By Grace Hooley | Echo
Off they go in every direction. Paint, canvases and inspiration are thrown into the back of cars as these artists race to the spot they had picked out beforehand. In the back of their minds, they know they have to be back at 3:30 p.m. for the judging to begin, but all they can think of is how beautiful the scenery looks and how peaceful their hearts and minds feel.
Today and tomorrow, Sept. 22-23, is The First Brush of Fall paint-out in Converse, Indiana, held by Indiana Plein Air Painters Association (IPAPA). Tonight from 7-9 p.m., some artists will get their canvases stamped and begin working on their pieces as a bluegrass band named Borrowed Tyme Band plays. This is an event called Friday Nocturnal, where artists in downtown Converse paint in the dark. Saturday morning, around 6 a.m., other artists will come to get their canvases stamped and begin painting as well.
Artists must have their canvases stamped so they can be recognized as participants as they scout out the area. There will be approximately 50-60 people and three to four states represented. About 100 people come to watch, experience and buy art, and some of them aren't new to this.
"There is a group of people that follow some of these artists from place to place," said Avon Waters, the IPAPA host and state board member. "We call (these artists) 'rock stars."
Tomorrow at 3:30 p.m., the judging begins, and at 4:30 p.m., the cash prizes and awards are given. Prizes consist of a $1,000 first prize, $500 second prize, $250 third prize and two honorable mentions of $125 each. IPAPA also buys two or three paintings for their public collection. According to Waters, the Converse Historical Society wants to buy a building to hold these pieces, but for now, they have them in Oak Hill High School in Converse.
Thanks to donations from businesses and organizations in Converse, there is no entrance fee for artists. The growing acceptance from the community has also led to new locations that have been offered to participants for them to roam around as well.
"We look for more growth this year," said Steve Reiff, one of the organizers. "This brings artists from across Indiana and even the Midwest. That's the neat thing about these artists. They range from students or amateurs to pros. At the very beginning, we didn't start out with prize money."
The history dates back to the 1860s, when the impressionists in France put their paint into tubes and started painting what they saw outside. They used the sunlight, and artists brought that back to Indiana. About 125 years ago, a painter started painting out by the Richmond area (around Brown County), and that's what started this impressionist idea. Then 20 years ago, IPAPA started their mission, and they wanted to continue that tradition from the 1880s.
The First Brush of Fall has occurred for the past three years. It is normally scheduled for the first day of fall or the weekend after. Many changes have come and gone, but the history behind IPAPA and this event remains.
"As the IPAPA board, one of our missions is to educate the public to Indiana's history through painting," Waters said. "This is to educate and celebrate this tradition."
Reiff mentioned the "small town" feel of Converse is what draws artists and people to this event. He hopes their hospitality will continue to bring people and help this event grow.
Reiff, Waters and those organizing this event enjoy Converse and the beauty they believe it has. They are excited to see what these artists choose to depict in their pieces, and they are excited to continue this three year tradition of experiencing true art.
"The neat thing about this is that artists come from all over the state," Waters said. "They take the reality we see and turn it into a painting that is beautiful. We might not see the beauty until the artist translates it into something that others can appreciate."