Jill Hoy, pictured here painting in Cape Elizabeth, will be participating in Yarmouth’s first Plein Air Art Festival this weekend. She encourages spectators. “It’s very exciting to watch something you see right in front of you translated through someone’s eyes, you start to see things you may not have seen. You may see colors, forms and other things that weren’t apparent to you right away,” Hoy said. Contributed / JD Cousins

Catharine Bickford has set up her easel at the Yarmouth Farmers Market last Thursday, painting plein air to peak interest in this weekend’s art festival in town.

People engage with you and it starts a real human conversation about making art,” said Bickford, an organizer of Artascope Studios’ Plein Air Art Festival, running Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 14-15. “They remember their last painting, even if it was in second grade. They really connect to that and how we connect with paint. It’s a very exciting thing.”

The goal of the first-time event in town is like the Yarmouth-based Artascope’s as a whole, Bickford said, to get residents thinking creatively about where they live and to inspire people to improve their life through art.

Catherine Bickford of Artascope Studios works on a plein air painting at the Yarmouth Farmers Market. Courtesy photo / Catherine Bickford

During the festival, artists will be scattered around town painting the local scenery, and residents are encouraged to watch them work. Free walking tours to some of the artists’ locations and family-friendly beginners classes in painting with be offered; master classes will be held for a cost. 

Artascope will hold an online auction of the pieces created during the festival, with half of the proceeds going to the organization. The auction runs Aug. 15- Sept. 11.

“Plein air” is a French expression meaning “in open air.” Plein air artists recreate their subjects on site as compared to studio painters who tend to do scenes based on photographs or memory.

Outdoor painting brings a level of reality and connection to one’s surroundings they couldn’t get otherwise, according to master plein air painter Jill Hoy, based on Deer Isle. She compares the art form to a sport.

I get into almost merging with the environment. I get super concentrated, all of my forces get focused in. It’s incredibly centering, and it’s also calming,” she said.

Hoy, who will be painting at the festival, does landscapes and buildings in her own style, using bright linework and a bit different from the classical plein air paintings people may picture.

The intention is to get people to explore their desire to paint and self-express, show different styles,” Hoy said. “Maine, in particular, has some beautiful light, and you will see people from all over coming here to paint different styles.”

Bickford hopes that onlookers, seeing Hoy or other artists, will decide to pick up a brush of their own, as well as take a new view of their everyday surroundings.

“Painting and drawing are about observation. Sometimes we look past the things we encounter through the day, but when you want to paint you have to stop and look at it,” Bickford said.

Artists will be posted throughout the town with specific locations to be announced.

“It’s very exciting to watch something you see right in front of you translated through someone’s eyes, you start to see things you may not have seen. You may see colors, forms and other things that weren’t apparent to you right away,” Hoy said.

The local plein air painters tour starts Aug. 14 at 3 p.m. For more information, visit artascope.org.

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