Temecula celebrates 15th annual Ralph Love Plein Air Competition artists

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The winners from the 15th annual Ralph Love Plein Air Competition include Barbara Nelson, left, Bryant Nelson, center, and Nestor Sanchez, right. Valley News/Shawna Sarnowski photo

Temecula’s monthly Art Off The Walls featured artwork from the 15th annual Ralph Love Plein Air Competition Friday, Nov. 4, at The Gallery at the Merc in Old Town Temecula. In conjunction with the event, the Temecula Community Services Department also launched the Old Town Temecula Street Piano Experience. A piano was placed in front of Temecula’s Olive Oil Company at the corner of Old Town Front and Main streets. The community was invited to come play.

Temecula artist Ralph Love was a self-taught artist, teacher, musician and minister. He garnered a reputation for his plein air paintings, many of which depicted California landscapes and the Grand Canyon. Love resided in Temecula for 33 years, and he founded the Art Shack in 1957, where he taught both local artists and students to master their craft. The annual art competition in his name features live landscape painting, meant to recreate his artistic process and in recognition of his legacy as a painter who enriched the community.

The art show taking place inside the lot on Main Street offers local artists the chance to showcase and discuss their work, including Bonnie Martland, Ines Miller’s “Timeless Memories Art,” Wandervan Photography, Kave Paintings, and Isabel Marlencita Sagasti Lemus, whose business Instagram is “corkdivine.”

Bella Carson, recreation leader for Arts, Culture and Entertainment team with Temecula’s Community Services Department’s, oversaw the event and welcomed everyone who was in attendance. Live music for the event was provided by musicians Martin Stamper and Darren Pritchard. This year’s competition winners were announced by City Councilmember Maryann Edwards.

Third place was awarded to Nestor Sanchez for his piece, “Hot Air Balloons at Sunrise.” Sanchez explained that he started taking artwork seriously in high school and chose to pursue the arts after becoming a senior. He said that when it comes to the business of making art, an artist should make whatever they want but not isolate themselves to a certain subject. When discussing how he finds inspiration for a piece, he said that beauty can be found in all sorts of things. If something attracts him, then he’ll want to paint it.

In doing this competition, Sanchez was pushed to engage with the area, which still remains new to him, he said. He heard about Temecula’s hot air balloons and decided to reference them for his painting. He viewed them up-close, interacted with those who oversee them and watched the balloons launch.

Two painters were awarded second place: Bryant Nelson’s “Cruzin Main” and Joyce Trinh’s “Emigrant Office.” Having started painting in 1983, Nelson grew up sketching and creating portraits and received formal training from many teachers. He said he enjoys doing oil paintings, especially of cowboys and Indians. This year was his first submission to the competition and he did a watercolor. He parked near 1909 Temecula and across the street from The Bank Plates & Pours. Nelson said a car similar to those seen during the Temecula Rod Run moved into view. He aimed to encompass the aspects of Old Town and the Rod Run, he said.

Nelson’s wife, Barbara Nelson, earned first place for her piece, “Temecula City Hall at Sunrise.” She has been an art instructor for 25 years and has been participating in the competition for nearly a decade. Nelson said she aimed to create something with a different art style for this year’s competition. She started with a paper collage, tearing up little pieces of paper of varying colors. She went to the fourth floor of the Truax Building in Old Town Temecula and watched the sun come up against City Hall, she said.

“It blazed with this beautiful yellow light. So, I started to quickly tear my pieces of paper and put them on the canvas and glued them down with a gel. The result is first prize,” she said.

The 18 and Under Award was given to Antonela Skelin for her painting, “Mrs. Knott’s Church.” The Best of Show or City Purchase award was given to Vicki Penderson for her painting, “Church Winery View.” The paintings will be available for viewing until Sunday, Nov. 27, at The Merc. For hours and more information, visit https://temeculaca.gov/1227/Galleries.

Ava Sarnowski can be reached by email at valleystaff@reedermedia.com.