein Aire because she wanted to strengthen her observational skills as an artist.

“You really don’t see a town until you walk around and look at it,” Westcot said.

Jeff Allen, of Solon, enjoys En Plein Aire events because of the opportunity to paint outside.

“You live the artistic lifestyle and getting to paint things that are important to you,” Allen said as he hunched into the easel while painting lampposts. “You arrive, get set up, scope out the area, check out where you’re going to paint.”

En Plein Aire got John Preston, of Fairfield, out of painting his normal subject matter. Preston said when finding something to paint, it isn’t so much about the picture as it is about the shapes and colors.

Ever since he was a little boy, Preston said he has been drawing. Eventually, he figured he should just go to school for it.

He became a full-time artist in 1987, doing gallery shows and painting commissions. Now, he spends much of his time at events like Washington’s En Plein Aire.

Preston said he isn’t sure if anyone really knows why they enjoy being an artist. It’s just something they do.

“You’re there for the moment and when you paint, you’re more engaged with what you’re looking at,” Preston said. “You’re here to dig in and see what’s really going on under the surface.”

Deb Hammel, of Wellman, was riding her motorcycle through Washington when she noticed the easels set up in the square.

“It’s nice to get to check it out,” Hammel said. “I didn’t know it was going on today. I like paintings, especially of nature, and I just wanted to see it.”