Plein air painting amidst a pandemic

Sep 27, 2020

Ready, set...paint!

The annual Wet Paint Padanaram plein air painting contest saw dozens of painters hit the seaside on Saturday, Sept. 26 to see who could earn the most accolades for the work they created that day.

Hosted by the Dartmouth Cultural Center, the event saw around 30 artists painting from early morning to mid-afternoon all over Padanaram village. 

Due to the pandemic, instead of gathering to show the finished pieces, the painters instead photographed their work to upload the images online for voting at the end of the day.

“It went nicely,” said Dartmouth Cultural Center Co-Treasurer Kathleen Del Sordo of this year’s event. “We had the weather for it. And the skies! All these paintings that have come in have had skies that have been wonderful because of the change in the lighting. It’s been incredible.”

As for holding the contest during the pandemic, she said, “It’s so different. We didn’t have our cocktail party!”

“We had way more last year,” she noted of the number of participants. “But we were pleased with the number and the turnout because of Covid.”

“And still, I think we had some great artists, and I think everybody’s excited about putting things online,” she added. “So hopefully they’ll sell!”

Seekonk-based artist Dianne Burns painted two pieces in oils with a palette knife. “I paint in the area,” she said. “[Painting] really lets you appreciate the beauty all around us that we just walk by.”

She noted this was her first Wet Paint Padanaram competition. “It was very well run,” she said. 

Artist Barbara Healy of Dartmouth said that last year was the first time she competed in the event. 

“Last year we had an in-person reception, which was nice as well,” she said. “You could see everybody’s work.” 

This year, she explained, most artists could stop by the cultural center for snacks if they chose, but everything was submitted online.

Healy said that she has been painting for 20 years. “[I like] not just the finished piece,” she said. “I like doing it, the process of it.”

Meanwhile graphic designer-turned artist Nancy Tenney came down from Maynard for the weekend to compete in her first Wet Paint competition.

“I think they're doing very well,” she said of the event. “It’s very welcoming, too.”

“I used to come here as a kid,” Tenney noted. “My grandparents used to come here in the 40s, and then they retired here.”

Since then, she comes to spend weekends every so often, more in recent years.

“It’s so beautiful,” she said of the area. “We spent years on the Cape...My cousin, Buck Carlton, who lives in Nonquitt in the summer, he said ‘What are you doing that for? Why aren’t you here?’ And I told him, ‘You were right, Buck!’”

She said that she has been painting since she was four. “I ended up going to RISD, and studied graphic design. And so now I’m saying ‘Painting next, please!’”

“I’m taking a year to experiment,” she explained. “This is what I want to do.”

“And it’s not the first time I’ve done these rocks,” Tenney laughed, indicating the rocks on the beach in front of her and noting that she loves the shapes. “I started painting them last June.”

“Painting is just exciting and beautiful and there are a lot of fun things you do with other painters,” she added. “I’m excited.”

Paintings are for sale and available to view at the Dartmouth Cultural Center’s Facebook page.