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Painters of all stripes take over Centre Wellington for Elora en Plein Air festival (4 photos)

Now in its third year, the Elora-based open painting festival encourages artists to showcase the beauty that can be found across Centre Wellington Township — rain or shine

Susan Thorning, who sits on the committee for the Elora en Plein Air painting festival, says her favourite part of the four-day event occurs on the last day.

By then, more than 70 artists from all over Canada and beyond have collected their best three paintings created during the festival for the show and sale held at Elora Centre for the Arts.

“By one o’clock (Sunday) afternoon, there’s going to be a line up. I always look at it and think, ‘wow, people are lining up to buy art’,” said Thorning.

2018 is the biggest year so far for the festival, said Thorning. She expects more than 200 pieces to be on display at the show and sale.

Now in its third year, the Elora-based open painting festival encourages artists to showcase the beauty that can be found across Centre Wellington Township — rain or shine.

“Elora is a pretty town, but the artists aren’t limited to painting here,” said Thorning. “There are a lot of rural scenes and Fergus is a great place to paint as well.”

Michael Brennan travelled to Elora for the festival from Brampton with his girlfriend, who is also a painter.

The first two days of the festival he enjoyed clear skies, but on Saturday Brennan was was using a bridge in downtown Elora to shelter him from the rain as he painted buildings on Mill Street reflected in the Grand River.

“This is one of the most scenic spots in town. It’s almost like Venice, getting to see buildings right on the water,” said Brennan, who characterizes his style as being representational impressionistic. 

“My paintings are only an hour or three hours at the most, so it has to be loose because the lighting is always changing,” he said.

His girlfriend has been painting with pastels but Brennan prefers working with oil paints.

“I really enjoy putting (the paint) on as thick as possible. Over the years it has been getting thicker and thicker,” said Brennan.

Artists may use any painting method, but all works must be started and finished outside.

“’Plein air’ means painting outside,” said Thorning. “It started with the impressionists, because it’s about light and the changing light. It’s a very demanding and challenging art form and also one that is expanding incredibly.”

She said oil and acrylic are the most commonly used media, though watercolour and pastels are also popular.

Laura Coutts has been coming from Guelph every year to paint in the festival.

On Sunday, she chose to paint a street scene which included a house with the spire of Knox-Elora Presbyterian Church towering in the background.

“I used to be an acrylic painter and I have picked (oil paints) up in the last two years. I really like it,” said Coutts, while painting.

The festival is well organized, said Coutts, with a small army of volunteers.

“It’s just so much fun,” she added.

The festival couldn’t operate without volunteers, said Thorning. It takes about 35 volunteers to keep the festival moving smoothly.

“It takes so many because the office is open from 7 in the morning to 9 at night. It takes a lot of volunteers to operate,” said Thorning.

Also important, said Thorning, are the festival’s many sponsors and partners.

For example, LittleTree Garden Market sponsors the Best Agricultural category, while the Best Architectural Award is sponsored by Edge Realty.

“It is really quite wonderful to have that support,” said Thorning.

The festival’s show and sale runs Sunday, May 20 from 1 to 5 p.m. at Elora Centre for the Arts.


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Kenneth Armstrong

About the Author: Kenneth Armstrong

Kenneth Armstrong is a news reporter and photojournalist who regularly covers municipal government, business and politics and photographs events, sports and features.
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