Great Paint Out showcases plein air works

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— Painting outdoors comes with its challenges - namely, that light changes, and so will the painting if it's not finished in three or four hours.

On Saturday, eight members of the Oil Painters of America will gather at the Artists' Gallery of Steamboat before scattering around the Yampa Valley to paint what they see and then return to show their work. The results will be on display in the gallery by 2 p.m.

"You're under a tremendous time pressure when you're painting outdoors, because the sun is constantly changing, so the shadows and colors are constantly changing," event organizer Bonnie McGee said. "You're working against the clock."

This style of work, known as plein air painting, (French for "full of air") is meant to be full of life, McGee said. It picked up in popularity during the Impressionist movement, about the time when paint started coming in tubes. With the flexibility to leave the studio - and runny, do-it-yourself paints behind - artists put their skills and vision to the test in an effort to finish a work against nature's clock.

"There's an excitement to it that you don't get if you spend a month working on a piece," McGee said, adding that the skill level of established plein air painters often is high.

"I think they're the epitome of their art, because they can paint quickly and get it correct in a very short amount of time," she said.

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