Artists take their talents to the shores for plein air contest

Sep 24, 2022

Dozens of artists took to the sidewalks and sands around Padanaram Village Saturday to capture scenic seascapes and marshes for this year’s Wet Paint Padanaram plein air competition.

The contest, which is now in its fourth year, is hosted by the Dartmouth Cultural Center and includes a reception of all the works created throughout the day.

“It’s cool, year four,” said gallery director, and competitor, Jill Law. “I never thought we would make it this far, but it did.”

While the skies were much clearer in comparison to last year’s contest, artists still faced some natural obstacles: the wind and changing temperatures.

”My paint dries up too fast,“ said Dartmouth-based artist Tom Leverett.

He said that thankfully, he had some thinners to keep his paint somewhat wet.

Kathleen Mogayzel, who was last year’s first place artist, said she didn’t mind the quick dry, noting that she brought some quick-to-dry oil paint so it could be ready for display later.

Heidi Hallemeier also wasn’t the most fond of the wind, noting that everything was “freezing and rattling” early on. 

Then, she said it suddenly became hot.

“That’s plein air painting for you,” she said with a laugh.

Still, artists found Saturday to be the ideal day to be outdoors doing what they love.

“It’s rockin’,” said Zachary Meunier, a muralist from New Bedford.

Meunier opted to bring his mural skills to the canvas, using cans of spray paint to recreate a vista of the village from his spot on the Smith Neck Beach.

Trying to capture the village’s beauty via can is somewhat of a challenge, he said, comparing the task to “doing surgery with boxing gloves.”

“You have to simplify things, work on your edges, and [do] a lot of layering,” Meunier said.

The only real complaint the New Bedford artist had from the day was that there wasn’t enough time to get more than two paintings done.

Although, he did admit to taking some breaks to check in with some of the others painting along the shore.

Meunier also took some time to help jumpstart the car of Dartmouth-based Cate Becker, the person he credited with getting him into the contest.

After her car was fixed, she said she was very grateful for the help.

“Just artists helping artists,” Meunier said with a smile.

Winning this year’s contest is Iria DeValles-Vieira, who did a painting focusing on the boats in the harbor. 

David Stephan Graves, who judged the works, said what he liked most about her work was her level of detail, highlighting how it all blended together with her color, composition and line work.

“I fell in love with this the second I walked into the room,” he said.

Placing second and third were artists Ana Hedberg and Madeline Pearlmutter, who were also praised for the levels of detail in their pieces. 

Selecting the top pieces was no easy task, Graves said, adding that he was pacing the gallery for at least 20 minutes. Eventually, he said a list was narrowed down, only to include half the paintings on display.

From there, Graves opted to grade them like he would at the Bristol Community College where he teaches.

“I just let the numbers speak for it,” Graves said. “It’s tough to pick subjectively, there are so many different styles happening and they’re all great for different reasons.”