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Outdoor inspiration: Art festival kicks off

Photo by Kristen Ralph

Photo by Kristen Ralph

BUFORD -- Lorie Merryman is a studio painter.

But on a beautiful April day, who would want to be cooped up inside?

With a straw hat keeping the sun out of her eyes, Merryman spent Friday outside a painted brick house in Buford, capturing the blooms of azaleas and dogwoods and waiting until the perfect time to add shadows into her latest masterpiece.

"I love this," Merryman said of taking her paint and canvas outdoors for a change. "This could be a way of life."

Dozens of painters set up their easels in downtown Buford on Friday, as the city's annual Plein Air Festival began.

From the French expression meaning "in the open air," the festival allows artists to paint as many scenes as they would like for a competition and art show held from 7 to 9 tonight. The artists will also compete in a "quick draw," today, painting the same scene quickly, with the artists choosing a winner.

But Tannery Row artist Judith Surowiec said she isn't interested in speed. She spent Friday enjoying her time in front of a historic Bona Allen family home, putting details into a folded canvas -- a technique she created when she misunderstood an art class lesson. On this particular drawing, the folds matched perfectly with the columns of the home.

"I'll go for as long as I can stand up," she said. "I don't care if I finish today. I know I can make it perfect in the studio (later)."

Surowiec said she begins most of her art projects outdoors, getting a true feel for her subjects.

On Friday, she picked the home because it always caught her eye when she drove down Main Street.

"It's just beautiful," she said, admitting, "I ate lunch on the porch and pretended it was mine."

The city's historic feel and eclectic business district has plenty to draw an artist's attention.

Susan Burch, for example, made her painting pop by capturing an orange dress in the storefront at Girli Girl Boutique.

"I have fallen in love with plein air," Burch said, after signing her picture and preparing to fold up her easel from a Main Street parking place. "It's just so much more fun than being in the studio."

Like many of Friday's artists, Claire Chilazi said the only downside to working outdoors was the heat.

But with her canvas resting on top of a brick wall, she kept to work.

"Buford is very inspiring," she said. "It's got a lot of possibilities."