Painters, poets take to Salem’s outdoors to render summer landscapes

Painting outside is all about the light for Salem artist Patricia Young.

“You’re there firsthand to see the local color, it’s not like you’re painting from a photograph. A photograph just captures one second of time and when you’re there the light is always changing,” she said.

Young is one of about 30 artists who have spent the summer painting landscapes at scenic locations around Salem, joining local poets for the annual Paint & Write the Town Event.

The 25-year-old annual tradition is put on by Artists in Action, a Salem nonprofit formed to build connections among artists and encourage sharing of work and techniques with the public.

Coordinators secure permissions from local vineyards, farms and other locations for a specific day, then publicize the list to artists, who show up with canvases and seats to appreciate and render the scene.

The 2023 season concludes this weekend with a final painting and writing event Saturday at Minto Island Growers, the organic farm just south of Salem. Artists will be onsite from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Ann Moore, this year’s coordinator, moved to Salem in 2016 from the East Coast after a stint living in Eugene. Getting involved in Paint the Town helped her get to know her new home and fellow artists.

“Discovering what a gorgeous, gorgeous area this is in the central Valley – Artists in Action really helped with that,” she said.

Moore paints in watercolor and acrylic, and generally makes sketches of scenes on location then finishes work on oil in her studio.

“Pink Checkermallow,” a painting completed by Ann Moore during summer 2023’s Paint & Write the Town series at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge (Courtesy/Ann Moore)

Some artists may come to an event to gather reference material or be inspired, but finish work elsewhere. Others complete paintings while they’re out.

“Because people work in so many different mediums, we don’t require that people complete the work onsite,” she said.

Art created over the summer will be displayed in a juried exhibit in October at Elsinore Framing and Gallery.

Since 2016, the event has also included poets with the Mid-Valley Poetry Society, who write while on-site.

“Just as visual artists apply their own selective view and style to their visual art, poets add their reflections and perspectives to their verbal works. So, poems created en plein air (outdoors), can go beyond description of a place, and frequently will have shadings of a poet’s personal life and history within them,” said Mike Shuler with the Mid-Valley Poetry Society in an email.

Those poems are displayed alongside artwork in the exhibit.

Participating artists said painting outdoors creates community with other artists and gives them a chance to interact with the public, explaining techniques or simply showcasing their work.

“It’s just very stimulating to be around other artists and just see what they’re doing, just the interplay between artists. Everyone has a different style,” said Deanna White, a Salem painter.

White said she’s most enjoyed painting at Baskett Slough National Wildlife Refuge this summer. Though the location requires trekking uphill with an easel, White said there are practically infinite landscapes to paint.

“You have every choice you could possibly want with landscapes up there,” she said.

Young said having a summer schedule with fellow artists motivates her to get outside.  She likes talking to spectators and hearing their comments as she works — and sometimes, that can lead to sales.

“Somebody wanted to buy my painting while I was painting it,” she said of her work at Chemeketa Cellars for a Paint the Town event earlier this summer.

Artists said they especially appreciate being able to see and showcase the beauty of the Willamette Valley in their work.

“I think my paintings are a little more alive when I paint outdoors,” Young said.

Salem painter Patricia Young painted this scene at Chemeketa Cellars during Paint & Write the Town in the summer of 2023 (Courtesy/Patricia Young)

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Contact reporter Rachel Alexander: [email protected] or 503-575-1241.

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Rachel Alexander is Salem Reporter’s managing editor. She joined Salem Reporter when it was founded in 2018 and covers city news, education, nonprofits and a little bit of everything else. She’s been a journalist in Oregon and Washington for a decade. Outside of work, she’s a skater and board member with Salem’s Cherry City Roller Derby and can often be found with her nose buried in a book.