Ashland artist Jenay Elder had been visualizing her location for participating in Umpqua Plein Air 2018 for a couple of months.

With the help of her van roof and a camera tripod Thursday, Elder made her location a reality on the second day of the Douglas County event that celebrates the practice of painting outside.

Elder was one of several artists from around the Pacific Northwest to participate in Umpqua Plein Air.

The event, hosted by the Umpqua Valley Arts Association, began Wednesday morning with a brunch and ends Saturday with a closing ceremony from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the arts center on Harvard Avenue. The event is open to the public.

Several painters gathered at the suggested location at Colliding Rivers on Thursday, but some people, such as Elder, drew inspiration from a different source within the 50-mile radius rule.

“There’s a bunch of eucalyptus trees right there and it’s really unusual, so I remembered it and I’ve been thinking about it for a couple months,” Elder said Thursday. “I’m so happy to get out here and paint them. I’ve been wanting to come back and paint these little trees right here.”

Elder’s setup was a little more unusual than her fellow painters. She set up her camera tripod with the easel attached on top of her minivan parked alongside Highway 138E. She sat on top for a few hours in the middle of the day trying to get the light right, angling her body this way and making sure she had it the way she wanted to.

Quin Sweetman from Portland spent Thursday afternoon enjoying her time in the outdoors admiring the view despite losing the light that initially attracted her to paint the rocks at Colliding Rivers.

“It’s just so beautiful here. I love to come to this just for this, just to stare at the Umpqua river,” Sweetman said. “This is one (paintout) that if I can, I like to do because it’s really peaceful. It’s really gorgeous and the volunteers are really nice that help out with it. I love this, I never want to leave.”

She spent the night at Whistlers Bend Campground, where several of the other 48 registered painters stayed. She kept her load light by using a menagerie of equipment borrowed and bought from different locations, including a palette borrowed from a friend for being small, a camera tripod for being portable, and a custom shelf and easel designed to pop on and off easily.

“The colors are the best outdoors, you really develop a new palette as opposed to studio painting,” Elder said. “It just opens up this whole new world. Plus, it also gets you outside, so you hit two birds with one stone. It really is a beautiful region. It’s overwhelming.”

Both Elder and Sweetman spent most of their time in the painting process, painting and repainting each detail. But just a few feet away from Sweetman, Chloe Friedlein from Portland set up her traditional easel and a large sheet of sturdy paper and chose to start with pencil for a few hours to get the lines right.

“I start with a sketch drawing and then go over it with either watercolor or wash paints,” Friedlein said. “Since I’m a printmaker, my work is very focused on line, so it makes more sense in my own brain to start with line and then go to color. I absolutely admire people who just start painting away. It is typically paint first and capture light.”

Friedlein drove down from Portland, but she is from Roseburg and a graduate of Umpqua Community College. She’s been studying art since high school and is continuing her education in Portland.

“This is very different from what I normally do, but I’m always looking for growing opportunities,” Friedlein said. “I kind of just came back because it’s home and I like to support the UVAA when I can. I always felt supported by them.”

The gallery director at the UVAA, Sandee McGee, said they host the event to invite artists from all over to see the beauty of the area and to give them a challenge of painting in “plein air.”

“The painters really love the challenge of coming to a new location,” McGee said. “We really want people to come and see what the locals see.”

Registration ranges from $60 to $85, depending on membership and attendance at the opening brunch.

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at the News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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