How to Win En Plein Air Texas


SAN ANGELO, TX — The En Plein Air Texas painting competition came to close Saturday at the Fort Concho Stables. There, a large crowd enjoyed viewing the results at an exhibit of the eight-day competition. We went to find out what style of paintings the judges and art consumers were seeking.

En Plein Air art pieces this year can be broken down into two areas of competing techniques. The first is abstract versus technically exact images. The second is bright colors versus paintings with colors that lean towards monochromatic. The En Plein Air judge seemed to gravitate towards the more abstract images with high contrast colors this year.

Abstraction, or impressionism, places the big ideas on canvas but leaves out the finer details. Up close, these paintings reveal little of the subject, but viewing the same painting at a distance allows the viewer’s mind to fill in the details.

For an example of the abstract, artist Carla Bosch of Liberty Hill (north of Austin), painted Rattlesnake Mountain while visiting a ranch south of Alpine during the contest. Bosch didn’t fill in the details but instead used broad shapes and high-contrast colors that allow the viewer to fill in the finer details. Below is an example. The first photo is a close up of the painting and the second is the wider view from a distance.

A closeup of Carla Bosch's "Rattlesnake Mountain" painting during the 2022 En Plein Air Texas competition in San Angelo, Texas

A wider view of Carla Bosch's "Rattlesnake Mountain" painting during the 2022 En Plein Air Texas competition in San Angelo, Texas

“Rattlesnake Mountain” didn’t win any awards but an abstract painting by the same artist of three trees and a ranch house won second place. It followed a similar abstract, high color contrast technique as Rattlesnake Mountain.

Towards the other end of the spectrum of impressionism is adding technical details into their paintings, and some of these paintings won the admiration of peers during this year’s contest. For a few paintings created during the Field Ranch Experience on Thursday, artist Farley Mott of Springfield, Missouri, received the Artist Choice Body of Work award. Of his collection, observers at the exhibition pointed to his painting titled “The Oak Motte.” The singular tree best exemplified his detailed approach. His accompanying acrylic paintings used his detailed interpretations of outdoor ranch stills. Only a smaller streetscape of Oakes Street downtown with the Cactus Hotel seemed to drift towards Farley’s impressionist side.

Below is “The Oak Motte” and below that are the paintings that earned Farley Mott the “Artist Choice” award.

"Old Oak Motte" by Farley Mott of Springfield, Missouri, painted during the 2022 En Plein Air Texas competition.

A collection of paintings by Farley Mott of Springfield, Missouri, painted during the 2022 En Plein Air Texas competition that won the "Artist Choice Award."

Using bright, contrasting color versus leaning towards monochromatic colors was another detail that distinguished one painter’s technique from the other. Acrylic paints can be used in bright, bold paintings when compared to watercolor’s softer and monochromatic appearance. The other finer detail was how clean the artist’s brush was when changing colors. In Farley Mott’s paintings’ colors are bolder with more contrast because his brushes dipped in different colors of acrylics seemed to have been meticulously cleaned between those colors. On the other hand, the wet watercolor causes colors to blend together as seen in the watercolor paintings of Richard Sneary of Kansas City, Missouri. See below:

A watercolor with (when compared to the acrylics) has a softer, monochromatic feel. Painted by Richard Sneary of Kansas City, Missouri.

This year, the Judge chose as winners abstract paintings with high contrast colors that are characterized best by the Elta Joyce Murphey Grand Prize painting. The top painting was inspired by an urban railroad crossing, likely near the old but restored depot where the Railway Museum is housed, and the artist was Suzie Baker of Shenandoah, Texas (between Houston and Conroe). To the eye, one cannot make out exactly where the subject of the painting was, but the abstraction from a distance evokes an urban or industrial feeling. Here is the overall winner, titled, “San Angelo Brilliance.”

"San Angelo Brilliance" painted by Suzie Baker won the overall competition for 2022.

En Plein Air Texas co-chair Treva Boyd said the crowds on Friday and Saturday night at the Stables have been large and, judging from the stack of receipts for the purchases of the paintings created in and around San Angelo by the 34 invited competing artists this year, sales have been brisk. She anticipates the final amount of money the Museum event raised will be in line with past years. The artists keep 60 percent of the money for each of their paintings sold; the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts collects the remainder that is earmarked for its children’s programs.

Boyd said the techniques used to win the competition each year can change because each year the En Plein Air Texas committee choses a different Juror who selects which artists will compete and Awards Judge who decides most of the awards. This year, Michael Obermeyer of Laguna Beach, California was the Awards Judge. The Juror was Michael R. Grauer who was raised in Kansas, went to school in Texas, and now resides in Oklahoma.

When reviewing an award-winning painting by Hai-Ou Hou from Stevensville, Maryland of Miss Hattie’s Restaurant on Block One of Concho Avenue, Judge Obermeyer remarked that, “The paint is juicy. It looks like toothpaste.” He loved the abstraction and bold colors. See the painting below:

"Morning Down Town" by Hai-Ou Hou from Stevensville, Maryland.

Boyd said next year, the judge and juror will switch roles. That might change what techniques will win next year’s competition.

Once the results are tabulated we will publish the winning paintings of all categories.

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