En Plein Air

Painting in the Outdoors

If you happened to be in the Heber Valley June 29 – July 4 this year, you may have noticed scores of people scattered along the roadsides and perched in the middle of fields, gazing at easels with a pallet and brush in hand.

As odd as this might have seemed, it’s a yearly occurrence. This summer marked the 13th year in which professional and amateur artists alike gathered in the Heber Valley to take advantage of the beautiful landscape and continue the age-old tradition of painting en plein air.

The 2018 Wasatch Plein Air Paradise was a smashing success. The festival featured 108 artists from all over the country and drew over 4,500 attendees. For the first time, the competition offered a sunrise paint-out at the Wasatch State Park — an artists’ favorite — and the five-day event ended with a two-hour paint-out around Town Hall in Midway. To the credit of all of the wonderful artists who competed, every last painting was sold at the auction.

Jane Anne Woodhead grew up surrounded by art. The daughter of amateur artists, Jane Anne learned to draw from her father, who was a professional landscape architect and an excellent designer and draftsman. Her mother encouraged her interest in the arts, as well, and Jane Anne went on to study design in college.

After graduation, she realized she did not want to become an interior designer and dabbled in painting with watercolors and pastels as she raised her family. Years later, she met a young artist named Kerri Hammond who became a mentor and introduced her to painting en plein air. She quickly became hooked on creating oil landscapes in the outdoors.

Her winning painting, “Stack of Gold,” was the rewarding result of a frustrating morning of lackluster painting. Jane Anne, in an attempt to get past her slump, drove around in search of inspiration. She found an old barn and instantly fell in love with the crumbling pieces of wood stacked with hay, beautifully backlit with a view of the surrounding fields and mountains.

“I have been drawn to agricultural landscapes, old barns and farms partly because they seem to be disappearing and I want to capture some of them while they’re still around,” she explained. “I knew if I could get it right, this would be a painting that I would love to keep for myself.”

Despite earlier frustrations, battling the heat of midday and having to move her car twice at the requests of sheriff deputies, she said it was just one of those times that everything seemed to flow. She wanted the focus to be on the stacks of hay, so she minimized everything surrounding the stacks and created the highest contrast and hardest edges around the focal point. That focus — and the resulting composition — was rewarded with a blue ribbon.

As for her experience painting in the Heber Valley, Jane Anne was wholly appreciative. “I am grateful to the Midway Art Association for the  opportunities they give artists and for their generosity of volunteering their time to do so.”