Just as the Impressionist painters took their canvases outside to create art in nature, many painters today follow this tradition of working outdoors. Every year, the Laguna Beach Plein Air Painting Invitational hosts selected artists to partake in a weeklong event that honors the California town's history as an art colony. For the 25th anniversary, over $55,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to the winning artists at the Collectors Gala.
For 2023, 34 plein air artists were invited to attend. Taking home “Best in Show,” and $10,000 in cash, was Laguna Beach-based artist Michael Obermeyer for his painting Laguna Light. Rather than the water, it depicts a scenic hill of the coastal community while bathed in hazy morning light. The Laguna Plein Air Painting Association (LPAPA) gave the Award of Excellence and $5,000 to Connecticut-based artist Zufar Bikbov for his painting Precious Time. In this piece, a small gathering of people huddle around a campfire along the nighttime beach. San Diego-based artist Mark Fehlman's work, Lunar Laguna, was awarded the Jean Stern Distinctive Merit Award and $2,500, featuring another beautiful depiction of the coast after dark.
In addition to the prestigious awards, the festival also hosted a range of events and smaller competitions. The Future Generation Paint Out included students between grades 4 and 12 to paint with college students from the Laguna College of Art + Design. Additionally, every night after sunset, the LPAPA hosted the Plain Air After Dark Paint Out, which included painting and a “Just Plein Happy Hour” celebration.
See more of the award-winning paintings from the Collectors Gala, below.