First Brush of Spring

the 25th First Brush of Spring

A Special Anniversary Year for the First Brush of Spring Plein Air Event – New Harmony, Indiana

Over 120 artists gathered in New Harmony, Indiana for the 25th First Brush of Spring plein air event, April 17 – 20, sponsored by the Indiana Plein Air Painters Association (IPAPA) and the Hoosier Art Salon.  Twenty-five years of any event is a milestone, but twenty-five years of an open plein air event is extremely remarkable.

Competition Judge Kelly Kane, Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine observed, “The First Brush of Spring is perfectly timed for Midwest painters to brush off the cobwebs of their plein air gear, and ring in the outdoor painting season with beautiful weather, charming subjects and a crop of stellar paintings.  For an open event, the caliber of artwork is impressive.”

Artists travel to the event from across the country attracted by New Harmony’s southern Indiana charm, cottages planted with flowers, walkable streets, picket fences and quaint downtown. Spring puts on a show with dogwood, redbud, crabapples, peonies, tulips and lilacs bursting into bloom throughout the town and countryside.  New Harmony is a spiritual place as well, where people can contemplate life and its many mysteries – and art certainly helps!  There is the Roofless Church and multiple labyrinths and gardens that contribute to this almost mystical atmosphere. The town extends a warm welcome to the annual influx of artists by volunteering to help with events. Residents and visitors often walk and ride in golf carts to meet and watch artists create.  There is no shortage of places or things to paint.  Artists often describe their idyllic small-town experience as inspiring and interaction with the townspeople as heartwarming.

Event Activities

To celebrate twenty-five years with the town, volunteers, art patrons and all of the artists, a Celebration Banquet Dinner was held on Friday evening at the New Harmony Inn Conference Center.  Over 200 people gathered to pay homage to Dr. George and Mrs. Peggy Rapp, who were the foundation upon which this event was built in 1999.

2024 Field to Finish Exhibition

Each year a “Field to Finish” Exhibition of works by 37 artists is featured in the Hoosier Art Salon Gallery, where artists bring a field study completed the prior year to exhibit together with a studio work inspired by the same subject. The exhibition opening, kicks off the paint-out. 

The “Field to Finish” exhibit was judged by workshop presenter, Lon Brauer, who selected Mark Vander Vinne’s works for the Best of Show award. This was Vander Vinne’s second year in a row to receive Best of Show.  Also garnering awards were Jason Bailey, Mary Ann Davis, Donna Shortt, David Seward and Lavinia Hale. 

Larry Rudolech Quick Draw

A 75-minute quick draw is held on Thursday, and all of the winners get a “Larry,” a badge displaying a self-portrait of Larry Rudolech, a much beloved IPAPA member who left us far too soon in 2020.  Top prizes for the Quick Draw went to Jed Dorsey, Lon Brauer, Carol Strock-Wasson and Donna Shortt.  Also receiving recognition were David Seward, Angel Walthour, Lavinia Hale and Diane Bay.

plein air competition

The paint out culminates with a competition on Saturday. Together with awards donated by PleinAir Magazine and Guerrilla Painting LLC, the value of awards came very close to $25,000.  Over 40 awards were given for Professional, Non-Professional, Nocturne and Student categories. 

Judge Kelly Kane said, “In the end, I gave awards to the pieces that I felt best reflected the spirit of New Harmony and celebrated the finest qualities of plein air painting — a statement on light, a sense of freshness, and a connection to the environment.”

The top prizes went to:

Awards of Merit – Donna Shortt, Jed Dorsey and Mary Ann Davis

3rd Place – Beverly Bruntz

2nd Place – Jason Bailey

1st Place – Chris Newlund

Best of Show – David Seward – 2nd Year in a Row!

Seward is a high school art teacher (as his father before him).  He posted on Facebook “I was shocked to hear that I won the Best of Show for the 25th anniversary of the First Brush of Spring. I had to leave early Saturday morning for a wedding and heard the news from a text. Thank you to everyone involved, the town of New Harmony, volunteers, the Hoosier Art Salon, IPAPA and judge Kelly Kane, Editor-in-Chief of PleinAir Magazine.”

Photos by Andy Batt