The Challenge of a Paint Out Plein Air Competition

A blank canvas in a busy city centre

Paint Out Norwich 2014, Patrick Boswell in among the traffic
Paint Out Norwich 2014, Patrick Boswell in among the traffic!

Paint Out‘s mission is to take art back out on to the streets, to reinvigorate en plein air painting, challenging artist and audience alike to partake in the events. We want to bring a diverse range of artists and their mediums to new audiences. For the artists, our aim is to increase their reach and stretch their skills and temperament by putting them ‘out’ there among the challenges of weather, environment, crowds of onlookers and in-picture walk-on parts. Indeed, artists have previously included in their artworks other artists, team members and passers by.

Keeping up with a Changing Environment

Views can radically change during the 3 hours of painting or overnight. Objects can move, rain or roadworks intervene, or you could be surrounded by rubbish and yet produce something the very opposite of that.

Dan Llywelyn Hall painting Elm Hill, Norwich, PaintOut 2014
Dan Llywelyn Hall painting Elm Hill, Norwich, PaintOut 2014


The transient light can shift and the subtlety of it was beautifully captured last year by artists, whether looking down medieval cobbled streets or reflected in the river by Pull’s Ferry.

For instance, take the dilemma of whether to include the scaffolding or paint it out, or a parked car that then moved. These were faced by the winning artist – Haidee-Jo Summers. Her competitors faced the same view the next day but with the scaffolding gone.

What to include?

Haidee-Jo Summers with inset Mo Teeuw, Paint Out 2014 at Elm Hill, Norwich
Haidee-Jo Summers with inset Mo Teeuw, Paint Out 2014 at Elm Hill, Norwich

There are many paintings in history with the artist, or their friends, included in or hidden in the finished work. But in a competition, if your vista includes a friend or fellow artist and competitor, do you include them – wheelchair, in this case, and all? For Mo Teeuw entered the competition despite a broken leg and featured in the winning painting by Haidee-Jo Summers.

Varied and Alternative media

Last year we had a young brave open air printmaker, Bryony Birkbeck, battling the clock and the elements whilst also being filmed by BBC Voices and quizzed by fascinated spectators. She handled herself unflappably despite the odd breeze rustling her papers.

Elm Hill, another view, another medium
Elm Hill, another view, another medium

Paint Out is open to artists, illustrators, printmakers in acrylic, ink, oil, pastels, pen, watercolour and more – anyone who wants to interpret the modern ‘landscape’. All of the art works are started and finished outside in public view in virtually any media on paper/board/canvas taking in either coastal Wells-next-the-Sea (Sep 9-11) or modern and medieval urban Norwich (Oct 19-22).

Some of the popular pieces last year were black and red wash works that concentrated on people milling around the market, rather than buildings or nature, although a more traditional piece – albeit with scaffolding, a wheelchair and a roadworks sign included, did scoop the first prize.

Diverse opportunities

Francesca Heathorn painting on the Norwich Forum Roof 2014
Francesca Heathorn painting on the Norwich Forum roof 2014

Last year artists positioned themselves with easel and paints on top of the Forum roof and on top of the Castle mound, or nestled in among the Market or a busy road intersection.

Interpretation is up to the artist with many and varied locations and vantage points at each venue available. This year Norwich has day and optional nocturne sessions running and Wells’ hub is an historic Dutch cargo clipper.

Paint Out is a fantastic opportunity for:

artists to make new friends, surpass their expectations, give their work a new lease of life, challenge themselves, know when to stop painting, and to sell their work.

All these statements come from the feedback of artists at Paint Out Norwich 2014. There is still time to apply for #PON2015.

Mark Greenwood painting the Cathedral, Norwich, PaintOut 2014
Mark Greenwood painting the Roman Catholic Cathedral from Grapes Hill, Norwich, PaintOut 2014


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