Tom Stevens, the mayor of Hillsborough, isn’t expecting any special treatment for Tom Stevens, the Hillsborough-based artist this week as he participates in the Paint it Orange-Plein Air Paint Out.
Stevens, along with more than 50 artists will be setting up their easels and dolloping paint on their palettes at locations around Orange County until Friday in the event sponsored by the Orange County Arts Commission and the Hillsborough Arts Council. The competition will culminate with an awards reception at the Hillsborough Arts Council before the start of Last Fridays Art Walk.
“I am a big supporter of the arts scene here and this is really a fun thing to do,” Stevens said. “I usually paint in the studio where the conditions and lighting are things I can control so this is a challenge. You really have to go back to basics and work very quickly.”
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A typical painting by Stevens can take days, or sometimes weeks depending on its complexity, he said. But painting plein air, or outside using the methods of impressionists like Monet or Renoir, Stevens said he only had a few hours to complete his painting of a pond near the Orange County SportsPlex. It is a scene that he previously has painted but not during this time of year.
“The lighting is so different,” Stevens said. “I’ve watched the seasons change on this pond and this is the first time I’ve painted it during the fall.”
While Stevens has local knowledge on his side, new Carrboro resident Ben Hamburger is still learning about the area after moving here about two months ago from Baltimore, Maryland. Hamburger said he has been amazed by the beauty he’s found in the short time he’s been here. In Baltimore, he said he painted many urban scenes and found nature in them. Now he said he feels like he’s surrounded by nature.
Hambuger chose one of the most remote suggestions for one of his paintings. He traipsed north up NC 86 to where it intersects with Hawkins Road to set up his easel. He completed that painting by early Wednesday afternoon. He already had churned out another work after stopping on the way up to his destination.
“It’s been painting heaven,” Hamburger said. “I came across a beautiful scene with light pouring through some trees that I had to paint before I got to my location. I like to get out and explore and meet new people when I paint. It helps me learn about the area.”
Hamburger said he’s been an artist as long as he can remember.
James Keul from Durham got an early start painting. He was featured on the OCAC’s Facebook page Wednesday morning as he started painting the Hillsborough Courthouse in the morning light.
He was out again on Thursday morning with two other artists painting a farm scene off Rocky Ridge Road in a rural part of the county. Keul, Chad Smith and Jeremy Sams embarked on their painting adventure out a sense of camaraderie.
Smith said there definitely is a sense of community among artists.
“We chose to go out together and it doesn’t matter that we’re painting the same scene,” Smith said. “I am friends with them and each of our paintings is different.”
Sams traveled from Archdale to participate, while Keul said venturing away from the Eno River, which is his one of his favorite subjects to paint.
More than 130 works of art are expected to be submitted. They will be judged by painter John Beerman. They will be on exhibit and for sale through November at the Hillsborough Arts Council with some of the proceeds going to support both organizations.