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Artists paint downtown Kelowna

Barb Hillier paints her surroundings during Opus
Barb Hillier paints her surroundings during Opus's Outdoor Painting Challenge on Saturday.
— image credit: Douglas Farrow / Contributor

Barb Hillier's head swiveled back and forth as she walked down Sunset Drive.

With a canvas in her hand and several bags draped over her arms, the Penticton artist seemed to be studying her surroundings.

"I have to think about how the sun is going to move throughout the day because the shadows will change and the lighting will change," said Hillier.

"So I have to think right now more about composition and getting some value changes and then sticking with it."

Hillier, along with 44 others, were taking part in Opus's Outdoor Painting Challenge on Saturday.

Aaron Metz, manager of Opus Kelowna, said that this is the first year the art supplies store has put on the event. But due to the popularity of the challenge, Metz said he's optimistic that the Outdoor Painting Challenge will become an annual occurance.

"We're just trying to get people out in the community, painting. It's spring and usually in the spring people start thinking about going away," said Metz.

"We're trying to encourage everyone to be out where they're from, because it's so nice here."

The event, which ran from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., was free and open to all ages and skill levels.

Metz said that even some children gave the contest a shot.

"That's why we worded it the 'Outdoor Painting Challenge,' instead of just plein air, which makes it sound kind of artist oriented.

"It doesn't matter what your skill level is, we just wanted you to get out and try something. There were no rules on what to paint or draw; it's all up to your interpretation."

Three Opus gift cards worth $500, $250 and $100, were given out for the top three paintings. Professional local artist Rod Charlesworth, Kelowna Art Gallery curator Liz Wylie and Lake Country Art Gallery curator Katie Brennan were judges for the event.

The main rule of the challenge was that artists must work outside in a designated painting zone, which included most of Kelowna's downtown.

Contestants were also instructed to use the canvas provided by Opus and hand in their artwork no later than 3 p.m.

Some seemed to be in a hurry to get an early start; however, Hillier was nonchalant as she searched for something to paint.

"At the plein air event I did in Ladner last summer, we had an hour and a half to produce a painting," said Hillier.

"When the whistle went off, I was sitting with paintbrush in hand. I was all set up and I needed that whole hour and a half.

"Today we have until 3 p.m. so I'm going to take the time just to find a nice place to sit."

Hillier has been painting on and off for the past decade.

"It's quite relaxing; it's very therapeutic. It helps with learning how to see things and interpret proper values and colours in nature.

"Things are always changing, so it's challenging. You can sit down and see something you want to paint—five minutes later, it has totally changed."

Hillier stops walking near a small bridge in Rotary Marsh Park. With a smile, she says, "This will work," and begins to set up her makeshift studio.

wpaterson@kelownacapnews.com

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