Imagine a kindergartner sitting in Downtown drawing a picture of the Lodi Arch with crayons next to a well-known local artist painting the same scene with charcoal.
During Father’s Day weekend in June, the Lodi Community Art Center will sponsor a plein air art contest. “Plein air” is French and means painting outdoors in natural light.
Budding artists, professionals and students alike will have three days to paint a scene in Lodi. The contest will have prizes for the best Downtown scene, the best scene from around Lodi and the top student piece. Downtown includes anywhere between Locust Street and Lodi Avenue and Church Street and Sacramento Street.
The event will culminate with a public showing at the Lodi Library where the public will be able to vote on the top winners.
The painting contest will coincide with the display of 10 Seward Johnson sculptures from April 15 through July 15 on School Street.
The art center is contacting local artists, as well as painters from outside the area as far away as Fresno, Clearlake and San Francisco, said Rich Allen, vice president of the art center. He hopes it will be a good opportunity to show off the Downtown improvements and get people to come to Lodi.
“We hope to see artists working around Downtown. ... The art community benefits from tourism and tourism benefits from the art community,” Allen said.
Plein air art can be challenging, because artists only have about three hours to create a piece before the light changes, altering the colors and shadows, Allen said.
“There is a group of artists devoted to plein air, but it’s a small group. We are hoping people will come out and take a shot at it,” he said.
Allen spoke at the Downtown Lodi Business Partnership meeting on Monday and asked for support from local businesses, so the contest can give out prizes, including cash.
From her office on Pine Street, DLBP executive director Jamie Watts sees people take photos of the iconic Lodi Arch on a daily basis. The facades of the Downtown buildings also have character, and will make a beautiful scene, she said.
“I just think it’s flattering they feel Downtown is an awesome backdrop for this,” Watts said.
Local artist Patti Wallace is organizing the event, and stressed that it is not just for professional artists.
“People of all ages can try plein air techniques, even with their crayons,” she said.
With the rise of cameras on phones and people increasingly sitting in front of computers, Wallace said even artists don’t go outside enough and experience the elements.
“We’ve kind of gotten pretty lazy. It is nice to get back to nature. You have to prepare for those little things that happen, like the weather,” she said.
Also, sometimes artists can be introverted, so this is a good way to get them out in the community showing off their work, Wallace said.
“People will come along and want to know what you are doing, so it’s a nice socializing thing too. That kind of thing is something we are missing because we are all running around with our technology gizmos,” she said.
Artists will have to check in on June 16 between noon and 6 p.m. at the art center to have their canvas date stamped. They will then turn in their completed art with a display easel on June 19 to the Lodi Library, so the public can view it from 3 to 4 p.m. and vote on it.
The art center will mat or frame the pieces and hang them in the gallery during July. Wallace said the center might also have some plein air workshops before the contest.
The art center is working on promoting Lodi through events, especially because it is a wine area, Allen said. Places like Napa have done a good job of promoting art, he said, but it has taken time.
The demographic of people who visit wineries tend to enjoy art, he said.
“People who spend money on good wine tend to be somewhat educated and have interests outside of more mundane activities,” he said.