Staff Photo: Jason Braverman Ellen White paints a scene along Shadburn Avenue in Buford during the Plein Air Event on Friday morning.
BUFORD -- When Beth Arnold of Lilburn made a last-minute decision to join the Buford Plein Air event, she rode around the city limits looking for the perfect scene to paint.
She finally found her spot behind the Bona Allen Mansion, where she set up her foldable chair, bottle of water, traveling easel and paint palette for a few hours of capturing the view in front of her.
"I rode around to find my spot and I was inspired here. It has the nice focal point of the house," Arnold said about the white building and garden behind the mansion. "It thought it was quite quaint with a nice backdrop with the trees -- it just caught my eye."
The Lilburn resident wasn't just outside for the nice weather, but specifically because it's required for the Buford event. En plein air is a French expression which means "in the open air," where artists, like Arnold, paint and capture the outdoor scenery during the daylight.
Tannery Row Artist Colony started this event six years ago because there wasn't a plein air event anywhere in Gwinnett. Since the outdoor painting celebration began, it has grown and spread throughout the county and other parts of metro Atlanta.
"It's great that it's spreading because every artist needs practice," said Tannery Row artist and organizer Deb Weiser. "It's amazing to be out there to experience the wind in your face, the sun on your back and paint what you see."
This year, more than 20 local artists joined the competition, including a couple people from Atlanta.
"I live in (Atlanta) across from the History Center and there's construction," said Nancy Rounsaville, who was painting next to the Buford train tracks with her fellow plein air friend Ellen White. "They are tearing things down and building things up. I love living in the city, don't get me wrong -- but this is nice. I can hear the birds, there are a few people around, a train every now and then; it's really pleasant."
Other artists scattered about the city using paint and brushes to create their interpretations of buildings, trees and other colorful flora, including Linda Lindeborg of Sugar Hill, who had settled in the garden at Stonehedge on East Shadburn Avenue.
"I think the thing I get out of (the event) is a chance to sharpen my skills," she said while working on a lily made of watercolors. "Because when you're in a studio and working from photographic reference that you've made doesn't compare to being out and drawing what you're looking at, trying to eliminate the extraneous (background), and it gives you an opportunity to sharpen your drawing skills and your skills of observation. I think that is something that a lot of artists forget, is how to really look at something."
Tannery Row continues to get positive feedback from the artists, so they plan to host the event year after year.
"We always get a wonderful reception from the artists," Weiser said. "If you think about our daily schedules with kids, husbands and work, to actually take a day off for yourself -- especially artists who do this at home -- and to take that day and spend it with another artist out in the sunshine, have "me" time and a moment of creativity is the inspiration (for the paintings)."
Today, Tannery Row is judging all of the Plein Air entries, as well as its other exhibit, "Inside Out." About 50 pieces from that exhibit are hanging on the walls throughout the Colony for the public to view. All of the Plein Air paintings will be in the venue's gallery.
The judging and reception is from 7 to 9 p.m. with light appetizers and music. The awards ceremony is slated to begin at 8:30 p.m. There are first-, second- and third-place winners from both exhibits.
For more information, visit www.tanneryrowartistcolony.com.