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Area painter features local scenes for international plein air competition

COVID forced the competition online and allowed each painter a chance to feature their hometowns, which Peter Adams used as an advantage and opportunity to feature Collingwood's scenery

Peter Adams is taking his painting outside and out of his comfort zone. 

The Scotland-born oil painter spent most of his life in Toronto before moving to a farmhouse just outside of Creemore in 1998. While he always enjoyed painting, it wasn’t until he moved to the area that he started focusing all of his creative energy on it.

Adams describes himself as a “slightly abstract” landscape painter, and has spent the last 20 years exploring and being inspired by the landscapes of southern Georgian Bay and the surrounding area. His studio and home are now located in Collingwood.

Looking to for a way to keep challenging himself, Adams recently applied and was accepted to the Parrsboro International Plein Air Festival (PIPAF), a painting competition that typically takes place in Parrsboro, N.S.

“I am really not a competitive person and most artists I know say it isn’t really their thing,” said Adams. “I always say, it’s not my thing either, but it’s good to step out of your comfort zone and be a little nervous for what you are doing.”

'Plein air' is a form of painting that involves creating outside of the studio, in the “open air.” Since the first event in 2017, juried artists have travelled from all over to paint the beautiful scenery of the Bay of Fundy while competing for cash prizes. Adams was one of 30 artists from around North America selected for this year’s event, which ran from June 20-28.

According to Adams, plein air painting differs from working in a studio because it is "so much about being prepared with the right painting gear, but also being prepared for heat, cold, bugs, wind, hunger, thirst," and being able to improvise as the lighting changes throughout the day. 

“Everything is changing, it’s challenging, and of course that’s why it can be really inspiring,” said Adams. “It’s like with music. You can approach music in a really academic, serious way or you can get out there and improvise. Sometimes you fall on your face, but other times you surprise yourself.”

Due to the global pandemic, the format of this year’s festival changed to PIPAF in ISOLATION. Since the artists were unable to travel to Nova Scotia, they were asked to paint in an isolated area closer to home and submit their work via the internet for judging.

“One of the things they encouraged us to do is look at this as a possible way to document this very different time. So maybe you do something that reflects your current studio practice or your current state of mind. Or maybe you are literally painting in your own backyard because you have been isolated in that way,” said Adams.

All of the artists painted at their leisure over the weekend and were encouraged to live stream or take video clips of themselves while they painted their pieces. Throughout the day on June 20 and 21 the festival featured the artists — who were scattered across North America — over a broadcast system on their website and social media platforms.

Viewers voted for their favourite artworks over Facebook beginning on June 24, and the winner was announced on June 28. Afterwards, up to three pieces per artist will be featured and for sale through the exhibition until July 8.

“We are all adjusting to changes in the world,” said Adams. “The bonus is that this is a really eclectic group of artists from all over which makes it that much more stimulating and fun.”

Adams found a spot to paint along the trail just south of Admiral Collingwood Elementary School and then went to the wetlands of Pretty River Provincial Park — a favourite area that has inspired him countless times in the past. 

“Thankfully, I will say that I think here in Collingwood, we aren’t so isolated. We are so lucky to have a little bit more elbow room with the trails nearby,” said Adams. “There is more open air."

To view Adams’ or any of the other artists’ work, visit the PIPAF in ISOLATION page on Parrsboro Creative’s website.

Maddie Johnson

About the Author: Maddie Johnson

Maddie Johnson is an early career journalist working in financial, small business, adventure and lifestyle reporting. She studied Journalism at the University of King's College, and worked in Halifax, Malta and Costa Rica before settling in Collingwood
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