Let Your Light Shine

Competition en Plein Air

I’m glad the Ohio Plein Air Competition was in Columbus this year because I wanted a chance to hang out with the experienced painters who do it every year. They produce amazing paintings over the course of two and a half days. I had no illusions about my skill level compared to the pros, but I was up for the challenge.

The rules stated that the painting must be completed during the time of the competition – September 24 – 27 and be painted at least 95% en plein air (no studio work or painting from photos). Painters were given a list of potential painting locations but all of Franklin County was within the boundaries.

I begin scouting locations. I had to check a county map because I live very close to the Licking County line. I’ve painted so much at Inniswood Metro Garden and Franklin Park Conservatory and it would have made loads of sense to go back to familiar scenes but I wanted to do a more ambitious subject and stick close to home. I knew lots of people would choose German Village, but Reynoldsburg has some spots that are very charming as well.

Thursday, September 24 from 4-6pm was the initial sign-in at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) to get your canvas, boards or paper stamped on the back. That assures that the painting was produced during the competition time frame. I showed up with plenty of boards in case I got ambitious or decided to start over on one.

Canvas board which have been stamped for competition
Ready to roll!

That afternoon I made it back to Reynoldsburg and set up around five. The house that I wanted to paint caught the western sun so its stone turned a golden color. I knew it had to be a late afternoon painting, but there was no way I could get it done in one short evening.

Yellow two-story house.
This was as far as I got before the light changed and the shadows on the side of the building got less interesting.

On Friday morning I had my eye on a spot within walking distance. The zinnias had been calling me for the last month, but the best composition would be the convergence of roof angles for three houses. I had a great spot in the shade and good morning light. A few neighbors stopped to talk and one took my picture.

That afternoon I went back to finish the stone house. There’s a lot of traffic on Lancaster Avenue, but not too many pedestrians. I was able to work without much interruption. The trickiest part was getting the right amount of detail.

On Saturday the Columbus Dispatch Metro Section had a nice feature article about the OPAS painters who went out Thursday night to paint a nocturne on the streets of German Village. They are much more intrepid than I am. I’m a morning person so that wasn’t an option I had really considered. As it turned out I don’t remember any of the nocturnes being entered in the competition

By Saturday morning I saw where I needed to refine the neighborhood picture so I headed up the street for an hour or so. My neighbor, Allen, held off cutting stone pavers for his patio until I was finished. I found out that he is also a painter and didn’t want me to have to worry about dust on my painting. .

Then I headed back to Lancaster Avenue to catch the morning sun on a house facing east. It was another beautiful morning and a most encouraging young mother pushing a stroller complimented my work as she passed several times. I loved the tree and the wrap-around porch but it was hard to get the grays right without looking kind of dreary.

By Saturday afternoon I was all painted out. I thought about doing one more but I just didn’t have the energy so I picnicked with painting friends and got everything ready for the grand finale on Sunday.

Painters gathering for judging
Painters gathered on the lawn of CCAD to locate their assigned spot and set up an easel with their competition painting.

Sunday morning was just as beautiful as each day of the competition had been. About 40 painters chose their best work to frame and be judged. While the judging was taking place, those who wanted to, could enter the “Quick Draw.” They had two hours to go out and paint another painting and return with it framed. They returned with some amazing urban scenes. I went up to the cathedral for Mass instead.

The public was invited to a wet paint sale from noon till two. Awards were announced at one o-clock. . Usually judging is done by a painter who conducts a workshop the next week, but that didn’t work with the pandemic. This year the judges were all affiliated with local galleries. They had a tough job. There were so many beautiful paintings with top talent from the local area and the state.

Award winners with their paintings

As you may notice I wasn’t in the winners’ circle. Oh well, more reason to keep painting and improving my skills for next year.


  1. Alice Ann Armstrong

    Thank you for sharing this exciting story. I love all of your work. I have always been interested in the stone house. When there was an open house when it was for sale, I went in and had a look around.
    Keep up the beautiful work. Many blessings

  2. Jan

    Beautiful work on a picture perfect weekend!

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