ART BEAT: Suwanee's Plein Air Festival offers artists 'Fresh Air' inspiration

The city of Suwanee will be buzzing yet again with artistic activity over the weekend of Oct. 22 and 23. The annual "Plein Air Arts Festival" will be in full swing, with artists choosing whatever outdoor subject suits their fancy about this picturesque town. The event begins at 9 a.m. Saturday and culminates with a reception from 6 to 8 p.m. on Sunday at Ippolito's Italian Restaurant, an event which is open to the public.This year's event has been expanded to invite photographers, sculptors and mixed media artists as well as painters, pastel and pencil artists.

What makes Plein Air events different? Vickie Johnson, President of the North Gwinnett Arts Association, explains it in layman's terms. Johnson says, "'Plein Air' is a French term that means painting in the open air, working directly from the landscape/cityscape as it appears at that moment. It's a fascinating process to watch as artists choose a painterly spot, set up their easels and tables, comfortable chair, paints and canvas."

"Each artist has a unique approach. Some have done this many times, while others are participating in a 'Plein Air' event for the first time. No matter what the level of experience, it is an interesting and educational experience to watch them create around the Suwanee landscape," Johnson says.

"The North Gwinnett Arts Association, Inc. would like to invite you to come and see the moment that artists manage to capture on canvas," Johnson says.

Judging the artwork is Lala Streett, a graduate of the Ringling School of Art in Sarasota, Fla.

Artists participating in the event will work at locations of their choice throughout the city, "making use of their unique styles in pursuit of the common goal of capturing scenes as quickly as possible before the movements of sun and clouds alter the lighting and colors of the view," Johnson says. "Some artists are eager to talk about their work while they are creating. Others are so engrossed that they may be unaware of any onlookers. Watching an artwork develop under the capable hand of an artist is a fascinating experience."

Artwork will be judged and prizes will be given for first, second and third place, Best In Show, and People's Choice. After the event, the artwork will be on display at Suwanee City Hall for public viewing. However, the experience of watching art being created will definitely be an experience to savor.

For more information about the Suwanee Plein Air Event, visit the website at www.suwaneepleinair.com/fall2011. The North Gwinnett Arts Association can be visited at www.northgwinnettarts.com.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.