Hansen: Fast art is a slow joy

October 13, 2011|By David Hansen
  • Young artist Vika Long completes a painting of Bird Rock off Laguna's Main Beach as she participates in the Student Paint Out and Cupcake reception Monday.
Young artist Vika Long completes a painting of Bird Rock… (DON LEACH, Coastline…)

Laguna Beach had another art thing this week.

Yes, that was my reaction when I heard about the 13th annual Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational.

I may have yawned. Bad, I know, when we become so spoiled in Laguna over art. The number of contests, exhibits, festivals, openings and other activities becomes overwhelming.

But I decided to go, primarily because they were having a first-ever student competition. Twenty-four hand-picked students from Laguna schools would fight it out with paintbrushes.

The kids, divided into three groups (elementary, middle and high school), were coached by three local volunteer artists, Rick Delanty, Greg LaRock and Jeff Sewell.

With Heisler Park and the coastline as their picture, the students lined up holding their canvasses and brushes and blobs of color.


Some were so eager they forgot their feet and kicked over their easels, splaying their paintings across the ground.

Others sweated under the pressure, spending too much effort perfecting one section of the painting and forgetting the time.

It was beautiful and funny and touching.

Anika Larsen, 15, is a 10th-grader at Laguna Beach High School and wants to be an artist. Both of her parents are artists, so it comes naturally for her.

Her painting was good — not that I would know — but I did admire the pirate ship in particular.

"I know, right!" she said, laughing. "Well, I saw a sailboat but then it sailed away, so I painted what I could remember: a pirate ship."

In contrast, the day before was the serious adult two-hour quick draw. These were the seasoned professionals, some traveling from as far away as Maryland, Tennessee, Texas and Hawaii to try and earn the $5,000 first prize in the overall competition.

The tension here was more palpable, but what made it even more challenging for the artists were the many ne'er-do-wells like me gawking over their shoulders and asking whether they paint planes at this plein air rodeo.

"It can be distracting," said artist Ray Roberts of Angels Camp. "I can tune it out if I have to. I'm able to talk and paint. I may not be coherent, but I can talk."

That seemed to be the consensus among most of the artists. They grin and bear it for the competition, knowing that the crowds come with the territory and ultimately will be the ones buying their paintings.

"It's a little scary and weird," said Jeff Horn of Costa Mesa. "Some people don't do it because it's so confronting. You're working on your baby."

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