Pictures of recognizable Temecula locations filled the walls of The Merc Friday, Nov. 3, during a reception for the artists who participated in an outdoors painting competition.
The 10th annual Ralph Love Plein Air Competition is named after an artist who had a shop in the city’s Old Town district and who was known for his paintings of outdoor scenes. “Plein air” is the practice of painting outdoors.
Participants in this year’s competition were limited to several local venues for painting, including the Temecula Duck Pond, Old Town, the Rose Haven Heritage Garden, the Civic Center quad or any of the area’s wineries.
From the end of September until early October, artists took to those spots and memorialized what they saw onto canvas.
Rainbow resident Jack Ragland has worked as a professional artist for most of his life. He took first place for one of his paintings, titled “Blackbird Has Spoken” and named after a Cat Stevens song.
The picture, set in Temecula Valley Wine Country, shows a path winding through hills filled with grapevines. Hot air balloons spread out across the horizon, and a blackbird sits in the foreground on one of the vines.
Ragland said that on the actual day he was painting, it was very windy outside.
“It blew my easel down … I ended up hanging onto the canvas as I painted it,” he said.
There were no balloons in the sky, either. Ragland said he added those after the fact because he liked how the painting looked with them.
Ragland was also very proud of a painting he did of the Temecula Valley Museum on Mercedes Street, a first for the competition. The painting shows a man and a young girl walking into the front entrance of the museum on a clear blue day.
“I asked (organizers), and they said as far as they knew no one had ever painted it before,” he said.
Barbara Nelson, a retired art teacher at Gardner and Temecula middle schools, has participated in the competition twice now. Last year she said she decided to participate after learning about Ralph Love and his connection to the area.
“I Googled his name and found out he was an artist here in town and saw that this plein air was happening the following week,” she said. “And it was probably about 100 degrees, and I thought, ‘what the heck, let’s go ahead and do it.’”
During this year’s competition, Nelson took best of show for her painting of the buildings on the corner of Front and Main streets in Old Town. She said part of the fun of painting them was having a series of onlookers peering at her from the nearby restaurant, 1909.
“I heard the most amazing conversations ever known to man,” she said. “It was lot of fun, and a lot of them just joined in and told me what they thought of my painting and what I should do next.”
Nelson said she was very pleased with the final product, but she already knew it was going to come out great as she was painting it on that mild Temecula day.
“It just kind of came together really well,” she said. “Just as I was painting it, I felt really good about it.”